Liverpool fail to hit the spot in European exit

Ross McLean
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LIVERPOOL crashed out of the Europa League after losing their first-ever European penalty shoot-out against Besiktas at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium last night.

Besiktas substitute Tolgay Arslan, who joined the Super Lig outfit from Hamburg in January, curled home a 20-yard effort in the 72nd minute to level the aggregate score and send the round of 32 tie into extra-time.

The Reds had earlier failed to make their first-half superiority count and Slaven Bilic’s side came storming back in the second period, almost sealing victory in regulation time as former Chelsea striker Demba Ba’s 90th minute header smacked the crossbar.

The Reds beat AC Milan in a penalty shoot-out at the Istanbul stadium to lift the 2005 Champions League final, but on this occasion Croatia centre-half Dejan Lovren blazed the decisive spot-kick over the bar as Liverpool were condemned to a 5-4 defeat.

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, meanwhile, spearheaded the Toffees’ attack and scored a double as the Merseysiders eased through to the last 16 with a 3-1 victory, and commanding 7-2 aggregate success, against Swiss side Young Boys at Goodison Park.

Lukaku supplemented his hat-trick in Bern last week with a further two goals in the first-half following visiting midfielder Sekou Sanogo’s opener, while Belgium playmaker Kevin Mirallas also netted.

Scottish champions Celtic battled bravely in the San Siro before succumbing to a stunning late strike from Inter Milan’s Fredy Guarin, as the Italian side claimed a 4-3 aggregate win.

Celtic keeper Craig Gordon made a series of fine saves as the Bhoys were forced to defend resolutely following the first-half dismissal of Virgil van Dijk, who was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Inter striker Mauro Icardi.