Talk lfc match report

Preview, report and player analysis by Robbie Amins at talklfc

This match is probably the trickiest tie for the Reds in the first phase of the Champions League campaign. The atmosphere in places like Greece and Turkey is always very intimidating and this will be a good test for Benitez's men.

Olympiakos picked up an impressive goalless draw against Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor in their opening Group A clash. Brazilian ace Rivaldo had a very good Champions League debut for the Greeks and almost scored on a few occasions.

Despite playing in foreign territory, Olympiakos did have the better chances to win that match. When Deportivo finally found their attacking ideas, the visitors' defence guarded their goal in typical Greek fashion - committed and disciplined - to keep out the Spaniards.

After seeing much of his planning start to take shape in the Xabi Alonso-inspired crushing of Norwich in the Premiership on Saturday, the Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez now needs another win to keep his revolution going in Europe.

He has to decide tonight whether he will accommodate Steve Finnan or Luis Garcia on the right side of midfield and whether Harry Kewell is fit enough to play on the left

It would take more, you suspect, than a little enforced tinkering with the midfield to faze Benitez. The Liverpool coach has proved mysteriously devoid of nerves or temper so far and he has even been prepared to tackle the European legacy of his new club, a subject that was always guaranteed to raise the ire of Houllier.

Benitez knows that after a successful opening to Liverpool's Group A campaign that saw last season's runners-up Monaco cut down to size, another three points will leave Liverpool with one foot already in the second round.

That is where Liverpool have to be to keep everyone at Anfield happy - not least injured skipper Steven Gerrard who will become another target for Europe's top clubs, Real Madrid one of them, in the January transfer window.

Olympiakos (4-3-2-1; probable): Nikopolidis; Pantos, Anatolakis, Schurrer, Venetidis; Kafes, Georgatos, Stoltidis; Okkas, Rivaldo; Giovanni.

Liverpool (4-4-2; probable): Dudek; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Finnan, Xabi Alonso, Hamann, Kewell; Luis García, Cissé.

Referee: P Collina (Italy)


Match Report

Liverpool's poor away form continued on Tuesday night at Athens as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat against Olympiakos. The AK Graz Champions League qualifier aside, the Reds have failed to win away from Anfield this season - in the Premiership they got only a point at While Hart Lane and lost at both Old Trafford and the Reebok.

Rafael Benitez made just one change to the side that convincingly crushed Norwich at Anfield on Saturday with Djibril Cisse making way for Josemi and Steve Finnan was moved forward to right midfield. Luis Garcia played the roving role behind Milan Baros in attack. Harry Kewell, still not 100% fit after missing Saturday's match with a thigh strain, was included on the bench.

Olympiakos have only just moved to their new Georgios Karaiskakis stadium, which inherits a proud tradition in the club's history. Olympiakos have lost at home only three times in eight years of Champions League football, though they are still waiting to win a match away. Liverpool started amid a deafening din and they started very poorly.

The Reds conceded a string of free-kicks and the former FIFA World Player of the Year Rivaldo was quick to punish the visitors when he set up the opening goal with a 30-yard delivery from the right which was met by Stoltidis, who shrugged off the challenge of Sami Hyypia to head past Dudek.

Jerzy Dudek then almost added to Liverpool's woes with a sliced miskick inside his own box which soared straight up into the air for Grigorios Georgatos to hook into the six-yard box where the ball bounced off Okkas to drop a foot wide of the post.

For the 22-year-old Stephen Warnock, it was a baptism of smoke. Acrid, red fumes at that, from the flares lit by Olympiacos' supporters. They had barely cleared before an attack down the left, where Warnock was practically in direct opposition to Rivaldo, signposted the attacking threat posed by last season's Greek runners-up.

A little thicker round the hips, perhaps, from when his equaliser began Brazil's revival against England in the World Cup quarter-final more than two years ago, but he has lost none of the vision and guile along the way.

On 25 minutes, he galloped on to a lay-off from compatriot Giovanni and hit a rasping drive that hovered inches past Jerzy Dudek's left post. Rivaldo's free-kicks were never short of exemplary, either, bending and floating over a disorientated Liverpool defence.

Warnock, having been booked for scything down Dimitrius Mavrogenidis and had scant opportunity to impress in a mediocre collective display, gave way to Kewell after the break.

Liverpool's attacking intentions were becoming more obvious, Steve Finnan getting away down the right and only a sharp challenge by Anastasios Pantos stopped the cross coming in to the unmarked Garcia, and then John Arne Riise saw a 25-yard shot soar wide from a tapped free-kick. Their only real effort on the Olympiakos goal.

The Anfield outfit's best opportunity to score was on 63 minutes when Baros played a ball through their defence and Kewell, with just Nikopolidis to beat was wrongly flagged offside. Luis Garcia who was not interfering with play was the man who was off but Kewell had ran from deep.

Olympiakos were reduced to 10 men with just seven minutes to go when Anastasious Pantos was sent off by Pierluigi Collina for his second bookable offence. But even with an extra man, Liverpool couldn't score the goal that would have kept their record of having never lost on Greek soil alive.

