Benitez needs a 'miracle' as Lyons snatch late draw

Manager’s position in jeopardy as Liverpool’s Champions League campaign hit by last-minute goal
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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez admitted that his Liverpool side were in need of a "miracle" last night after another second-half injury-time goal against Lyons left his side on the precipice of elimination at the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since Gerard Houllier's reign in 2002.

Lyons' 90th minute equaliser, the first goal since August from the club's £24m Brazilian striker Lisandro, rendered worthless Ryan Babel's wonderful 25-yard strike seven minutes earlier which seemed to have secured another improbable continental conquest for Benitez.

Though Lisandro's Brazilian compatriot Michel Bastos appeared to be offside as he headed the ball through to the striker, Benitez conceded it was defensive failings which had been his side's undoing. "It is difficult but not impossible, now," said the Spaniard, whose side must win in Debrecen in 19 days' time, hope Lyons win in Fiorentina and then probably beat the Tuscans by three goals at Anfield on 9 December. Fiorentina, now five points ahead of Liverpool, won 5-2 against Debrecen in Hungary last night.

"We have to win our first game and see what happens between Fiorentina and Lyons. We have produced miracles before, perhaps we can do it again," Benitez added. "I'm really disappointed because it was great a opportunity."

Torres was forced to play 87 minutes as a disjointed Liverpool side, again lacking any real playmaking qualities, laboured and the manager said he was in pain while he did so. "When a player is playing with pain it is not easy," Benitez said. "He was very inconsistent because he had to keep stopping and starting again."

Fortunately, Torres has until next Monday, and the arrival of Birmingham, to recuperate. "He will have time and we will be working hard with him. It will be difficult," the manager said.

Lyons coach Claude Puel promised Liverpool that his side would not give Fiorentina an easy ride in Tuscany, despite his side's qualification. "You don't have to worry; we will play fair because we want first place in the group," said Puel, whose own side landed Barcelona in the first knock-out round last season, after finishing runners up to Bayern Munich, and then lost 5-2 in the Nou Camp. "We don't want to end up like last season. We will manage the points and Liverpool will have the fate in their own hands."

Liverpool are now 50-1 to win the Champions League.

Last night's results

*Champions League

Lyons 1-1 Liverpool

Arsenal 4-1 AZ Alkmaar

Unirea Uziceni 1-1 Rangers

*Premier League

West Ham United 2-1 Aston Villa

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