Liverpool’s defeat in Istanbul last night has hit Liverpool’s Champions League hopes hard, the five-times winners of the competition now needed to win three out of three in their remaining fixtures.
The Reds sit bottom of the table on one point. Above them on three points are Besiktas who got their first win last night. Porto are second on five points after drawing with leaders Marseilles last night. Marseilles’ seven points means one more win for them and Liverpool cannot overtake them on points.
Liverpool also need to win the games by more than they lost the corresponding fixtures, in case they are level on points with their opponents at the end of the group stage. A 1-0 win over Besiktas at home for example would put Liverpool ahead of the Turkish side on a head-to-head basis because of the away goal. A win over Marseilles would preferably be with Liverpool scoring at least two away goals in order to better Marseilles’ one from their visit to Anfield. A win against Porto would be enough, because the previous fixture was a draw.
All of this of course depends on Liverpool being able to actually win their fixtures. One point from nine is not an encouraging sign, but Rafael Benitez feels his side are capable of winning all three if they perform the way they did last night: “I was pleased with the performance, but we just could not take our chances. When you have 28 attempts on goal as the away side and nearly 60 percent of possession, that should usually be enough to win the match.”
The first goal was another own goal for the unfortunate Sami Hyypia. His blushes were spared on Saturday when his own goal against Everton was cancelled out by two Dirk Kuyt penalties, but last night it wasn’t to be: “We were punished for one mistake in the first half having had so many chances,” said Rafa. “Their goalkeeper was outstanding but we should have taken more of our chances.”
He continued: “Obviously it is very difficult now for us to get through but I believe we still can. There are three games left and we must win all three, but we can do that. We have to wait to see now what we must do, how the numbers add up. The fact that Porto drew with Marseille in the other group game tonight was a help for us, it certainly improves our options.”
If Liverpool did win all three Besiktas couldn’t overtake them, as Liverpool would have ten points and Besiktas a maximum of nine. The most Porto and Marseilles could get would be 11 and 13 respectively. Of course they can’t both finish on that number of points because they still have to play each other again. So three wins should see Liverpool through, and Rafa really does believe he can pull off this amazing comeback: “If we continue to play like we did in this match, with so much dominance, we have a chance. I do not see this as a test for me as a manager, this is football, if you keep doing the right things like we did here, we will achieve what we want.
“The players worked hard and you cannot blame them. The fans will be positive we can do it after seeing the game. We had a lot of shots on target and shots off target. We controlled almost everything but made a big mistake in the first half.”
Whether the fans will be positive or not remains to be seen. A lot of supporters were unhappy on Saturday despite the win over Everton, because Liverpool had left it so late. The fact is that Liverpool are still struggling with confidence, and before the “R” words comes out again, Rafa only made two changes last night. They conceded a freak goal, and the second goal came because they were still chasing the game from that freak goal. Creating chances is promising, but not enough to win a game and Liverpool miss really do miss Fernando Torres.
Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard echoed his manager: “We are pleased with how we played but disappointed with the result. We need to keep going and win the final three games and see what happens. We need to take the positives and learn from our mistakes. We are capable of winning our final three games.”
The game had been billed as pretty-much a must-win game. Besiktas were bottom of the table and seen as the easiest team in the group. But instead of a confidence-boosting win that would have seen Liverpool breathing down the necks of the top two in the group, they had a nightmare. Gerrard said: “It’s the worst possible result. We had a mountain to climb but we’ve got an even bigger one to climb now. Mistakes happen as a result of misunderstandings but they put us under pressure.”
Opposition coach Ertugrul Saglam had to watch the game from the stands after UEFA had banned him from the dressing room and touchline. Before anyone assumes that Besiktas will be easy targets at Anfield, he also thinks his side can win all their remaining games: “We have three games left and we can win them all to qualify. I am very confident. We are very proud to have won such a match against a great team like Liverpool. I must admit that I am surprised that they have only one point after three games. We all expected them to be top of the group, not bottom. It is a surprise for us to see what has happened in the group, but they also have three games left and they can win them all, they are certainly good enough.”