The scouts sent by Jose Mourinho will find little in this performance to trouble Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday; in fact it was a disastrous regression from the confident victory over Norwich at Anfield on Saturday.

Olympiakos: Nikopolidis, Mavrogenidis (Georgiadis 71), Anatolakis, Schurrer, Pantos, Rivaldo, Stoltidis, Kafes, Georgatos (Vallas 84), Giovanni (Venetidis 71), Okkas. Subs not used: Giannou, Castillo, Maric, Kostoulas.

Liverpool: Dudek, Josemi (Cisse 73), Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Finnan, Alonso, Hamann (Diao 82), Warnock (Kewell 46), Luis Garcia, Baros. Subs not used: Kirkland, Traore, Sinama Pongolle, Biscan.

Liverpool's visit to Greece was not a happy one as they lost to Olympiakos. Rafael Benitez said before the match that his side would not play for a draw. In the end, they returned to England without even a point.


Player-by-player analysis

Jerzy Dudek

Like Silvestre's double in the Man Utd match, he never had a chance with the header from Stolidis. And Jerzy almost gifted them a second when his poor clearance went straight to an Olympiakos player. There will be calls from the Chris Kirkland fan club for the fit-again keeper to be given a chance.


Didn't see a lot of the ball in the whole of the 72 minutes that he was on the pitch. One of Josemi's less impressive displays this season. (I hope it would be the last one.) In the first half, he was easily beaten for pace (a couple of times) by Georgatos.

Jamie Carragher

Carra played slightly better than Sami. He threw himself at every cross and long ball that came his way. One of the few Redmen who can claim to have had a decent game.

Sami Hyypia

Sami despite his aerial ability failed to prevent the Greeks' opener. The smaller Stoltidis drifted into the box to get to the end of Rivaldo's freekick to score. Credit to Sami though for accepting responsibility for the goal. He said after the game, "I lost a header in the box and that shouldn't have happened."

John Arne-Riise

Like most of the other players, Riise was pinned back in his own half in the first 45. olympiakos were never going to be as generous as Norwich and let him try his overlapping runs and long shots. His freekick in the second half from a Didi Hamann lay-off was probably Liverpool's only effort on the Greek side's goal. And it was not even on target. Sad statistic...

Steve Finnan

Steve was a fullback playing at right midfield. And he looked just that. He offered little or no real attacking threat down the right and surely he could offer better delivery from the many freekicks that Liverpool were awarded. I cannot figure out why they did not let Xabi take those instead.

Didi Hamann

Was so busy trying to inject 'calmness' into the Liverpool midfield that maybe he was substituted late in the game because Rafa thought he needed a rest. The German anchor did okay but his partnership with Alonso this time around was not as effective as in the Norwich game.

Xabi Alonso

They do show Spanish and English football on Greek TV and even if they didn't, the Olympiakos players knew about the threat that Xabi posed with his top drawer passing ability. In the first half, Xabi was never given time to settle on the ball. After the break, he was so desperate to try to conjure something for Liverpool that he tried too hard. Many of his long balls never found their targets.

Stephen Warnock

The Academy graduate's lack of European experience showed. Facing the Brazilian veteran Rivaldo who was at Olympiakos' right flank, he struggled in the first half. And many of his freekick routines with Stevie Finnan didn't work. A good lesson for the youngster.

Luis Garcia

Like in the Man Utd game, Luis had a poor game. Starting just behind Milan Baros, he finished the match as a right winger after Cisse's introduction. Liverpool's hope for creative inspiration never found the keys to unlock the stubborn Greek defence. Olympiakos did well to keep him quiet.

Milan Baros

He huffed and puffed but it all came to no avail. Milan tried his best to use his pace to good effect but it just wasn't his or Liverpool's day. Credit to him for spotting and playing the running Harry Kewell into a goalscoring position. Few months ago, Milan would surely have tried to take a shot from there or take on the defender. That was Liverpool's best opportunity for an equaliser but the linesman wrongly flagged for offside.

Harry Kewell

He missed the Norwich game and he still wasn't 100% or fit enough for this match but Rafa Benitez brought him along as a substitute. The reason was obvious. Even though he was out of form, Harry is still one of the players that can do something out of nothing for the Reds. His introduction in the second half did give them a lift and provided an improvement in Liverpool's performance.

Djibril Cisse

The Frenchman started on the bench as Rafa Benitez favoured Milan Baros in that lone striker role. He came on for Josemi in the 73rd minute and provided Liverpool with another option upfront (and more pace). But in the centre of the Olympiakos defence, Anatolakis and the Argentine Gabriel Schurrer were outstanding and they were never going to let Djibril or Milan have a sniff at their goal.

Salif Diao

Came on as Didi Hamann's replacement. Nice 9 minute work-out for the Senegal international midfielder. Nobody expected Salif to come in and do magic on the pitch and he obviously didn't.

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