Deja Vu for CL Hopes – Reds Require Final Day Result
When the whistle blows at Anfield on Tuesday, supporters in the ground will be fully aware of the permutations for Liverpool progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League. A 1-0 win is enough by the complexities of the UEFA rules whereas a 2-goal victory of any form guarantees the reds are still in the competition for the draw on the 17th December.
It is not the first time Liverpool have found themselves in this predicament, and it probably won’t be the last but I’ve looked at 5 other times Liverpool have required a result on the final day of a Champions League group campaign.
2001/02 – Borussia Dortmund – Home – 30th October 2001
In the days of 2 group stages in the Champions League, Liverpool made their return to Europe’s premier competition off the back of an incredible treble winning season under Gerard Houllier. They were grouped with Borussia Dortmund, Dynamo Kiev and Boavista. Liverpool recorded two 1-1 draws with Boavista, including 1 in front of a below capacity crowd at Anfield on September 11 2001. A goal-less draw in Germany with Dortmund before 2 victories over Kiev put Liverpool on top of the group with 9 points however due to the other results in the group, Dortmund and Boavista both sat just a point behind.
Liverpool knew that a draw with Dortmund would be enough to take them through to the next group phase but a defeat coupled with an expected win in Kiev for Boavista, would see them drop into the UEFA Cup. Goals from Vladimir Smicer and Stephen Wright, with his only ever Liverpool goal secured a 2-0 win. It proved not to be required in the end as Dynamo Kiev registered their only win in the group stage with a 1-0 victory over Boavista. Liverpool went on to need a final group game victory over Roma to secure a passage through the 2nd group phase only for Bayer Leverkusen to knock them out in the quarter finals despite a 1-0 first leg victory at Anfield.
2002/03 – FC Basel – Away – 12th November 2002
Just like 12 months earlier, it came down to the final group game once again. Valencia, Spartak Moscow and FC Basel were Liverpool’s adversaries in the group this year. Rafa Benitez conjured up a 2-0 victory on the opening game before Basel cancelled out Milan Baros opener to secure a 1-1 draw. Liverpool thrashed Spartak 5-0 in a game that included goals from Bruno Cheyrou and Salif Diao. After a 3-1 win in Moscow,courtesy of a Michael Owen hat-trick, Valencia continued their canter to the next phase with a 1-0 win at Anfield which meant Liverpool went in their final group game needing to win in Switzerland to overtake Basel and progress through with the Swiss side 1 point above Liverpool.
In the other game in the group, future red Fabio Aurelio recorded his 2nd goal of that season’s group stage as Valencia sealed top spot with a 3-0 victory over Spartak but it was the Liverpool match that took centre stage and as the ITV cameras broadcast the game to supporters back home, hoping to witness another victory for Liverpool, it was to be a night where a sensational comeback was almost completed. Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down within half an hour and almost certainly heading back to Merseyside as a UEFA Cup team. Two goals in three minutes from Danny Murphy and Vladimir Smicer just after the hour mark gave Liverpool some hope. With the clock ticking down, Michael Owen won a penalty for handball but as the initial effort was saved, Owen smashed home the rebound to give a glimmer of hope but Liverpool failed to find the 4th and dropped into the UEFA Cup, where they ended up being eliminated by Celtic.
2004/05 – Olympiakos – Home – 8th December 2004
One of the most famous nights in Liverpool’s European history. The scenario eerily similar to the one faced by the current squad. Based on the results on the group phase, Liverpool needed a 1-0 victory over Greek side Olympiakos or a win by 2 clear goals if Liverpool conceded. Rafael Benitez’s first season in the hotseat was about to continue on it’s route to a fairy-tale finish in Istanbul.
Liverpool opened the group stage with a 2-0 victory at Anfield against Monaco with £14m striker Djiibril Cisse, signed by former manager Houllier, opening the scoring and Milan Baros wrapping it up with just over 5 minutes to play. Olympiakos was an intense atmosphere and Stoltidis got the only goal of the game to condemn Liverpool to their first defeat in Europe by a Greek opponent. Liverpool were frustratingly held 0-0 at home to Deportivo La Coruna. Liverpool got a bit of fortune in the reverse meeting in Spain when they recorded a 1-0 win thanks to an own goal off Andrade as he got in ahead of Milan Baros. Monaco beat Liverpool 1-0 thanks to a strike from Javier Saviola, despite him appearing to handle the ball before scoring, that ended up leaving Liverpool in the precarious position they found themselves in.
