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Champions League 2001/2002 The Story So Far.


Champions League 2001/2002-The Story So Far.

Liverpool's champions league campaign started way back on the 8th of August.Having finished 3rd in the premiership the season previous, Liverpool would have to win a two legged qualifying match if they were to advance to the first round of the competition.

Liverpool were supposed to play against the winner of the Maccabi Haifa Vs FC Haka tie.
However during the second leg of the tie Maccabi Haifa used an unregistered player. This error would cost Haifa dear as a Uefa control commision decided to throw Haifa out of the tournament and into the Uefa Cup. This action by Uefa effectively gave Haka a second life and Liverpool an easier qualifying tie.

The first leg of the qualifying tie was on the 8th of August and was played in Finland infront of 32 thousand supporters,Of which the majority were neutrals all of whom had come to see 2 of Finlands greatest ever players. {Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen} It took a full 30mins before Liverpool broke through to score the clubs first goal in the new style European Cup. It came when a cross from the right was met by Heskey who powered home a good header. After the break it went downhill fast for Haka as Owen helped himself to a hat-trick before Hyypia slotted home to finish of a 0-5 rout. A fortnight later Liverpool completed qualification into the first round proper winning 4-1 with goals from Fowler,Redknapp and Heskey with an Owngoal from the Haka player Williams.

Liverpool were then to recieve a nice boost, With Parma having crashed out of the tournament to French minnows Lille Liverpool were handed the vital 8th seeded spot. This effectively kept sides like Barcelona,Real Madrid and Bayern Munchen at bay until the next round. The draw took place and Liverpool were drawn as top seeds in Group B.Boavista from Portugal, Dynamo Kyyiv from the Ukraine and Borussia Dormund from Germany all followed into the same group which didn't leave the lads an easy draw but a decent one nonetheless.

The frist Group B took place on September the 11th 2001, A date that will forever be remembered.Not for the action on the pitch but because of the tradgic events that occured in New York. The match was at Anfield and the opposition were Boavista. If Liverpool had taken the small Portuguese club lightly they were soon reminded that all the teams in the champions league were capable of beating each other. After only 3mins Boavista player Silva put the visitors ahead infront of the famous Kop. The expected Liverpool onslaught never materialised and it was left to Europe's most feared striker to give Liverpool a share of the points. Owen latched onto a clever Emile Heskey through-ball and curled a shot past rushing goalkeeper Ricardo into the top righthand corner of the net. A draw wasn't the ideal result but with the other two teams in the group drawing 2-2 it wasn't a bad result.

The second group match saw Liverpool return to the Westfalenstadion the scene of thier wonderful Uefa Cup triumph just months earlier. Dortmund were the tough opposition this time and in a tough game with few chances Liverpool were lucky to see Tomas Rosicky's effort come back off the post. The game ended 0-0 which was a much better result for us than our German counterparts.

Matchday 3 saw Liverpool play hosts to seasoned campaigners Dynamo Kyyiv. Jari Litmanen got a deserved start and didn't disapoint as he put Liverpool ahead after 23 minutes. Liverpool were unfortunate not to win by more than the 1-0 margin, The hosts having racked up 12 corners and 8 shots on target together with 57% of the possesion. Dynamo coach Valerii Lobanovskyi had no complaints about the final score admitted his young side couldn't cope with Liverpool's physically imposing style of play "Liverpool are a strong side.They are excellent in defence and attack".

On matchday 4 the reverse fixtures started with Liverpool again playing Kyyiv but this time in Olimpiyskyi stadium in the Ukraine. It is important to note that never before had any British side won in Kyyiv but many had suffered hummiliating defeats. It took a full 43 minutes for Liverpool to break through the solid Kyyiv outfit.Danny Murphy putting Liverpool ahead when he volleyed home a Steven Gerrard cross. The home team forced Liverpool back and pulled themselves back in contention when Ghioane scrambled in an equaliser following a Kyyiv set piece. Liverpool were soon ahead again after influential midfielder Steven Gerrard controled the ball in the area before finishing past Kyyiv goalkeeper Reva. The home team were limited to a handful of chances in which to equalise but failed to capatalise on any of them leaving Liverpool with a historic Victory.

