Liverpool ended their miserable Champions League campaign with a 2-1 defeat at home to Fiorentina.
Midfielder Alberto Aquilani made his first start for the club, 4 months after his £18million move from Roma and 7 weeks after making his first appearance as a sub.
The Italian international had a quiet game, with brief glimpses of being able to provide a link between midfield and attack, something which has been so lacking since the departure of Xabi Alonso in the summer.
Rafa Benitez opted to rest several first team players, with Diego Cavalieri, Stephen Darby and Andrea Dossena all earning rare starts. Dirk Kuyt started up front.
STEPHEN DARBY (left) made a rare start for the club but his last minute mistake proved costly. Photo from fOTOGLIF.
It was a sluggish first half from both sides, but the Reds took the lead just a couple of minutes before the break when Steven Gerrard whipped in a free-kick from the right side of the penalty area which Yossi Benayoun nodded home.
The second half brought the game to life and also the introduction of Fernando Torres – his first action since early November.
The Spaniard’s presence brought new attacking strength to Liverpool who now had a threat up front, rather than Kuyt who threatened the linesman’s arm more than the opposition’s defence. Torres showed The Kop exactly what we’ve been missing during his injury problems.
However, 15 minutes into the second half, Liverpool caved in to pressure as Fiorentina hit us on the counter-attack. Their swift movement forward played in Martin Jorgensen for his first ever Champions League goal, expertly finishing past Cavalieri.
The second half also saw a Liverpool debut for Dani Pacheco. The Spanish youngster looked fresh and exciting, going close just seconds after coming on and going on to trouble the Fiorentina defence further.
With almost the final kick of the game though, Gilardino finished another swift Fiorentina counter-attack to subject Rafa Benitez’s men to defeat, conceding late yet again. It was harsh on the Reds.
The result means Fiorentina finish the group top, with Lyon second. Liverpool are now fated for the Europa League.
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Inter Milan 2-0 Rubin Kazan
Liverpool 1-2 Fiorentina
Lyon 4-0 Debrecen
Olympiakos 1-0 Arsenal
Sevilla 1-0 Rangers
Standard Liege 1-1 AZ Alkmaar
VfB Stuttgart 3-1 Unirea Urziceni
Line-ups and Substitutions
Liverpool: Cavalieri, Agger, Insua, Darby, Skrtel, Dossena, Aquilani (Pacheco 76), Gerrard, Benayoun, Mascherano (Aurelio 86), Kuyt (Torres 65)
Subs not used: Reina, Kyrgiakos, Carragher, Spearing.
Fiorentina: Frey, Kroldrup, Natali, Pasqual, Comotto, De Silvestri (Castillo 83), Donadel, Montolivo, Jorgensen (Vargas 71), Santana (Marchionni 71), Gilardino
Subs not used: Avramov, Seculin, Aya, Carraro.