Rivaldo’s free kick sent the Greek side in at half time ahead and meant Liverpool required 3 goals in the 2nd half to progress and within minutes of the restart Florent-Sinama Pongolle had popped up and scored, having only just entered the field to replace Djimi Traore. Another subsitute, Neil Mellor, on for Milan Baros, also had a similar impact, bringing the score to 2-1 which wasn’t good enough for Liverpool to progress and with Steven Gerrard having been bemused by a decision to disallow a goal for him where the opposing keeper failed to keep his effort out, it would fall to Liverpool’s skipper to score an absolute cracker of a goal that will echo in history as Mellor’s lovely cushioned header allowed Gerrard to send Anfield into jubilation and maintain Liverpool’s course as they ended the season as European champions, beating AC Milan on penalties after a comeback from 3-0 down.
2007/08 – Marseille – Away – 11th December 2007
Not so much a result needed in the final group game but results needed in all 3 of the final group games. Liverpool were drawn with Porto, Marseille and Besiktas in the group stage and a 1-1 draw in Portugal was followed up by a home defeat to Marseille and a defeat in Turkey to Besiktas, which meant Liverpool knew that defeat in the return at Anfield would all but see them eliminated from European competition with 2 games remaining, especially if their defeat was coupled with a Porto victory.
Porto did indeed register a victory over Marseille, who at the midway point of the group had looked like they were certain to be going through to the knockout stages, only to end up dropping into the UEFA Cup. Liverpool ended up smashing the record books to pieces as a 2-0 half time advantage saw them record the biggest victory in the Champions League by any side, winning 8-0 against Besiktas, with Yossi Benayoun grabbing 3. It surpassed Arsenal’s 7-0 win, a fortnight earlier. Liverpool followed that up by thrashing Porto 4-0 thanks to two by summer signing Fernando Torres, on his way to a 33 goal haul in his debut campaign.
That meant the group was delicately poised with Porto topping the group on 8 points, Marseille and Liverpool on 7 points and Besiktas sitting on 6 meaning all 4 sides could finish top or bottom of the group. Liverpool were out of the blocks fast in France with early goals from Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel scored in the 2nd half to complete another 4-0 victory for the reds and take them into the knockout stages, where once again they would meet Chelsea in the semi final (3rd time in 4 seasons) but this time, the luck would be on the Londoners side as a Riise own goal gave them an away goal and a 1-1 draw before and extra time victory at Stamford Bridge took them to a Moscow final against Manchester United.
2014/15 – FC Basel – Home – 9th December 2014
With Liverpool’s first foray back into the Champions league in 5 seasons since their group stage exit in the final campaign under Rafa Benitez and following a mammoth title race the year before, optimism was high ahead of the campaign for Liverpool. The 1st game truly was a tale of late drama as Mario Balotelli gave Liverpool the lead with less than 10 minutes to play, and it looked like 2 dropped points when Ludogorets scored in stoppage time when a ball split through the defence and Mignolet came charging off his line to no avail. But Javier Manquillo chased a ball down being controlled by the goalkeeper and as he went down, the referee awarded Liverpool the penalty and a chance to celebrate their return to the Champions League with victory. Calmness personified, Gerrard duly delivered. Liverpool would then find themselves suffering 3 successive defeats with a 1-0 defeat in Switzerland coupled with a 3-0 defeat at home to Real Madrid and then a 1-0 defeat in Spain, where the team selection from Brendan Rodgers brought about so many unanswered questions. A surprise 2-2 draw at Ludogorets, thanks to an 88th minute equaliser in Sofia, meant that for Liverpool, they had to beat Basel at Anfield to go through as they had 4 points from 5 games compared to the Swiss side on 6.
Fabian Frei gave Basel a half time lead and when Lazar Marković was sent off for swinging his hand back and making contact with an opponent, which looked very harsh, it seemed that there wasn’t to be any more Champions League football for the season. Steven Gerrard, ever the reliable skipper, got Liverpool back in the game inside the final 10 minutes. However, just like 12 years earlier, Liverpool couldn’t find the winner and they ended up dropping down into the Europa League where Dejan Lovren’s penalty miss saw Besiktas progress to the round of 16.