Liverpool pay heavy price for Biscan exit

Marseilles 2 Liverpool 1 Marseilles win 3-2 on agg
Click to follow
The Independent Online

An ill wind blew Liverpool out of the Uefa Cup at the fourth round here last night, and it had nothing to do with the Mistral which cut its chilly course through the stadium.

An ill wind blew Liverpool out of the Uefa Cup at the fourth round here last night, and it had nothing to do with the Mistral which cut its chilly course through the stadium.

Having taken an early lead in their second-leg encounter through Emile Heskey's goal, Liverpool's authority was mounting by the minute until Igor Biscan conceded a penalty with half-time approaching. After the Croatian defender was dismissed, trudging reluctantly from the pitch, Didier Drogba converted his 23rd goal of the season from the spot.

Marseilles, who had been in danger of being outplayed to that point, capitalised on Liverpool's misfortune in the 58th minute when Abdoulaye Meite sealed the tie with a goal of embarrassing simplicity. Gérard Houllier replaced Michael Owen as the 10 men went in search of the equaliser that would have taken them through on away goals.

It was not to be, although Liverpool may be persuaded to view their exit as a blessing if it helps them to hang on to fourth place in the Premiership, and Champions' League qualification.

Liverpool were initially forced on to the back foot. Just as Marseilles were working up a head of steam, a collision between Fabien Barthez and Habib Beye slowed their momentum. The player whose sheer presence appeared to distract the former Manchester United goalkeeper and his defender was soon inflicting more pertinent damage.

With 14 minutes gone, Liverpool went in front from the first scoring chance for either side. It stemmed from a red flair of a different variety. Steven Gerrard's through pass was perfection itself, sending Heskey charging through the centre with white shirts trailing in his wake. A crisp, right-footed drive from just inside the penalty area ensured that the visitors fulfilled Houllier's promise to score on an evening when they knew 0-0 would eliminate them.

Marseilles, who gave the on-loan Fulham striker Steve Marlet a starting role, had the greater possession as they pressed to restore parity. Liverpool, however, are nothing if not a useful counter-attacking outfit. With Heskey and Harry Kewell running from deep in support of Owen, they broke out to create further danger after 26 minutes.

Owen set up the opening with a strong run down the left flank. Forced away from goal, he supplied Danny Murphy, who breezed past Beye to the angle of the 18-yard area before trying to chip Barthez, who sported a large bandage on his face as a result of the earlier incident. The ball passed inches over the bar.

Then Matthieu Flamini's 35th-minute pass released Marlet to run at Jerzy Dudek. Biscan pulled him back by the shorts, first making contact outside the area but continuing to tug them as Marlet reached the area. The Spanish referee not only awarded a penalty but banished Biscan. After heated protests, Drogba dispatched the spot-kick high in to the net.

Liverpool's anger can only have concerned the issue of why Senor Ibanez had waited until the players were inside the area before awarding the foul. He, presumably, was striving to allow Marlet the advantage until there no longer was one, but Houllier's players clearly felt hard done by.

The Liverpool manager went into the video room during the interval. Once he was back on the touchline, the game took on a different complexion. Owen became even more of a lone forager, while the assurance that Gerrard and Dietmar Hamann had been showing now transferred to the hosts.

As in the first half Liverpool demonstrated their mettle by resisting the early pressure and then pushing forward. In the 51st minute, Heskey won a corner which Gerrard swung in towards the far post. Sami Hyypia's free header was cleared from beneath the bar by Manuel Dos Santos.

Increasingly, the match resembled a struggle between Marseilles' ability to make their numerical advantage count and Liverpool's resilience. It must have disappointed Houllier, therefore, when the French side took the lead shortly before the hour from a set-piece.

Demetrius Ferreira delivered a corner in to the six-yard area, where Meite met the ball with an unchallenged header. The scorer felt sufficiently emboldened to throw off his shirt and dart towards Marseilles' rapturous supporters with his colleagues in hot pursuit.

Marseilles (3-4-2-1): Barthez; Meite, Hemdani, Beye; Ferreira, Flamini, N'Diaye, Dos Santos; Batlles (Mido, 72), Marlet (Meriem, 78); Drogba. Substitutes not used: Gavanon (gk), Perez, Ecker, Celestini.

Liverpool (4-3-2-1): Dudek; Carragher, Hyypia, Biscan, Riise; Murphy (Cheyrou, 69), Hamann, Gerrard; Kewell (Sinama-Pongolle 82), Heskey; Owen (Baros, 62). Substitutes not used: Luzi (gk), Henchoz, Diouf, Traoré.

Referee: D Ibanez (Sp).