A trip to Porto on matchday 5 placed the top two sides in the group up against each other. The match didn't start well for the reds as vice captain Sami Hyypia was taken off injured after just 6 minutes. However after just 17 minutes after a foul on Robbie Fowler, Danny Murphy curled a glorius freekick into the back of the net to give Liverpool a vital lead. But just as he did in the first meeting of the two sides Silva made an impact when he scored to give Boavista a share of the spoils. The match ended 1-1. Meanwhile Dortmund had set up an all or nothing calsh with Liverpool as they defeated Kyyiv 1-0.

The group looked like this going into matchday 6

Liverpool 9pts
Boavista 8pts
Dortmund 8pts
Kyyiv 1pt

Jamie Carragher captained the side for the first time in the absence of Fowler and Hyypia. Vladimir Smicer gave us the lead after 15 minutes and from then on we never looked like losing. Victory wasn't secure until late on though when thanks to Steven Wrights shoulder Liverpool went 2-0 ahead. It ended 2-0 which meant we had won Group B and with neither Boavista or Dortmund picking up points,Boavista advanced behind us whilst Dortmund had to make do with the Uefa Cup place for coming 3rd.

After 6 tough games Liverpool had secured a second round birth with a record of 3 wins and 3 draws. During these 6 encounters Liverpool ahd scored 7 goals and conceeded only 3 {The lowest goals conceeded in phase 1 of the champions league}

Final Group B Table.

Liverpool 12pts
Boavista 8pts
Dortmund 8pts
Kyyiv 4pts

I expected us to get through from this group, Kyyiv had lost there best players {Schevchenko,Rebrov and Luzhny} in recent seasons and although still a tough well organised team, They didn't carry that knockout punch anymore. Boavista were the surprise package I thought they would have come bottom of the group but proved that they had some skillful players and a good team spirit. Dortmund were tipped to be the toughest challenge to us in this group and they did play well in games but they just seemed to lack something.

Phase Two

Liverpool were in the second pot of seeds for the second round, Which meant Real Madrid,Juventus or Barcelona would await us in the second phase. To be fair we were very unlucky to have drawn the group we did whilst other teams who had performed worse in phase 1 had a relatively easy draw. We were drawn up against catalan giants Barcelona, Turkish outfit Galatasaray and the real sickener was Roma from pot four of all places {The weak sides} we drew the Italian champions! To be honest when I saw the draw I did believe we could do it although I knew it was going to be ****** hard.

Phase Two, Matchday 1 saw Barcelona looking for and getting revenge for the defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Uefa Cup semifinal the previous season. After a bright start by both sides Owen latched onto a through ball raced through on goal and lifted the ball over Roberto Bonano to give Liverpool the lead. Barcelona hit back immediately, racing to the other end of the field where Kluivert smashed in an equaliser after a neat passing move involving Overmars and Rivaldo. The Dutch striker latched onto Rivaldo's clever chip and volleyed past a helpless Dudek. During the second half the turning point came, Owen missed a fantastic chance to put us ahead again. Then substitue Rochemback hit a 20 yard belter which stunned Anfield. Then on it was a hummiliating time for Liverpool as Barcelona knocked the ball about with real conviction. Late on after a well worked move Overmars found himself 1 on 1 with Jerzy Dudek. Overmars kept his cool rounded Dudek and slotted home. Barcelona won the match and finished the evening top of Group B whilst Liverpool were left rock bottom.

Phase Two, Matchday 2, And already Liverpool had to get something from the fixture. Again the back four were superb limiting a great attacking team to a handfull of chances. Meanwhile we created our own chances infact we had more clearer chances to win than Roma but failed to take them. The game ended in a bore draw but taking a point away against Roma is always a good result and this point gave us a base to try and get back into contention in Group B.

