Benitez bemoans poor start

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez conceded his side’s first-half performance left them with too much as his side went down in Florence last night.

The Anfield side went down 2-0 in their second Champions League Group E match in Florence after two first-half goals from Stevan Jovetic.

When asked what went wrong, the Spaniard said: “In the first half, everything.

“We were watching the game. When we were attacking we were giving the ball away, then we were regaining and playing counter-attack, so we were not winning any second balls, any challenges.

“In the second half you could see we had chances in the first minute.

“The difference in football is if you take your chances, like they did in the first half, you are winning and it is more difficult for the other team.

“We were disappointed, everyone was disappointed, but at this level every team is a good team.

Defender Jamie Carragher admitted the Reds were well beaten but is confident of bouncing back. “We didn’t perform well enough, we know that,” said Carragher.

“We were slightly better second half, but still not good enough.”

This was Liverpool’s first away defeat in Europe since the semi-final defeat at Chelsea in April 2008, and only their ninth away reverse in 38 attempts in the competition under boss Rafael Benitez.

Montenegro international Jovetic did the damage with a quick-fire double inside 10 first-half minutes.

Liverpool had no answer to the 19-year-old’s drive and pace, and their Group E future is now under serious threat.

Benitez’s response to the loss of Javier Mascherano with a hamstring injury was to deploy Fabio Aurelio in a holding midfield role to allow Steven Gerrard to continue his advanced role supporting Fernando Torres.

But it barely worked, with Fiorentina quicker and more mobile. Martin Skrtel, at the back, had to be at his best to halt a run and shot from Jovetic.

Jovetic saw another effort flash wide after 22 minutes, Adrian Mutu having created the opening having beaten both Lucas and Aurelio in midfield.

There had been constant indecision in the Liverpool defence, and a failure to retain possession in midfield, and they were punished after 27 minutes.

Mutu was in a clear offside position on the edge of the box, but Zanetti’s through ball was aimed at Jovetic who was allowed to close in on Jose Reina before guiding the ball past the Spaniard.

The second was not long coming. After 37 minutes Marchionni crossed from the right and the ball found Vargas on the left.

His low shot to the near post was deflected past Reina by Jovetic. Liverpool needed something quickly after the break, and Lucas saw a powerful header flash just over the bar inside a minute of the re-start, before Sebastien Frey beat away a Dirk Kuyt drive.

Gerrard mis-kicked after good work from Kuyt, before Torres saw a low header deflected wide from Gerrard’s cross.

Aurelio shot wide from a Torres set-up, but Fiorentina looked to have weathered the Liverpool storm at the beginning of the half. Gerrard, who had been strangely quiet during the game, then saw a shot charged away by Massimo Gobbi from Lucas’ chip.

Ryan Babel was sent on for Emiliano Insua after 71 minutes, with Aurelio switching to left-back. Skrtel was next to venture forward, and he got to the byline before crossing for Torres to fire over. Seconds earlier a frustrated Torres had been penalised as he set up Kuyt, who fired past Frey only to have the effort disallowed.

Next on was Andriy Voronin in place of Kuyt, as Liverpool searched for any way back into the match. Gerrard lifting a 20-yarder over did not help that quest.

Subs for Fiorentina: Jorgensen for Vargas, 74; Donadel for Mutu, 82; De Silvestri for Marchionni, 89.

Subs for Liverpool: Babel for Insua, 72; Voronin for Kuyt, 80.


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