Liverpool 3 Galatasaray 2: Liverpool survive attack of jitters after Crouch performs double act

Click to follow
The Independent Online

With Galatasaray in town, Liverpool required no further invitation to indulge in their memories of Istanbul last night and yet they somehow managed to forget how fragile a three-goal lead could be. Today, they will be grateful that Rafael Benitez - unlike his Milan counterpart Carlo Ancelotti in 2005 - did not.

A pulsating tie at Anfield brought Liverpool their first victory of this season's Champions' League and a share of the leadership of Group C with PSV Eindhoven, and yet that only touches on the surface of another absorbing European fixture involving Benitez's team.

The match-day programme was filled with photographs of Liverpool's European Cup triumph at the Ataturk Stadium, where Galatasaray now play their Champions' League games, and where Liverpool must return for the final group game in December. There was even an interview with the forgotten hero from that night, goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, and echoes of the most momentous comeback of modern times were never far from this tie. Ultimately they were too close for comfort for Liverpool, as an apparently unassailable lead was eaten away by two headers from the visiting substitute Umit Karan plus a combined dose of complacency and nervous defending.

Liverpool had led through two outstanding Peter Crouch goals and a close-range header from Luis Garcia. The comfortable advantage had the same effect as it did on the Italian giants at half-time in Istanbul, however, and only several close calls in a fraught finale plus Benitez's introduction of Mohamed Sissoko to shore up his midfield after Umit's second goal spared them from a damaging draw and a vicious inquest.

"It was a very strange game," admitted the Liverpool manager. "We started really well with a high tempo, good crosses and scored good goals and maybe after 20 minutes we thought the job was done. Then we had problems. We scored an amazing third goal and they had to throw everyone forward and it became really difficult for us to control the game. I don't criticise the players, I congratulate them, because they made it very difficult for us and yet we took three points and we are now top of our group." It would have pained Benitez to even hint at a degree of complacency in his men, however.

Though they had not scored in the Champions' League proper for five games, Liverpool began with the purpose and confidence of a side that had reinvigorated its season with successive Anfield victories in the past week. Within 14 minutes, they had not only repaired their unwanted statistic in front of goal but, so it seemed, dispelled any uncertainty over the arrival of their first three points of this campaign.

Crouch has had to suffer in silence recently as Benitez gave an extended run to Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt in attack but, mindful of how Galatasaray conceded two goals to Trabzonspor's towering forward Ersen Martin in a 3-1 defeat at the weekend, the England striker was handed his first start in five games and responded clinically after only nine minutes, albeit with his foot rather than his head when he volleyed Fabio Aurelio's inviting cross under Faryd Mondragon.

Woeful defending gifted Liverpool a second in the 14th minute when Jermaine Pennant, direct and decisive in one of his most encouraging displays for the club so far, was offered two chances to cross to the far post and Garcia duly applied a powerful header into an unmarked goal.

As impressive as Liverpool were in the opening stages, Galatasaray were simply dreadful, at one point even managing to put a throw-in straight back out of play. Stirred by a seemingly lost cause, however, they began to prosper down the home side's left flank and threatened long before Umit's dramatic double intervention.

When Crouch met Steve Finnan's cross with a stupendous scissor-kick in the 52nd minute, the result appeared secured. "The best goal I have ever scored," admitted the England international, who now has 10 goals in only eight starts for club and country this term.

Having gone close when Sabri's free-kick was touched on to the post by Jose Reina in the second half, however, Galatasaray found the reply their vast improvement deserved when Umit, in the 59th and 65th minutes, met a left and right wing cross respectively with convincing headers. With 25 minutes to play, Anfield was placed on tenterhooks. Liverpool, however, just survived.

* In last night's other match in Group C, PSV Eindhoven won 1-0 in Bordeaux thanks to a goal from Mika Vayrynen. In Group B, Internazionale lost 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich. Inter finished with nine men after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Grosso were sent off.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio; Pennant (Sissoko, 78), Gerrard, Alonso, Garcia; Crouch (Bellamy, 90), Kuyt (Gonzalez, 66). Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Hyypia, Riise, Zenden.

Galatasaray (4-2-3-1): Mondragon; Cihan Haspolatli (Umit, h-t), Song, Tomas, Orhan Ak; Topal (Hasan Sas, h-t), Ayhan; Sabri, Ilic, Arda (Carrusca,86); Sukur. Substitutes not used: Fevzi Elmas (gk), Okan Buruk, Emre Asik, Hasan Kabze.

Referee: L Medina (Spain).

Comments