Gerrard limps off before Liverpool crumble again

Lyons snatch victory at Anfield to hurt home side's Champions League hopes
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The Independent Football

On a disastrous night at Anfield Liverpool endured their worst sequence of defeats for 22 years and may lose their captain, Steven Gerrard, for Sunday's encounter with Manchester United.

Gerrard, who had missed the weekend's reverse at Sunderland with a groin injury, suffered a recurrence of the problem and limped off after 25 minutes of a 2-1 loss to Lyons, sealed by a last-minute goal from Cesar Delgado. Not since 1987 had the club lost four in a row.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, who lost his £17m right-back, Glen Johnson, with a similar groin injury before kick-off, denied he had taken a risk starting his captain on a night which left their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League teetering on a precipice. Whether either player will be fit enough to face Manchester United will assessed later in the week.

"It was not a risk to play him," Benitez remarked. "Gerrard wanted to play. The doctor said he was okay and he had been training for two days. Sometimes, it is a matter of luck. It was a difficult game for us but we had too many problems before the game, especially with Johnson injured, but we had chances to win."

Benitez has frequently flirted with – and avoided – non-qualification from the Champions League group stages. Two seasons ago, after gaining one point from their opening three games, Benitez had to oversee three straight wins to steer them through and last night he said he was confident of doing it again.

"We will have to do it," he said. "We will prepare the games like always and be confident we can do things properly. Had we taken our chances, we could have had a different result. We did it two years ago and we can do it again."

Nevertheless, the mood at Anfield was bleak. Jamie Carragher, captaining the side in Gerrard's absence, confessed to feelings of "utter disappointment" while Benitez's substitution of goalscorer, Yossi Benayoun, with Andrei Voronin was greeted by a wave of booing from every corner of the old stadium.

In the starkest possible contrast, the changes made by the Lyons manager, Claude Puel, were instantly successful with substitutes Maxime Gonalons and then Delgado finding the net.

The outcome of Liverpool's next match in Group E, the return against Lyons in the Stade Gerland, is now critical. If Liverpool lose and Fiorentina overcome the whipping boys, Debrecen, then even two victories in their final two matches may not be enough to see Liverpool to the knockout stages.

"We are going through a tough patch," Carragher acknowledged. "But we've been through these before and we'll come through – there is no doubt about that. We always do. We have great fight and great character at Liverpool. The crowd were right behind us, especially when we lost Stevie early on.

"There were a lot of young lads out there tonight and, if we could just have hung on, it would have been a great result for everyone. It would have given everyone a lift but it hasn't happened and we have to move on."