Both Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel called for the home fans to produce an atmosphere to make another European classic in the hopes of overturning the 2-nil lead Zenit took last week. Here’s how the night unfolded:
Liverpool had a high pressure attack from the get-go with the backing of all 42,000 home fans and the first 10 minutes were a testament to the tiki-taka style Liverpool used in their 5-nil win against Swansea City.
Liverpool pressure would prove to be their downfall when Brazilian striker Hulk played his through ball wonderfully to a one on one situation against Pepe Reina and made the most of his gift to make the score 1-nil to the visitors, and the aggregate score 3-nil. With Zenit’s away goal, Liverpool would now need four goals to move on to the next round.
10 minutes later with the help of the Liverpool fans, Luis Suarez capitalized on his opportunity when Liverpool were awarded a free kick right on the edge of the 18 and Suarez delivered. A magical curler that hit the middle of the net thanks to the offset goalkeeper lit the stadium on fire and the fans were louder than ever. It sounded like Liverpool were 4-nil up, but alas, after 30 minutes it was just 1-1.
The fans wouldn’t stop and neither would the Liverpool attack. 40 minutes into the half Jose Enrique flew down the left wing and delivered a cross that was met with Joe Allen’s right foot and hit the same spot that Luis Suarez’ shot hit and 2-1 was the score for the home side. 2-2 on aggregate. That would be the last action of the first half.
When play resumed Liverpool attacked with a head full of steam toward the Kop. Five minutes into the half Liverpool felt deserving of a penalty kick after Zenit’s defence allgedely handled the ball quite well just inside the area. Further replay showed there was a deliberate handball.
But no matter. In the 59th minute a divine intervention came through for the reds. Liverpool were awarded a free kick 35 yards out and though the Anfield faithful called for their captain to take it, Luis Suarez had the bravado to step up. Suarez stepped up twice and made it nice. Shades of Roberto Carlos came out when Suarez’ corner swerved outside the right post and whipped back inside the top corner for Suarez’ 25th goal of the season and one that will be making the highlights for years to come. 3-1 was the score on the night and 3-3 was the score on aggregate. The reds were one goal away from making history and doing the impossible.
Liverpool made a double sub a minute later when Jonjo Shelvey replaced Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi came on for Jordan Henderson. Shelvey was booked for a rash tackle just a minute later.
A big scare for Liverpool when Hulk wanted to score his second from 35 yards out, but his shot went just wide and play resumed with Liverpool pressing harder than ever.
Suarez was at it again in the 69th minute when another free kick was given on the edge, but this one was mercifully met by Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev. And that wasn’t his only great save, Steven Gerrard bounced a shot off the ground that was just diverted by Malafeev’s fingertips.
Pressure continued through the 80th minute as it was an all out attack by the reds and an all out defence by Zenit. The next goal would surely be the winner for either side.
Brendan Rodgers chose skill over experience in the 84th minute when Raheem Sterling came on for stewart Downing and Zenit also made a sub when Milan Rodic replaced Sergey Semak.
Tensions were through the roof and overflowing. The board for added time read three minutes and all 10 of Liverpool’s outfield players were over the halfway line. Pepe Reina was sent forawrd for the last corner of the match and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” rang for the remaining three minutes.
After 93 minutes the final whistle blew and Liverpool won the match 3-1, but because of the aggregate score reading 3-3 with Zenit’s away goal in the mix, it was over.
Liverpool are out of the Europa League and now have the top six battle to focus on with their next match nine days away when they travel East to face Wigan Athletic.