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Saturday, 19 March 2011
LIVERPOOL 0-0 BRAGA MATCH REPORT
Last chance of silverware for Liverpool this season as they tried to overturn a 1-0 defecit. Big expectations of another famous European night at Anfield as the faithful expected Liverpool to overturn the scoreline from the first leg. Braga have proved to be a good side at home but they have struggled on their travels in Europe giving Liverpool even more encouragement.
Dalglish was limited for options with his team selection, missing Kelly, Aurelio, Agger, Shelvey, and with Gerrard recovering from an operation and Suarez who is unavailable in this competition it would be difficult for Liverpool to overturn the tie. Kyrgiakos was left out of the side maybe after conceding that penalty last week, Wilson replaced him in defence although deployed at left back with Carragher and Skrtel in the middle with Johnson at right back. Maxi played left midfield with Lucas and Meireles in the middle and Kuyt on the right Cole played just behind Carroll who was making his first start. Reina was reaching an impressive 300th appearance for Liverpool.
As per usual Anfield was up for this European night with the fans producing a great vocal support. Liverpool started well and Carroll created the first chance on 8 minutes with a flick on to Cole who hit an angled shot which was parried by Artur the rebound fell to Carroll but his shot was deflected wide.
The resulting corner was headed just wide of goal at the back post by Carroll who was causing problems for the Braga defence. As Braga settled Liverpool struggled to create chances as Braga were closing Liverpool down quickly and not allowing Liverpool time on the ball. Alan had a couple of efforts as Braga were having more of the play and Lima had an effort deflected away by Skrtel.
Liverpool had a good shout for a penalty when a ball was crossed into the Braga box, Carroll was blatantly pushed in the back but amazingly the referee gave Braga the free kick. The last chance of the half was a Carroll header from a Maxi cross.
Early in the second half Andy Carroll showed his frustration when he clattered into Paulao at the Braga goaline, resulting in both players being yellow carded as an altercation followed. Liverpool's first chance of the second half fell to Maxi but he volleyed into the kop. As Liverpool struggled to break Braga down Meireles had a looping header at goal as the crowd were lifted by his effort.
But as the half wore on groans of frustration echoed from the crowd as Liverpool attacks constantly broke down. N'Gog and Spearing came on for Maxi and Cole as Dalglish tried to ignite Liverpool's attack. N'Gog had a good effort comfortably saved by Artur and Spearing had an effort into the crowd but as time ran out Skrtel had a great chance which was brilliantly blocked by Artur as a goal looked certain. Liverpool's last chance was a Meireles free kick which was inches too high for N'Gog as he was left unmarked in the Braga box. So Liverpool exit the Europa League in a disappointing night.
I'm sure everyone is left disappointed after that performance, we really did go out with a whimper. With so many players unavailable it just proved how weak our squad is. Wilson came in at left back but I felt he struggled and was beaten too easily at times down the left, but he is a centre back not a left back but we are really short in that position. The midfield lacks creativity without Gerrard and Carroll had no service as he battled away bravely all night against nothing balls from his team mates. I was hoping for more from Cole but he was poor once again. Credit to Braga they shut us down well not giving any space making us pass about at the back for long periods frustrating the support before eventually lumping the ball up to Carroll in hope more than expectation. Not enough chances created and not deserved of winning the tie with only a strong claim for a penalty when Carroll was felled our only gripe. We now need to try and finish well in the league and hope Kenny gets the chance to take us forward and rebuild us in the summer.
Man Of The Match - Carroll - he gave everything without much support I thought he played really well considering he is not 100 % fit yet.