Valencia ease past Liverpool
Liverpool's Champions League campaign opened in disappointing fashion as they were swept aside by impressive Valencia in the Mestalla Stadium.
Boss Gerard Houllier gambled by leaving strikers Michael Owen and in-form Milan Baros out of his line-up - but the decision backfired as the Spanish champions outclassed Liverpool.
"We looked shaky in defence, we didn't look as bright as we have done in midfield and we could have done better up front."
- Gerard Houllier
And Houllier's misery was complete when Dietmar Hamann was sent off late on after receiving a second yellow card.
Valencia, who have twice reached the Champions League final in recent years, demonstrated their pedigree with a brilliant display of pace and passing.
Pablo Aimar and Ruben Baraja scored twice in the first half to emphasise their superiority, with Liverpool rarely threatening to mount a revival.
And even though Houllier introduced Owen at the interval, it was too late and Valencia cruised to victory.
19 mins: Pablo Aimar slides Valencia into the lead
38 mins: Baraja adds a second for the Spanish champions
45 mins: Liverpool send on Michael Owen in a comeback bid
76 mins: Dietmar Hamann is sent off for a second bookable offence
Liverpool were run ragged and it was a surprise that they held out until the 19th minute, when Valencia took the lead in breathtaking fashion.
Baraja and David Albelda linked on the edge of the area to release Aimar, who slid a precise finish past Jerzy Dudek.
Argentine Aimar was a constant threat, and referee Herbert Fandel was forced to wave away vehement penalty appeals when he went down under a challenge from Salif Diao.
Liverpool were unable to establish any sort of foothold, but almost forced their way back into contention through Emile Heskey on the half-hour.
He beat Mauricio Pellegrino and rounded Santiago Canizares, but was unlucky to glance a shot against the woodwork from a tight angle.
Valencia's passing was a joy to behold, and they added a second goal seven minutes before half time when Baraja advanced from midfield unchallenged to beat Dudek from 20 yards.
Liverpool boss Houllier had nothing to lose, and he responded in positive fashion by replacing Senegal pair Diao and El-Hadji Diouf with Owen and Bruno Cheyrou.
It gave Liverpool a more positive appearance, with Danny Murphy finally testing Canizares with a powerful drive.
But Valencia were still a huge threat, with Aimar forcing Dudek to tip over and John Carew heading wide.
"Liverpool are a great team but we stopped them from showing their strength."
- Rafa Benitez
Cheyrou almost threw Liverpool a lifeline when Hamann's free-kick deflected into his path, but Canizares saved brilliantly.
It was the German midfield man's last meaningful contribution as he was shown the red card with 14 minutes left.
He had already been booked, but invited trouble when he pushed Valencia substitute Mista to the ground and was sent off.
It was the final insult for Liverpool on an evening when they were taught a harsh lesson by Valencia.
Valencia: Canizares, Curro Torres, Ayala, Pellegrino, Carboni, Albelda, Rufete, Baraja, Aimar, Vicente, Carew. Subs: Palop, Salva, Angulo, Sanchez, Marchena, Mista, de los Santos.
Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Hyypia, Diao, Traore, Riise, Murphy, Gerrard, Hamann, Heskey, Diouf. Subs: Kirkland, Baros, Babbel, Owen, Berger, Biscan, Cheyrou.
Referee: Herbert Fandel (Kyllburg).
Copyright - BBC