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Liverpool through despite defeat

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

By Jonathan Caswell at Anfield

[1] Four-time European champions Liverpool FC survived a second-leg scare to reach the group stage of this season's UEFA Champions League despite a 1-0 defeat at home against Grazer AK of Austria.

Gerrard goals

[2] Rafael Benítez's team looked certain to progress after two Steven Gerrard goals had wrapped up a 2-0 victory at the Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium a fortnight ago. However, the English side produced an underwhelming display on Merseyside, with strikers Djibril Cissé and Milan Baroš consistently failing to link up with the midfield.

Tokic on target

[3] The home team therefore failed to create much in the way of clear-cut opportunities in the first 45 minutes and the match continued in a similar vein into the second half. When a goal did come, it was at the other end, as Mario Tokic put GAK in front with a fine strike from outside the penalty area, bursting past Harry Kewell's weak challenge and beating Jerzy Dudek with a powerful shot that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Missed opportunities

[4] The goal reinvigorated the side but, despite Gerrard's attempts to rouse his team and a number of substitutions from Benítez, GAK goalkeeper Andreas Schranz was largely untroubled. He watched as Cissé failed to convert in the 74th minute following good work from Darren Potter and was again a spectator as Salif Diao shot wide four minutes later.

Kollman chance

[5] Schranz was then called into action to deny substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who had wriggled free, but the Austrian double winners continued to look the more dangerous. Indeed, GAK might well have taken the tie into extra time as Roland Kollmann's header forced Dudek to tip wide with eight minutes remaining.

Friday draw

[6] However, Liverpool held firm in front of a sell-out crowd, who breathed a collective sigh of relief as the final whistle confirmed their side's progress on aggregate and a place in Thursday's draw in Monaco.

Liverpool's John Arne Riise (right) tries to hold off Gernot Plassnegger of GAK