Goalkeeper Pepe Reina spared Liverpool’s blushes as they drew 0-0 in their Champions League first leg qualifier against Standard Liege.
Reina saved a penalty after Andrea Dossena was adjudged to handled inside the box midway through the first half as the home side dominated and caused problems.
BBC Sport Report
Liverpool escaped with a draw after being dominated by Standard Liege in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Liege’s Marouane Fellaini had an early header which hit the inside of the post but was deemed not to have crossed the line before keeper Pepe Reina cleared.
Reina then saved a Dante Bonfim penalty as Liege spurned another chance.
The Reds were poor and Igor De Camargo put a free header wide as Liege were left to rue their profligacy.
In contrast, Liverpool will have breathed a collective sigh of relief after the game as they looked rusty and clearly struggled to make the step up from pre-season to a competitive game.
They lacked urgency and sharpness and a committed Liege – backed by a vociferous home crowd – quickly went about taking advantage of their lacklustre rivals.
Liege may argue that Fellaini’s early attempted header, which appeared to have come off his shoulder, went over the line but the call was too tight to be sure.
In truth, midfielder Fellaini should have done better as he rose unmarked to meet the set-piece before the home side had an even better chance to go in front.
The Belgians were awarded a penalty after Reds left-back Andrea Dossena was punished for blocking a cross with his arm, despite the offence appearing to be just outside the box.
Dante’s spot-kick was too close to Reina and the keeper, who is renowned for being a specialist penalty stopper, saved with his body as he dived low to his right.
The visitors began to gradually find their feet as Liege took a breather after their energetic start and Liverpool struggled to half-time without another further mishaps.
But the break and any instructions from Reds boss Rafael Benitez did not help Liverpool’s form as Liege continued to overpower the Premier League side.
De Camargo had a sight on goal for Liege when he latched on to a pull back from the byline only to tamely strike his shot as Liverpool cleared the danger.
The Liege striker had an even better chance shortly afterwards when he had a free header from Dante’s cross but put his effort agonisingly just wide.
The Reds were missing skipper Steven Gerrard from their starting line-up because of a thigh injury but he was forced to come on to help their struggles.
Gerrard curled a free-kick just high as he immediately got involved and, even though Liverpool were second best, they go into the second leg on week commencing 25 August still level.
Elsewhere tonight, Arsenal defeated FC Twente 2-0 in their qualifier.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Alonso, Plessis, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar), Keane (Gerrard), Torres.
Subs Unused: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Voronin, Insua, Pennant.