Debrecen 0-1 Liverpool
David Ngog’s fourth-minute strike gave Liverpool victory over Hungarian champions Debrecen in Budapest. But it wasn’t enough to keep them in this year’s Champions League.
Liverpool were reliant upon French side Olympique Lyonnais taking something from their trip to Florence.
But a 27th minute penalty by Juan Vargas gave Fiorentina victory and consigned Liverpool to the Europa League, the first time they have failed to reach the Champions League knock-out stages since 2002/03.
Their victory was comfortable enough, and was their second 1-0 win over the Hungarians in Group E.
But it was a tepid performance against a side that had shipped four goals in their previous two home games and currently lie seventh in the Hungarian League.
Rafa Benitez’s men could not have asked for a better start, Ngog bundling home Jamie Carragher’s header from a Fabio Aurelio cross.
But despite dominating the first half-hour, they rarely tested Debrecen keeper Vukasin Poleksic, apart from goalscorer Ngog, who forced two decent saves with shots from outside the box.
And striker Gergely Rudolf nearly delivered an early Christmas present for the home followers, heading wide from a Laszlo Bodnar cross four minutes before the break, when well-placed.
The pattern was unchanged after half-time. Liverpool knew Fiorentina were leading and that whatever they did in Budapest would be irrelevant unless that changed.
Yet that didn’t fully explain their lack of drive, or why major summer-signing Alberto Aquilani wasn’t given any meaningful playing time.
Gerrard and Lucas Reiva had decent chances but were denied by brave defending and poor finishing respectively.
And Liverpool nearly suffered a final indignity as Pepe Reina saved from Rudolf and, in the last attack of the match, Adamo Culibaly, to deny the Hungarians their first-ever Champions League point.
Instead, the major first belonged to Fiorentina, who reached the Champions League’s last 16 for the first time.
Tags: David Ngog, Liverpool, Fabio Aurelio, Debrecen, Gergely Rudolf, Alberto Aquilani, Lucas Reiva, Adamo Culibaly