Liverpool suffered a Halloween horror story tonight when they were bundled out of the UEFA Cup by Brondby at Fortress Anfield. It was undoubtedly one of the most frustrating occasions in the Merseysiders' long history of European exploits.
Liverpool forced the second round, second leg issue from the first minute when they had an Ian Rush effort ruled out for off side -- only to have their hearts broken when defender Dan Eggen snatched a dramatic 75th minute victory for the Danes.
Eggen was also on target at Arsenal exactly a year ago when Brondby drew 2-2 -- but on that occasion the Gunners went through courtesy of a first leg win. Liverpool had no such comfort zone against a side who have now gone six games in this season's competition without conceding a goal. But how they hung on in the face of overwhelming pressure and power tonight will remain one of football's mysteries.
Brondby, with Eggen fulfilling a vital role in the centre of their defence, somehow conjured to keep Liverpool out -- and at the end they were sportingly applauded off by the Kop. The goal that sealed an unlikely victory came after keeper David James had allowed a long range drive by Ole Bjur to spin out of his grasp for a corner. Bjur took the flag kick -- and Eggen leapt unchallenged six yards out to plant a header wide of James.
Liverpool immediately sent on £8.5 million Stan Collymore to try to retrieve a hopeless situation. And although he was just wide with a dipping shot after 87 minutes, it was too late.
Liverpool should by rights have booked their place in Friday's last 16 draw, but they repeatedly ran into a Brondby brick wall on the edge of the box. The first minute's effort, when Rush converted after Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler had launched a lightning raid was one of the few occasions when they managed to get behind the defence.
The Danes were happy for their opponents to take their time building from the back and their massed defences forced the likes of McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and John Barnes to fire from around the 20-yard mark.
They weren't going to worry Krogh from that sort of range and it was defender Mark Wright, moving up field after 54 minutes, who went as close as anyone with a header which was cleared off the line by Soren Colding.
The more Liverpool pressed the more likely they were to be caught on the break. The warning signs had been there as early as the 12th minute when Ebbe Sand headed wide of an open goal after James had failed to collect a high cross. And five minutes before the only goal, substitute Kim Daugaard should have punished the Premiership side. James blocked his first effort and when the ball ran loose Dougaard's follow up effort was somehow deflected over.
By then, Liverpool were becoming increasingly desperate in their search for a first home goal in Europe this season. They were held 0-0 by Vladikavkaz in the first round, but went through by virtue of a 2-1 first leg success. And they must have been thinking about extra time tonight when Eggen popped up to end their interest.
Disappointed Liverpool manager Roy Evans tonight accused his side of falling asleep as Brondby defender Dan Eggen knocked them out of the UEFA Cup at Anfield tonight. The Merseysiders went into their second round, second leg game having scored 13 goals in a week and Evans admitted: "You always have that slight worry that when you have scored so many goals of late you are going to have a night that you choke on. We had enough chances -- shots that didn't go in, balls cleared off the line. And there was some great defending by Brondby. But we had enough of the game to win it." Regarding the 78th minute goal by Eggen, he said: "First of all there was a shot which caught our keeper slightly unawares and he mishandled. When the corner came over we fell asleep and the guy got a free header."
Liverpool were well aware of the danger that Eggen posed. "We knew they were good at set pieces, especially the guy who scored. And he didn't disappoint us," said Evans. "No disrespect to Brondby but over two legs we would have expected to beat them. But you have to give them credit."
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