Liverpool 1-2 Lyon: Stoppage Time Delgado Strike Stuns Anfield
Reds’ Champions League future hangs in balance.
A stoppage time goal from Cesar Delgado condemned Liverpool to their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as they were beaten 2-1 by Lyon at Anfield.
A Yossi Benayoun goal had given the home side the lead, but a second half equaliser from Maxime Gonalonssaw the Reds pegged back.
Manager Rafael Benitez’s woes were further compounded by the loss of Steven Gerrard, who pulled up with an injury during the first half.
Liverpool had the ball in the net after 15 minutes through Dirk Kuyt, as he nodded home Steven Gerrard’s curled delivery, but the Dutchman was adjudged to have pushed Jeremy Toulalan as he tussled for space.
The Reds had looked to put their recent poor results behind them even earlier on, as Gerrard received a pass from Yossi Benayoun, but saw his side-footed effort deflected wide for a corner.
It took just 25 minutes for Gerrard to be replaced by Fabio Aurelio though, as the midfielder, responsible for so much of what makes Liverpool tick, was substituted due to what appeared to be a recurrence of his recent groin trouble.
It was almost another nightmare start for the Reds, as the lively Aly Cissokho beat debutant Martin Kelly and crossed for Lisandro Lopez, whose header was kept out at point-blank range by Pepe Reina’s frame.
The French side had also threatened from distance on a number of occasions previously, with Jeremy Toulalan and Kim Kallstrom both trying speculative efforts, the latter hitting a powerful first-time volley that flew wide of Reina’s goal.
Ten minutes before the interval, Liverpool had their best efforts of the half as Aurelio found Kuyt, who showed strength to hold off the Lyon defence but could only poke his shot at Hugo Lloris, who showed great reactions to keep out the follow-up strike from David Ngog.
The home side did take the lead before the break though when Aurelio’s low driven cross evaded most of the French club’s back line, deflected off Cris and past Kelly, and into the path of Benayoun, who calmly poked home.
The hosts suddenly seemed dominant and had two further opportunities to extend their lead, first as Aurelio met Kelly’s inch-perfect cross and forced Lloris into an exceptional block, which led to a corner that Ngog could only head over the crossbar.
Lyon made it to half-time just a solitary goal down, despite some immense pressure in the closing stages resulting in Aurelio drilling a half volley wide of the target.
The visitors emerged for the second half in search of a response and could have had it twice in the first five minutes, but Jean Makoun made a meal of a headed chance and failed to trouble Reina, before the ball fell to Anthony Reveilliere who blasted over from inside the penalty area.
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to spring back to life though, as Ngog had an excellent chance to extend their lead after controlling the ball on his chest, but made a meal of his left-footed strike that trickled tamely wide.
With half an hour remaining, Benitez’s men again could have gone further ahead as Kuyt towered above all comers and headed low, with Lloris keeping him at bay with a fine save to tip the ball around his right hand post.
Despite Liverpool’s overall control over the game, Lyon looked capable of equalising and hearts were in mouths at the Kop End when Kelly nearly headed into his own goal as he defended a dangerous free-kick.
The pressure on the Reds’ back four had been minimal, but it told with just over 15 minutes remaining as Reina flapped at a corner, recovered to make two fantastic saves from Toulalan and Sydney Govou, but could do nothing as defender Gonalons headed the rebound beyond the Spaniard.
The goal not only pegged Liverpool back but also saw them forced into a change, as Kelly was injured in the melee and, as a result, replaced by Martin Skrtel, who had been dropped from the starting lineup.
The Slovakian could have scored the vital winning goal with five minutes left as Kuyt again showed dominance in the air, heading the ball into his path, but the defender lashed his effort over the bar.
Liverpool were dealt the deadly final blow as the game entered injury time, Delgadomeeting Govou’s pass across the six yard box, leaving the home crowd stunned, with Manchester United laying in wait.