Liverpool force Porto stalemate

Liverpool enjoyed another successful European awayday as they frustrated Porto in the first leg of their Uefa Cup quarter final clash.

Another disciplined performance from Gerrard Houllier's side continued their unbeaten away run in the competition as they limited the home side to a handful of chances.

That in itself was a major achievement.

Porto have not been beaten at the Stadio das Antas in a year - Barcelona the last side to breach their defences in a Champions League clash last March.

That marks a run of 27 games without defeat - 21 of them victories.

In a bid to end that sequence, Liverpool reinstated the strike partnership which brought them victory in Rome in the fourth round.

Michael Owen, the two-goal hero of that night, partnered Robbie Fowler up front, with Emile Heskey having to settle for a place on the bench.

But chances were few and far between for the Liverpool strikers as Gerard Houllier's side adopted a conservative approach to the tie.

It was an outstanding display by our defence, but we did not do as well when we did have the ball in attack
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier

In all honesty, there was never too much pressure to soak up, although Nuno Capucho created a few early scares among the Liverpool defence.

But Sami Hyypia kept such a tight rein on dangerman Jesus Pena that the Portuguese failed to produce one shot in the opening 20 minutes.

Having contained their hosts in the opening exchanges, Liverpool began to open up as they grew in confidence.

Owen ended a penetrating run down the left with a disappointing cross which was easily cut out and Fowler blazed wide midway through the half.

Porto fans restless

But the best chance fell to Owen on 24 minutes, only for the striker to shoot straight into the arms of Sergei Ovchinnikov as he stretched to latch on to Fowler's through ball.

With Liverpool proving more than a match for a side with such an impressive home record, the Porto fans began to grow restless.

It took 40 minutes for the home side to warm the hands of Liverpool keeper Sander Westerveld, and the Dutchman was equal to the task as he beat away a stinging right-foot drive from Carlos Chainho.

Liverpool's back four, expertly marshalled by the outstanding Hyppia, were made to work a little harder in the second half and they looked to have finally been breached midway through the second half.

Deco Sousa caught the defence out with a clever lofted pass which finally allowed Pena to break free of his shackles.

But the chance that the 23-goal Brazilian striker had been waiting for was horribly wasted as he lashed his shot well wide of the far post.

Sousa went closer with a 25-yard shot which grazed the outside of a post with Westerveld reduced to the role of spectator, but that was as close as the Portuguese side came.

Liverpool were not without chances of their own, Gerrard forcing a smart save from Ovchinnikov with a curling strike from just outside the penalty area.

An away goal would have been a huge bonus for Houllier's side in their bid to reach the semi-finals.

In its absence, a goalless draw still marks another job well done on the road.

All the incidents from Liverpool's first leg tie with FC Porto in the quarter-final of the Uefa Cup.

1 min: FC Porto get game under way. Both keepers (Sergei Ovchinnikov and Sander Westerveld) get an early touch.

3 mins: First foul by Steven Gerrard on Deco Sousa.

5 mins: Michael Owen just misses out after poor back pass to Porto keeper Ovchinnikov.

6 mins: Porto apply the pressure as Sami Hyppia concedes first corner of the match.

7 mins: Jamie Carragher conceds another corner after pressure from Jesus Pena.

11 mins: Liverpool win first corner after poor cross from Markus Babbel.

12 mins: Dietmar Hamann fouls Carlos Secretario but referee Pierluigi Collina takes no action against the Liverpool midfielder.

16 mins: Porto play possession football as Liverpool fail to find their form on a rain-sodden pitch.

18 mins: Home crowd losing patience at lack of penetration from the Porto side.

19 mins: Owen knocks ball across the goal mouth but no Liverpool player can capitalise on it.

20 mins: Robbie Fowler smashes wide from six yards after ball breaks to him following a corner.

24 mins: Owen latches on to good ball from Fowler but hits into the arms of keeper Ovchinnikov.

30 mins: Good run from Ljubinko Drulovic leads to Porto corner but home side cannot get a decent shot in on goal.

33 mins: First booking as Porto's Carlos Paredes takes Vladimir Smicer out on the half-way line.

35 mins: Ovchinnikov rushes out to clear as Owen looks to catch Porto on the break.

37 mins: Liverpool keeper Westerveld fouled after he blocks Deco Sousa in the box.

40 mins: Nuno Capucho's cross finds Carlos Chainho, whose right-foot shot is beaten away by the alert Westerveld.

45 mins: Referee Collina blows for half-time. FC Porto 0- Liverpool.

46 mins: Capucho sets up good chances for Porto in opening seconds of half.

48 mins: Christian Ziege's 25-yard free-kick goes straight into the arms of keepr Sergei Ovchinnikov.

51 mins:Capucho cross cleared by Stephane Henchoz as Porto apply the pressure.

54 mins: Liverpool's Danny Murphy replaces Ziege.

57 mins: Porto captain Jorge Costa goes off injured and is replaced by Aloisio.

59 mins: Steven Gerrard fires a superb bending shot towards goal, which forces a save from Ovchinnikov.

66 mins: Jesus Pena beats offside trap but can only put the ball wide of the Liverpool goal from close range.

69 mins: Emile Heskey brought on for Fowler.

74 mins: Candido Costa replaces Ljubinko Drulovic.

79 mins: Nicky Barmby brought on for Owen.

83 mins: Sousa unleashes a shot, which grazes Sander Westerveld's far post.

84 mins: Murphy's free-kick curls over the Porto goal.

90 mins: Porto apply the pressure as Liverpool look to leave Portugal without conceding.

90 mins: Three minutes of stoppage time. FC Porto 0-0 Liverpool.

Copyright - BBC

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