Reds face an uphill battle after lucky Forlan strikes first


LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez is banking on producing another memorable European comeback at Anfield next week after losing the first leg of their semi-final.

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan (right) scored the only goal of the game – a poked effort that bobbled over the line after he had fluffed a header.

But Reds goalkeeper Jose Reina had to be at his best to prevent the visitors suffering a heavier defeat, showing great reflexes to keep out a shot by Simao Sabrosa.

At the other end Liverpool were unlucky to see a Yossi Benyoun strike controversially ruled out for offside, while Steven Gerrard hit their other notable chance into the side-netting.

“I’m disappointed because we have conceded a goal, we couldn’t score, but it’s half time,” said Benitez, referring to Thursday’s return leg.

“I was disappointed with a lot of things. It was a strange goal, but we have the second game at Anfield. I have confidence we can beat anyone at Anfield and the fans will be right behind us.”

Liverpool were below-par, having travelled the 1,200 miles to the Spanish capital by bus, train and plane over two days.

Forlan’s goal came in the ninth minute, the Uruguayan failing to connect with a header but prodding the loose ball goalwards via Reina’s leg. Jamie Carragher’s attempt to clear on the line was in vain, and Forlan admitted afterwards he had been “lucky”.

Even by Reina’s excellent season, his instinctive 58th-minute tip over from Simao was outstanding, and could yet prove to be a decisive moment in the tie.

“[The saves were] important to keep the tie alive,” Reina said. “There is still a long 90 minutes to go.”

Pompey denied Europe dream
PORTSMOUTH’S dream of playing in the Europa League next season has been shattered by a joint decision from the Football Association and Premier League.

Pompey would have qualified to play in Europe after reaching the FA Cup final against Chelsea, who will be playing in the Champions League.

But due to being in administration, the club were not in a position to file their accounts in time to apply for the required Uefa club licence. Now they have been told by the domestic governing bodies that no late application will be considered.

The decision means the team who finish seventh in the Premier League – currently Liverpool – would qualify instead.