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Liverpool crash out of Champions League

Goal.com
Nov 25, 2009 at 01:10pm IST

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New Delhi: Liverpool did all they could to keep their Champions League hopes alive, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

A David Ngog goal gave the Reds all three points on the night against Debrecen but thanks to Fiorentina’s win in Lyon, the 2005 champions go crashing out of the competition at the group stages for first time under boss Rafael Benitez.

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Benitez welcomed Glen Johnson back into his side with Fabio Aurelio and Lucas also coming in for the trip to Hungary.

TOUGH TIMES: Debreceni's Zolta Szelesi (L) and Liverpool FC's Steven Gerrard fight for the ball during their Champions League match.

Ryan Babel joined Fernando Torres and Albert Riera in the treatment room, while Martin Skrtel dropped to the bench having started against Manchester City at the weekend. Debrecen were without influential left-back Leandro due to knee ligament injury.

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With Rafa Benitez’s men needing nothing less than three points to keep their Champions League hopes alive, they got off to the perfect start inside three minutes.

Fabio Aurelio swung over a ball from the right, Jamie Carragher headed it back across goal and David Ngog reacted quickest to poke it in from a few yards out. It was just the tonic the travelling Reds faithful needed.

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The goal seemed to settle the away side and they almost doubled their lead immediately when Steven Gerrard’s inviting cross from the right just eluded Dirk Kuyt’s head. The Dutchman lost his footing trying to reach the cross and the ball whipped across the penalty area and out of play.

Liverpool threatened again just before the half hour, and again through Ngog. Kuyt played the young Frenchman through and his shot from the edge of the area was saved by Debrecen keeper Vukasin Polesik. Moments later and Fiorentina had taken the lead in Lyon - which was announced over the stadium tanoy to a huge cheer from the home support.

Having taken the lead, Liverpool let the Hungarians into game and the home side then had their best chance of the match, when Gergely Rudolf got his head on to a cross from the Debrecen right, but could only nod off target.

Ngog, having his most confident game so far in a red shirt, forced Polesik into a another stop with a curling effort from Gerrard’s ball but the score remained 1-0 at the break, good enough on the night but not enough if the score remained the same in Florence.

Liverpool started the second half with a flurry of corners and went close first when Kuyt just missed a header at the near post and then Gerrard’s shot was saved after a neat one-two with Glen Johnson. Lucas then got up well to head a Kuyt cross, but his effort went tamely wide, just as it did in the dying seconds of Saturday's game.

The home side made the first substitution of the game on the hour, bringing on Adamo Coulibaly for Peter Szakaly and switched to a more attacking 4-4-2. But the game was beginning to go flat as Liverpool hoped for news of goals elsewhere.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, Liverpool looked to spark the game into life by introducing Yossi Benayoun into the fold, in-place of Ngog - who’s second half performance had failed to live up to the impressive opening period.

It was Debrecen who nearly added to the scoreline though as Gergely Ruldof’s cheeky shot-come-cross almost caught out Pepe Reina but the Liverpool keeper was able to get to it and deflected the ball over the bar.

Alberto Aquilani made a cameo appearance with seconds to spare but the game finished 1-0 and a win which proved to be the final curtain for Liverpool in this season's Champions League.

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