Europa League - Liverpool exit Europe after Braga draw

Thu, 17 Mar 22:20:00 2011

Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League to Portuguese side Sporting Braga after an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Anfield resigned them to a 1-0 aggregate loss.

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Kenny Dalglish's team were beaten by Alan's penalty in Portugal a week ago, and went into the home leg of the last-16 tie needing to score at least once to avoid a shock exit.

But despite Dalglish handing a full debut to Liverpool's £35 million signing Andy Carroll, the home side failed to break the deadlock on a hugely disappointing night for the club.

Liverpool made three changes from the team beaten 1-0 in the first leg. Danny Wilson, Maxi Rodriguez and Carroll all came into the starting line-up, and helped the home side get off to a promising start.

A vibrant Liverpool looked bright and positive in the early exchanges, which they dominated in both possession and territory.

On seven minutes Carroll won a towering header to set up a chance for Joe Cole inside the Braga box. The England midfielder struck a firm shot on target from a tight angle, but Artur was equal to it in the Braga goal.

From the ensuing corner Carroll rose highest to head wide, and Liverpool appeared to be gathering a head of steam.

But it proved a false dawn. Just as they had done in Braga seven days before, Liverpool spent long periods of the opening half struggling to turn passages of possession into goalscoring opportunities.

The teams went into the break level at 0-0 and with Braga looking relatively comfortable. The visitors had not troubled Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal, but they were growing more confident as the tension grew with each passing minute.

Liverpool emerged for the second half with fresh enthusiasm, which boiled over on 52 minutes when Carroll got himself booked for a crude lunge at Alberto Rodriguez.

But still they struggled to create clear-cut chances. An unmarked Raul Meireles headed over from 10 yards on 58 minutes, but soon after Braga almost had a goal of their own in bizarre circumstances.

Liverpool cleared a corner and when Silvio's wild shot was deflected it landed at the feet of Alan six yards out. The Brazilian had a glorious chance to end the tie, but he could not find a shot.

On 75 minutes Dalglish brought on Jay Spearing and David N'Gog as an increasingly desperate Liverpool strove for the goal to take the tie into extra-time.

With five minutes to go it almost arrived. Carroll sent a powerful header goalwards, only for it to strike the back of Kuyt. Moments later Martin Skrtel saw his shot saved from Artur after being released inside the box.

It proved the last real chance for the home side, who were left to reflect on a tie they never really applied themselves to.

With the Europa League goes Liverpool's last realistic chance of a trophy and Dalglish's men will now have to rely on their league position, or the identity of the FA Cup winners, to determine whether they will be back in Europe next season.

Will Tidey / Eurosport

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