Match Report: Brendan Rodgers draws on special Anfield night despite exit

Liverpool 3 Zenit St Petersburg 1 (Zenit win on away goals)

Anfield

It was a tantalising glimpse of the past Liverpool are so desperately trying to re-create. The drama, the denouement, the din almost heaving the roof off Anfield. We actually seemed to be stepping back into that gilded European era which, precisely six years ago last night, saw Rafael Benitez's team step out in front of 88,000 fans in the Nou Camp, beat Barcelona 2-1 and begin to believe, prophetically as things turned out, that they might travel all the way to another Champions League final.

That the Europa League should have proved beyond them at the first knock-out stage, leaving the eternally positive Brendan Rodgers to speak reverentially late last night about Zenit as "a team of that ilk" is a measure of how far they must climb to get back. "Hopefully in the future there will be many more great nights. Having experienced that, I want many more," the Liverpool manager also said. It's part of the agony of belonging to Liverpool that no-one knows how long that might take.

It may feel like a slightly desolate place when the dust settles, with no fixture this weekend and nothing left to play for except the very slender prospect of a top-four place in the Premier League. But at least this was a touchstone to the past; a performance– led by Luis Suarez but written through by the contributions of Lucas Leiva, Jose Enrique and Joe Allen – to warm spirits chilled by the last six months.

Everyone had a night of spirited European football to invoke as Liverpool sought the improbable feat of overturning a two-goal European first leg deficit for only the second time in their history. Although they began impressively and forcefully, with Steven Gerrard in an advanced role and Jordan Henderson and Enrique threatening with their delivery from the left, the Russian counter-attacking trident of Hulk, Danny and Axel Witsel was rapier fast.

This was the prospect that Jamie Carragher was confronted with a little less than 20 minutes in, when Gerrard's fire-and-brimstone tackle cannoned back to the feet of the 35-year-old. Quick feet were required to control with his right and clear with his left from the lurking Hulk. Carragher didn't possess them. The striker pounced, seizing the ball and romping forward 15 yards to place the ball past Pepe Reina. It was a desperate moment for Carragher and one which so ill-befitted his last European night for his beloved club. "There's no blame. It's probably the first mistake I've seen him make since I've been at the football club," Rodgers reflected.

A mountain was in Liverpool's way but they poured forward to scale it, delivering players to the offensive effort who have simply not been in there during some of the capitulations which have punctuated this season. First Daniel Agger, slaloming through towards the Russian area, to be felled Igor Denisov, for the free-kick which Suarez thumped, right-footed, through the kind of wall for which eastern Europe is not famous. Then Allen lurking in the area to receive an Enrique cross, deflected off the foot of a lunging Aleksandr Anyukov, which he scooped in adroitly after Vyacheslav Malafeev had parried his first header.

Rodgers insisted last night that his side were denied a penalty at 2-1, when Tomas Hubocan waved his arms at a Suarez cross, though initial viewing suggested the ball hit his leg. More questionable seemed to be the manager's decision simultaneously to remove Allen and Henderson, both performing well, for Jonjo Shelvey, who struggled, and Ossama Assaidi, which affected the rhythm of the team. At the time, Suarez had just levelled the scores with a searing free-kick. Liverpool were favourites then. This seemed like a moment for Rodgers to stick, not twist.

Assaidi's one mazy run drew yet another Suarez free-kick, which Malafeev palmed sharply away before a gilt-edged opportunity was blasted wide by Shelvey. The players left to an ovation and the stadium stilled at last. But the hope is unceasing. They won't stop believing that there will be a brighter day.

Man of the match Suarez.

Match rating 9/10.

Referee B Kuipers (Neth).

Attendance 43,026.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible