Nov 24, 2009

Liverpool crash out of Champions League despite win

Liverpool got the job done in Budapest, defeating Debreceni 1-0 on an early goal by David Ngog, but were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League nonetheless as a result of the other game in their group. That game saw Fiorentina defeat Olympique Lyon by an identical 1-0 score, which means Reds have no way of surpassing the second-placed French side. Liverpool trail Lyon by three points in the standings with one matchday remaining but Lyon hold the key tie-breaker, head-to-head competition, having beaten and drawn Liverpool in their two meetings.

The exit should surprise noone at this point as Reds' chances were very slim to begin with. And does anybody here think Rafa Benitez' club are in a position to beat Fiorentina when they meet at Anfield in a fortnight's time? For that matter does anybody think it will still be Benitez' club at that point? Yeah yeah, we know. It may not all be Rafa's fault. And Liverpool did hold up their end of the bargain by at least defeating the Hungarians today (by 1-0. And we're talking about a Debreceni team that has zero points from five Champions League encounters here. But hey, they did win). Problem is, the team was in too big of a hole to begin with. Going into the Nov. 4 game with Lyon Benitez himself said Liverpool needed to win its final three games to have any hope of advancing. Well, they drew that one 1-1 and that was pretty much all she wrote.

There will be no Christmas miracle for Reds this season. Nor will there be an Easter one next spring, with the way things are going. A top four place in the Premiership is still a distinct possibility, but things are going to need to change real soon. Maybe that change will need to start at the top. But enough about Liverpool because this is depressing me.

Order may have been restored in Group F, where Barcelona defeated Inter Milan 2-0 at Camp Nou (seventh-biggest 'soccer mecca' in the world, says us). Not only do Barca take over first place in the group, but the scoreless draw between Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev means Inter stay second. The two juggernauts can finally end all hope for the minnows on the final matchday Dec. 9; Barca will need just a draw at Kiev to win the group and Inter "control their own destiny" at home vs. Kazan. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Nobody outside of Scotland will mistake Glasgow Rangers for a good team anytime soon, but Walter Smith's side actually had an honest-to-goodness chance at advancing to the elimination round coming into today. All they had to do was beat VfB Stuttgart at home and...well, they didn't manage that, in fact they lost two-nil. (The lone bright spot from a U.S.-centric viewpoint is that DaMarcus Beasley was substituted into the match five minutes from time). Rangers' loss, combined with Unirea Urziceni's unlikely win over Sevilla (though they were already through but whatever) means Rangers do not even have a chance to play in the Europa League next spring. Sucks for them. Stuttgart and Urziceni will meet in Germany on the final matchday to determine who joins Sevilla in the elimination round. The Romanian side has a two point edge over the Swabian one (look up Swabia if you can't figure out I was referring to Stuttgart) so a draw will see them through.

Finally, a lone bright spot from an Anglo viewpoint...never mind, Arsenal aren't an English team anymore. But they beat Standard Liege 2-0 today in a game they didn't even need to win. The race for second place will be interesting after Olympiakos played a scoreless draw at AZ Alkmaar. Unless I'm mistaken, Liege hold the tie-breaker over Olympiakos, whom they trail by three points. The Greek side host Arsenal on the final matchday while Liege host Dutch champs Alkmaar. So the Belgian side could still advance to the elimination round, right?

Photo taken from without permission.

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