Phase Two, Matchday 3, Liverpool welcomed Galatasaray to Anfield in a game which many felt we had to win if we wanted to progress in the comeptition. And I have to admit I was one of those people. However another goalless draw seemed to end any real chance of us qualifying. Galatasaray keeper Mondragon was in fine form and he kept the Turkish side in the game.

Phase Two, Matchday 4 Liverpool went to "Hell" and took a valuable point when many others would have left with nothing. We did it the hard way though having fallen behind to a Niculescu header with just 20 minutes remaining. Smicer wasted a glorius chance to equalise when he volleyed wide from 6 yards and it did look like it was going to be one of those nights. However with just 11 minutes remaining a Riise long throw was well controled by Litmanen who laid it off to Heskey who fired in an equaliser. The hosts pushed forward in search of a victory but Liverpool were not to be denied.

Liverpool's postion in Group B was a desperate one, Bottom with 2 games left {Against Barcelona and Roma of all teams!}

Roma 6pts
Barcelona 5pts
Galatasaray 4pts
Liverpool 3pts

Phase Two, Matchday 5 A trip to the Nou Camp where Liverpool really had to get something from the game. It was a more positive game played by us than the game against them last season and although we didn't win we did prove a point to a few mouthy Dutch players {Kluivert and De Boer}. Steven Gerrard had our best chance of the game but headed just wide. The defence yet again proved they are the best in Europe and possibly the world as Barcelona's dream attack hardly threatened. Due to a Draw in the Roma Vs Galatasaray game we still had a chance to get through to the quarter finals. However we had to win by 2 clear goals at Anfield against Roma to make sure we went through. A victory by 1 goal would have been enough had a definate result occured in the Galatasaray Vs Barcelona fixture.

Roma 7pts
Barcelona 6pts
Galatasaray 5pts
Liverpool 4pts

Phase Two, Matchday 6 With Owen injured and Hamman suspended the Roma clash was going to be tough, Add to that the fact that they haven't been beaten in 5 months and the fact that they had only been beaten twice all year and you can imagine why many "Pundits" were ruling us out. Thing is at Anfield on great European nights special things happen. As the teams were making thier way onto the playing surface Liverpool Manager Gerard Houllier mafe a surprise return after a long lay off due to a heart condition. No doubt this gave the plays a huge boost and from a personal opinion it was ****** fantastic to see him back.We started well and after just 6 minutes we had earned a penalty. As Danny Murphy was about to shoot Assunção fouled him from behind. Litmanen kept his cool to send Antonioli the wrong way to give the reds the lead. Smicer and Litmanen played out of thier skins and the back four were as solid as ever. News filtered through that Barcelona were leading in Istanbul which meant we were going through!! To be fair we didn't look like conceeding and when Heskey doubled our lead with a thunderous header it was clear that another great Anfield night was going to happen. It ended 2-0 and we booked our place at Europe's top table.

Barcelona 9pts
Liverpool 7pts
Roma 7pts
Galatasaray 6pts

{Liverpool Qualify due to a superior record between ourselves and Roma}

All I can say is that I'm delighted. To come through a group that tough after losing our first game shows our character. This is where the club belongs in the premier European competition. A few seasons ago I would have dreamed about games like these and results like these. The management have brought wise and have instilled a very strong spine to the team. If this group of players continue to improve toghether more success will be heading our way.

Now the draw isn't going to be kind, The likelyhood is that we will end up drawing Real Madrid,Deportivo/Leverkusen or Manchester United. I'm confident we can go further though, We are now back to the 2 legged knockout competiton we are so good at. We haven't lost away from home in Europe for nearly 4 years now and with our defence I believe we can go anywhere and keep a clean sheet. At home we are a tough side to beat and with players like Owen/Heskey/Litmanen we will always be likely to score. Whoever we get it's going to be very hard, But as Thommo has said "If these players want something badly enough then they'll get it."



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