Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League last night despite winning their match against Debrecen in the Hungarian capital.French international David Ngog’s first half strike put the Reds ahead of Debrecen in the must-win group-stage match. Liverpool, who won the Champions League in 2005 and were runners-up two years ago, needed to not only win their match but also needed Lyon to beat Fiorentina order to reach the Final 16 for the knock-out stages of the competition.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Fiorentina beat Lyon 1-0 in their match in Tuscany, ensuring that Fiorentina progressed at Liverpool’s expense. This is the first time in six years that Liverpool has failed to make it past the group stages of the European competition. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was left ruing the late goals conceded by his team against Lyon. They had been beaten 2-1 by the French champions at Anfield before drawing 1-1 at the Stade Gerland.
“It was our own fault in the end, the late goals we have conceded along the way have cost us,” said Benitez. “We have been so good in the last few years that maybe people think it is easy to qualify in all competitions. You have to be disappointed. We knew we had to win and we did. We can’t change what happened in the other match, but at least we did our job. If you look at the games, two late goals made a massive difference.”
Liverpool is expected to suffer a budgetary shortfall of about £2.4m for this season as a consequence of their group exit and this could be made worse if they continue their run of bad form in the Premier League and fail to finish in the top four, adding another £10m loss. This would have a significant impact on the asking price of £100m for a 25% stake in Liverpool, which the owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are looking to sell.
Rafael Benitez, however, played down the financial aspect of failing to progress to the knock-out stage.”
“You have a budget at the beginning of the season and it assumes that we have qualified for the group stages of the Champions League. We did this. Two or three more games maybe, in terms of money, won’t make such a big difference. The main thing for us is to finish in the top four and to be in the Champions League group stages again next year”, said the Liverpool manager.
Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow, insisted that Liverpool could withstand the financial impact of the early elimiation and added that Rafael Benitez’s position as Liverpool manager will not be undermined by Champions League exit.
Christian Purslow said, “This will have no bearing on Rafa whatsoever. He signed a new five-year deal four months ago and in those terms he is four months into a five-year journey. You don’t deviate from long‑term plans for people and the way to take the club to the next level because of two late goals against Lyon, and that’s what it boils down to.”
Liverpool will now be playing in the newly formed Europa League with the likes of Valencia, Benfica and neighbours Everton.
Liverpool plays crucial Merseyside derby match at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday.