Liverpool Echo report

Only a late, late goal for the home side could dent what was - for Liverpool - an assured, confident display against the Greek Champions in Athens. However, that Alexandris goal two minutes into injury time could have serious implications for Liverpool, who missed a host of chances.

The Greeks have a fighting chance - only needing a goal at Anfield to put them through, on a night when the pressure will be on the Reds to go through to the last 16. The pace of the game was certainly a leisurely one throughout - which certainly favoured the visitors - as the sometimes vociferous home crowd grew ever frustrated.

Indeed, Olympiakos created very little in the first-half - looking almost in a sulk after their narrow Champions League exit. Their first real chance - and only a half-chance at that - fell to Djordjevic who shot straight at Westerveld. On 23 minutes, Djimi Traore was booked for a reckless tackle -the subsequent free-kick being punched clear by Westerveld as Olympiakos struggled to break through the Liverpool rearguard.

Though Liverpool were yet to create any clear cut chances, they could take solace in the fact that the home side had failed to take a grip of the game. Against the run of play, the Reds took the lead on 37 minutes. A throw in from Steven Gerrard was flicked on by the tireless Heskey, for Nick Barmby to volley home superbly - his shot flying into the roof of the net.

A stunned home crowd watched as Liverpool threatened to really take control of the game. Two minutes later, Danny Murphy fired a direct free-kick at goal, which was only just palmed away by the Olympiakos keeper. The Reds went in 1-0 up at the break, but on recent showings, no lead is big enough for the Reds to concede. No doubt, a timely reminder from Gerrard Houllier at half-time may have brought this most annoying of traits to light. Houllier made one change at the interval, with the recalled Steve Staunton replacing the yellow carded Djimi Traore at left back.

It was Liverpool who started the second-half the brighter side. Following great work from the impressive Emile Heskey, his cross was met by goalscorer Nick Barmby, who -always leaning- struck a shot on to the under side of the crossbar as the Greek defence scrambled the ball clear. Sensing luck might be on their side, the home crowd burst into life - firecrackers and tickertape covering the terraces. As it was, Liverpool would certainly regret their missed chances such as Barmby's close range effort. On 64 minutes, the home side duly equalised A cross from the right from the Brazilian Giovanni was met superbly by Alexandris, whose overhead-kick powered past Westerveld in the Liverpool goal.

Though Alexandris went unchallenged, defensive frailties could not be blamed this time, as a piece of genius put Olympiakos right back into the game. Immediately, Vladimir Smicer came on to replace Michael Owen. To Liverpool's credit, they bounced straight back. A perfectly weighted corner taken by Barmby, was met by Steven Gerrard, whose header looped into the net to give Liverpool the lead once again. Surely they would not blow it this time? It never looked likely, as the Reds poured forward looking to increase their lead. As Olympiakos desperately chased the game, they forced a corner with nine minutes to go. Sander Westerveld's handling though was superb, with his release then setting Liverpool on the break.

With Vladimir Smicer bearing down on goal, one on one with the keeper, a third goal looked inevitable. However, the Czech slid his shot under the keeper, only to see the ball hit the post and bounce out. Despite the missed chances, the hard work had been done, as the Reds casually run the clock down. In injury time, Gary McAllister replaced Danny Murphy. Seconds later though, there was another change - to the scoreline - as Olympiakos equalised again. A hanging cross from the right was flicked on and met by Alexandris, who volleyed into the corner of the net unchallenged, as the Reds went to sleep yet again.

While most around Anfield would have settled for this result beforehand, the general feeling will now be one of wasted opportunities and slack defending. The Greek champions - albeit unimpressive - were let out of jail and will now go into the second leg with a nothing-to-lose attitude. Liverpool - despite a thoroughly professional performance on the whole -will maybe look nervously to the second leg as they look to progress. On the plus side though, the Reds came through this test without being beat. A full house at Anfield and the last 16 of the UEFA Cup await. Roll on December 7th.

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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