Heskey keeps Liverpool alive
Liverpool may have emerged level from a cauldron brimming with hate on the banks of the Bosphorus, but their Champions League prospects hang in the balance this morning.
Emile Heskey's late equaliser, crafted by the substitute Jari Litmanen, kept the Reds afloat, but only just. Roma's 3-0 defeat of Barcelona diminished their chances and, bottom of the group, Liverpool's progress into the knockout phase may rest on their trip to the Nou Camp in a fortnight's time.
"We're making it very difficult for ourselves but it's still there," said the caretaker manager Phil Thompson. "We've turned the odds in our favour in the past and I believe in my players' character. We'll still do it."
Litmanen had been on the pitch only five minutes when his drag-back and flick bamboozled Galatasaray's defence and allowed Heskey to thump his first goal in the Champions League proper into the roof of the net. It salvaged a point that had been threatened by Radu Niculescu's opener; later Chris Kirkland's smart save from the substitute Serkan ensured the Reds' survival.
In truth, parity was no more than Liverpool deserved. Inspired by the probing passes and set-piece delivery of Danny Murphy in midfield, alongside Dietmar Hamann's coolness, they overcame the poisonous atmosphere to extend their unbeaten away record on the continent to 14 games, a sequence stretching back almost four years.
"My players weren't happy," said Thompson. "In fact they were extremely disappointed and know they should have won the game, what with all the chances that we had and missed, some of them easy. We seem to have used up all our goals against Leeds and Ipswich [beaten 4-0 and 6-0 in the Premiership recently], but I was still proud. Considering the pitch was so awful and the atmosphere so intimidating, the lads performed very well."
No English club had played at this crumbling but intimidating arena since Leeds's fateful visit almost two years ago. The crowd was as raucous as ever and those wide-eyed Liverpool players who meandered out to inspect the uneven surface before the start were greeted by a wall of noise, and Murphy, taking the game's first corner after four minutes, was pelted with plastic bottles.
Yet the England midfielder recovered to inspire the Reds' best moments. Having failed narrowly to touch home Sami Hyypia's knockdown, he ventured tentatively back into the firing line to whip in a corner which John-Arne Riise nodded goalwards. Ali Mondragon scrambled that attempt behind but the retake again eluded dithering defenders, the Norwegian's glancing attempt looping wide.
The small pocket of travelling supporters were still cursing that miss when Heskey fed Michael Owen, darting for ward into space, and his clever chipped pass was gathered by Vladimir Smicer. The Czech veered into the area only for Mondragon to block at his feet.
The profligacy continued into the second half, with Owen and Riise forcing the outstanding Mondragon to claim long-range attempts. Franz Beckenbauer recently described the Colombian as the world's best goalkeeper; his sprawled save from Riise yet again, laid on by Smicer, reinforced the point, though the Czech was guilty of a glaring miss moments later.
By then Liverpool trailed. The previously anonymous Niculescu rose above an unusually static defence to head home Victoria's cross and prompt pandemonium in the stands.
The Ali Sami Yen Stadium is a daunting arena in which to spark a revival - Gala have won all 13 home league fix tures this season - and Kirkland had saved at full stretch to turn Arif Erdem's skimming shot just wide early on. The young goalkeeper, visibly nervous at first, then spilled Penbe Ergun's long-range effort, with Jamie Carragher doing well to hack the ball to safety before Goktan Berkant could score.
Carragher blotted his own display only when slicing a clearance and forcing Kirkland to prod clear. Hasan Sas's weak follow-up at the gaping net was kicked off the line by Hyypia and, in the confusion, the England Under-21 international recovered his poise to tip Berkant's attempt round the post.
Galatasaray (4-4-2): Mondragon; Perez, Fleurquin, Korkmaz, Victoria; Berkant, Ayhan, Ergun, Hasan Sas; Niculescu (Serkan, 78), Erdem.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Kirkland; Xavier, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher; Smicer (Litmanen, 74), Murphy, Hamann, Riise; Heskey, Owen.
Referee: U Meier (Switzerland).
Copyright - The Guardian