Britpack are back Evans tells Europe
from "Press Association"
Roy Evans shrugged off the disappointment of Liverpool's European demise with a warning to the Continent: "Beware, the British are coming.''
Robbie Fowler's volley after 11 minutes and Mark Wright's header 11 minutes from time were the only reward for a non-stop Liverpool barrage as Paris St Germain survived the Anfield hurricane to book a Cup Winners' Cup final date with Barcelona in Rotterdam next month. But although the Merseyside Reds followed the Manchester Reds out of the European exit, 3-2 on aggregate, Liverpool boss Evans rapped out an ominous message to those who believe the forces of Albion are spent.
"A year ago English clubs were criticised for their poor show in Europe, but now both United and us have reached the semi-finals,'' said Evans, whose frustration mirrored the Champions' League agony suffered by Alex Ferguson the previous evening. "That shows we have taken giant strides. We have both come a reasonable distance this season.''
There will be the usual talk of the deficiencies that are fostered by the demands of the FA Carling Premiership and in the final analysis English teams seem still to be lagging behind the top-class outfits that venture from across the Channel. But Liverpool, like Manchester United, will believe that the difference between success and failure simply came down to Lady Luck when it mattered.
With Fowler playing alongside Patrik Berger and the inspirational Stan Collymore for the first time in a four-pronged attack that also included Steve McManaman, Liverpool came agonisingly close to wiping out the nightmare of their 3-0 surrender in the Parc des Princes two weeks earlier. When Collymore set up Fowler for his 31st goal of the season and seventh in Europe the Merseysiders looked well capable of overturning a three-goal first leg deficit for the first time since entering European competition 32 years ago.
But by the time Wright made skipper in the absence of the axed John Barnes powered home a textbook header to guarantee a grandstand finish, even the passion and persuasion of the Kop could not produce that vital third breakthrough.
Collymore, who will now carry the burden of Liverpool's bid for runners-up spot in the Premiership to secure the Champions' League berth that goes with it following Fowler's impending three-match suspension, was full of praise for the fans who made it an atmospheric throw-back to those Anfield glory nights of the 1970s and 80s. He said: "With a little bit more luck we could have done it. It was a fantastic performance and the supporters were magnificent. I would like to thank all of them on behalf of the lads.''
And Evans, scathing of Liverpool's efforts in the French capital, was also in an upbeat mood. He said: "I couldn't have asked for any more from my team in terms of effort, passion and pride. They all get top marks. We knew we had to be aggressive from start to finish. We had to be bold and take that chance. In the end the 3-0 difference was almost attainable as there were a few good skirmishes. But fairytales sometimes remain fairytales. Results can sometimes be more harsh.''
And on his decision to leave out skipper Barnes for the first time since he took charge three years ago, Evans explained:"I felt we needed to get the ball forward quickly. Sometimes that takes away a little bit of the quality but that's something I felt I had to do. It was a tough decision. John is a fantastic player and he took the news like a true professional should.''
Wright's goal, which set up the enthralling finale, had PSG's coach Ricardo reaching for the tranquillisers. He said: "The last 10 minutes of the game were the longest and most difficult of my life. I was always looking at my watch. The ball was often in the air and anything could have happened. I wasn't surprised at Liverpool but I was surprised that they played four players in attack. They played very well and were very strong.''
And Ricardo really would have needed medical attention had Liverpool keeper David James succeeded with his last-minute sortie into the Paris penalty area for Mark Kennedy's corner. James, the villain for a string of poor performances between the sticks, almost made amends in dramatic fashion when his header flew over. He explained: "I saw the ball coming over and I thought I could get good contact on it. I thought to myself `I am in here', but I couldn't keep it down.''
Copyright - Press Association