Facing an already up hill battle Liverpool went into the second leg of their Europa League match against Zenit St Petersburg needing to score at least 2 goals without reply just too even take the match into extra time.
Liverpool started off the match very brightly with a quick tempo and making a few half chances. Liverpool seemed to be getting better as the match went on but the in the 19th minute disaster struck.
Jamie Carragher playing in his 150th European match for Liverpool scuffed his back pass, leaving Hulk one on one with a helpless Pepe Reina where he calmly finished to put Zenit 1-0 up, now meaning if Liverpool were to progress they now needed to win by 3 goals on the night leaving them with 4 goals score and put the tie ultimately beyond Liverpool’s reach.
Even though they had just conceded Liverpool restarted the match and carried on as they were, 9 minutes later after a foul on the edge of the area Luis Suarez gave fans hope that they could once again witness a magical European night at Anfield as he thumped a free kick straight though the wall and into the back of the net.
Just before half time after a neat one – two with Jordan Henderson, Jose Enrique crossed the ball where it was met at the near post by Joe Allen and after an excellent save by the goalkeeper, Allen was on hand to follow in the rebound, increasingLiverpool’s chances of another great comeback.
Many would have thought half time had come at the wrong time for Liverpool but this didn’t look to be the case as they started the second half just were they left off, with Zenit still pushed back Luis Suarez was once again brought down and Liverpool had another great free kick opportunity from 25 yards.
After scoring one earlier in the match Suarez once again stepped up, were he curled the balled over wall and past a helpless goalkeeper to put Liverpool 3-1 up on the night and needing only one more goal and to not concede to do the unthinkable.
The sense around Anfield was now not if Liverpool get another goal but when Liverpool get another goal, and with half an hour to go it was a task that was not now beyond them. Within the last half hour Zenit new they had to change their play slightly and if they could grab another goal, this would mean Liverpool would then need 2 instead of 1.
Zenit only created 1 real opportunity but it was smartly saved by Pepe Reina. Liverpool did create chances themselves in the last half hour, the most notable was another Luis Suarez free kick and a Steven Gerrard shot from the edge of the area which both where pushed away by the goalkeeper, however the best chance fell to Jonjo Shelvey where he blasted wide his first time shot from just 10 yards after a misplaced passed by Zenit, many has questioned whether he could a taken a touch before shooting, but quite simply he should have scored.
With the final whistle going and Liverpool winning 3-1 on the night, they came up just short as Zenit went though on the away goal rule as the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool now out of all cup competitions, can now solely concentrate on their quest to qualify for Europe’s elite competition by finishing 4th in the Premier League.
Currently sitting in 7th in place and 9 points adrift of Tottenham who have a game in hand, Liverpool faces another uphill battle, but if they show the fight and determination they did against Zenit and with a bit of look, can Liverpool force their way back in to the Champions League??
What do you think? Can Liverpool finish 4th?
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image: © Vincent Teeuwen