Football: Evans chilled by Liverpool's Paris exposure

Nick Duxbury on the aftermath of a French foray that proved a shambles
Click to follow
The Independent Online
They arrived back on Merseyside yesterday wondering what the hell had happened in Paris. Roll-over-and-die football has never been the Liverpool way and the lambasting verdict of their manager, Roy Evans, was akin to the Pope kicking verbal lumps out of an all-conquering Vatican XI.

"It lacked passion and it lacked pride" was Evans' scathing response to Thursday's 3-0 drubbing that cut to ribbons Liverpool's chances of playing in the Cup-Winners' Cup final. "We didn't attack, we didn't defend. We were poor."

The keeper David James took the brunt of media criticism with two howlers against a Paris St-Germain side who can afford to spend the next two weeks at the Folies Bergere. But Evans' invective embraced collective responsibility although he said: "We need to do a bit of soul searching individually, because no one did themselves any credit."

Strong words, but they needed to be. When a club with Liverpool's European pedigree is reduced to also-ran status in a European semi-final, the feats of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan start echoing around the boot room, increasing the demand that something should be done.

But where does Evans start? Steve Harkness is off the team sheet for the second leg on 25 April. He is suspended. James has started to suffer from creeping uncertainty, gifting goals to Leonardo and Benoit Cauet, but creeping paralysis afflicted the likes of Collymore, Barnes and McManaman.

Perhaps the most striking development was the way the French won the physical battle. "We were brushed off the ball too easily both in attack and defence. You just can't do that," Evans said.

The goalscorer Cauet had expected a typical beefy display from Liverpool. "It's always been said that English teams are strong and French sides don't have that in them," he said. "But we were that much tougher right from the start, both at the back and up front.

"I am not saying that they were scared, yet once we were 2-0 up at half- time I felt that they didn't believe they could get back into the game. They simply couldn't change things.

"Perhaps we were more focused, I don't know. We're not saying it's all over and I still think it could be 50-50, but we did what we had to which was to profit from their mistakes."

That view of the tie seems overly cautious and PSG's pace on the break, where the lively Patrice Loko is in his element, spells trouble for Liverpool in the Anfield return.

Rai, PSG's Brazilian captain, was as surprised as Liverpool were downcast by the ease of victory. "We knew that we couldn't let them get hold of the match so we pressed them all the time," he said. "But when we had the ball we found that we could open them up with just one or two touches and cause them problems all the time." A simple dissection of Evans' supposedly sophisticated side.

Jerome Leroy, whose goal six minutes from time was described by Evans as the possible "killer", said he expected "3,000 miles an hour stuff" in the next meeting, but Liverpool will need more than huff and puff.

Although previously successful in eight of 10 European semi-finals, it will take one of the all-time comebacks to face either Barcelona or Fiorentina in Rotterdam on 14 May.

"We have had many famous victories at Anfield and everything is possible," Evans said, "but I can only put our chances at 20 per cent - maybe."