Reds bow out of Europe with a whimper

Liverpool 0 Braga 0 (Braga win 1-0 on aggregate)

Liverpool exited the Europa League with a whimper after a goalless draw at home to Braga, dealing a blow to their hopes of returning to the competition next season.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie, even a first start for record signing Andy Carroll could not turn things around as the visitors employed every trick in the book to hang on to their advantage.

The Reds have not failed to qualify for Europe since 1999 but having lost the chance of entering as defending Europa League champions, they must now look to their domestic form.

However, they trail fifth-placed Tottenham by six points and have played one match more, and it will take an impressive run of results for them to reel in the Londoners.

With Liverpool low on creativity and even shorter on chances, the watching Reds owner John Henry, who sanctioned the £35million January purchase of Carroll, must have left wondering just how much it costs to buy a goal at this level.

The 22-year-old striker had his moments but very few were in areas in which he could utilise his talent.

Liverpool's defence looked for him at every available opportunity - although sometimes he was not necessarily the best option - and his aerial prowess was soon in evidence.

An early flick-on put Joe Cole through on the left of the area and his shot was parried by Artur back into the path of the former Newcastle striker but his shot was deflected behind.

Carroll headed behind Raul Meireles' corner and it was only set-pieces which really presented him with anything approaching a chance.

Too often the England international was asked to win long diagonal balls 30 yards out with his back to goal.

Liverpool's supposed wide players - in truth the Reds have lacked genuine width for a long time - Cole and Maxi Rodriguez never got themselves into what could be described as threatening positions in which to deliver crosses for Carroll to attack.

The big front man soon discovered everything would not go his way, though, as he was penalised when Paulo Cesar pushed him into Miguel Garcia at another Meireles corner.

Danny Wilson's unfamiliarity at left-back was often exploited by Alan, the goalscorer in Portugal last week, but aside from Rodrigo Lima's drilled 35-yard shot straight at Jose Reina, making his 300th appearance, they were content to soak up the pressure.

However, the methods the Portuguese side used to frustrate their opponents, rolling around on the floor to waste time, required a firm hand and Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi was found desperately wanting as he allowed the game to get away from him before half-time.

Rocchi had no option but to get his cards out soon after the interval when Carroll, frustrated by Paulao's attempts to shepherd the ball out of play, swung a wild tackle at the defender and both players were booked.

Liverpool's first chance of the second half fell to Meireles when Dirk Kuyt crossed to the penalty spot but the Portugal international looped his header well over.

Tension was beginning to grow inside Anfield and the impact of Carroll, watched by England manager Fabio Capello who had arrived from watching Manchester City exit the competition earlier in the evening, was starting to wane.

As the match entered its last quarter Glen Johnson finally put in a dangerous cross but Meireles was just short of reaching it.

One late Carroll header appeared destined to find the net from a Meireles corner only for Kuyt to get in the way in the six-yard area.

That just about summed up his - and Liverpool's - night as they went out of the competition despite not losing a home match in Europe all season.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil