Liverpool face a difficult home leg after losing 2-0 at Zenit St Petersburg despite creating several chances
Full time: Zenit 2-0 Liverpool The pitch certainly played its part in sapping Liverpool's stamina in the second half having played on Monday but that cannot excuse some really awful passing from Joe Allen, which is supposed to be his forte, Martin Skrtel's continued decline and meagre positive contributions from Sterling and Downing. Having said that, Suarez had five chances, three of them very good ones. Zenit look a very good attacking side and with Liverpool's inability today to provide adequate cover for their defence from midfield, I would think they'd score at Anfield so it doesn't look too promising. Thanks for all your emails. I'm off to do Newcastle United v Metalis in a few minutes, the tie of the night in the sense that the Sale of the Century, live from Norwich, was the quiz of the week. Good night to those of you who have better things to do on 14 February, see you over there for those who don't.
90 min: There'll be two minutes of stoppage time and Zenit are just passing it about in their own half until Shirokov spots Fayzulin making a run and he finds him from the centre circle. The sub runs through the middle and cuts his foot across the ball to get some swerve and gets too much, the ball flying past Reina's left post.
87 min: Zenit are going for the third but happy, too with the lead they have so when Hulk can't break through, they go for the corner flag. Brian Cruikshank asks whether Reina is untouchable: "Talking about LFC players that are “carried". I have recently become really aware of how lack-stre and sometimes just bloody lazy Pepe Reina is. After seeing that display by De Gea last night, maybe Pepe’s world is crumbling. We need a new keeper." I think his form this past 18 months has been disconcerting. I would get rid.
85 min: Now Simon McMahon, Liverpool have held it at 2-0 since we stopped accentuating the positives. Should we let you have another go? Of course: "Hello again. Success is of course relative. Its exactly because of past glories that Liverpool fans continue to demand success on a regular basis at home and abroad and are rightly unhappy when their team does not deliver (especially when rivals are doing just that). I was only really saying that, in the grand scheme of things, Liverpool are still a pretty successful club. My own team? Dundee United, since you ask, so I know a thing or two about disappointment." You'll always have Eamonn Bannon, Simon.
84 min: Suarez wins a free kick on the edge of the box, much to Zenit's protests who claim the Uruguayan was the lawbreaker. He curls it round the wall from 25 yards out but Malafeev dives and pushes it away wide, too wide for Henderson to follow up.
82 min: Kerzhakov off Fayzulin on for Zenit. Liverpool have a corner delayed for the substitution and he curls it straight into Malafeev's arms.
80 min: Hulk concedes a free-kick wide on the left 30 yards from goal by tripping Enrique but Gerrard's tame effort is the Bob Cunis of attempt, neither one thing (cross) or the other (shot).
78 min: On comes Lucas for Sterling. It's stick not twist for Brendan, then.
75 min: I'm afraid Allen has just given the ball away again. Why on earth Rodgers hasn't put Lucas on to stop Allen conceding possession I don't know. "What has happened to Skrtel, this year? His reputation is of the hard-man, head-where-it-hurts centre-half, and he certainly plays to that with the shaven head and tattoos, but he swerved out of the way of Hulk's shot like the scrawny kid in a cold morning's P.E. lesson afraid to catch a stinger on his thigh." When he first came I thought, hmm, potential to be as good as Vidic. Now … it looks as though he's lost.
It's all gone tit$ up for the Pool. Raking, curling cross from the right eludes Skrtel and makes it way through to the back post where the substitute Sergei Semak steers it into the net. "Well, I think we can all lay the blame for that one squarely at McMahon's door, "writes Phil Sawyer. "The sea of negativity was seeing us through quite nicely until he appeared with his 'look on the bright side' attitude. Oh, those two. Ar$e."
GOAL!! Zenit 2-0 Liverpool (Semak)
I did say that I was surprised that there had been so few long shots … well. I think it was Jordan Henderson who lost the ball in central midfield (sorry, I have a four inch wide screen), Gerrard couldn't recover so Hulk took a step and lashed a swerving foot high into Reina's net from 25 yards.
GOAL!! Zenit 1-0 Liverpool (Hulk)
65 min: Simon McMahon has opened Pandora's Box. William Walsh reckons: "The lack of vitriol means Simon cannot be an Everton, ah, whatever people who support Everton are. Given the desire for success, he must be a Spurs fan, biding his time until the later match." While Ian Copestake thinks: "It is difficult to know where to start with Simon McMahon's remark. Liverpool have not won anything for years and if we all just wore big grins on our collective faces fuelled by wonderful memories of Kevin Keegan and the like, we'd be accused by other Simon McMahons of living off past glories." I know what you mean Ian. With my own club there is a sense now of "what is the bloody point of this if we're just meant to accept being where we are after years of decline and mismanagement? We've won the league three times in my lifetime and been in a European Cup final but I can't accept that we're just going to make up the numbers from now on.
63 min: The pitch has just come to Liverpool's rescue or rather Shirokov's decision to try to roll a pass along the ground that would have sent Denisov clear but the divots made it easy for Skrtel to step in and belt it clear.
60 min: But the ball comes back to Gerrard in the centre again via Enrique's excellent pass. The captain slips it to Downing who runs diagonally from right to left, trying to work an opening for a left foot shot but when he taps it too far forward Suarez steals in and curls a right-foot shot a couple of coats of paint past the right post.
58 min: Anyukov runs into Sterling as the winger tried to break forward, sending him flying. From the free kick Gerrard tries to burst through the middle but Hubocan drags him back by his shorts and concedes another free kick which Skrtel plays to Allen who attempts a long pass up the middle that Zenit hit 50 yards upfield.
55 min: Danny's gone off while Simon McMahon has arrived with a lesson for us all: "Evening Rob. As a neutral, the relentless self-flagellation of Liverpool fans always amuses me. For the vast majority of football fans, success like that which has been regularly enjoyed by Liverpool is the stuff of dreams. Winners of the Champions League and both domestic cups within recent memory. One of the most decorated clubs in world football. If that's failure, can I have some please?" Itsjustnotonla.
53 min: With the pitch so bobbly I would have expected more long shots but Shirokov's horribly skyed effort is the only one we've had this half.
51 min: Liverpool free-kick on the right of the Zenit box, taken by Gerrard, woefully it has to be said and the ball is easily cleared by the Zenit wall.
48 min: I couldn't tell you where Downing's playing this half, more centrally that's for sure and his absence from the right gives Johnson space to run through. And on he runs, tapping the ball ahead of him and when you think someone's going to nab it off him he still gets there till he has only the keeper in front of him so he shoots but Malafeev smothers it and it drifts behind.
46 min: Enrique begins the half where he left off, turning up the touchline and clipping a 15-yard pass straight to a Zenit player. Jim Beglin, ITV"s opinionator, says we must take this rotten pitch into account for some poor control. And so we shall. Now with that done, on with the griping.
"Opta stats for the cynic?" savours Phil Sawyer. "Works for me. Number of times a player does the 'that was where I thought you be' outstretched arms gesture to a team mate after giving the ball away to the opposition, amount of angry shouts at his defence by a goalkeeper, number of times Gerrard's forehead creases in anger at a team mate after overhitting a pass to said team mate …" You could fit an HB pencil in each of those folds, Phil.
Is there a Liverpool fan who's pleased with Downing? No. Well, not Lou Roper: "I think we should get some credit for achieving a 0-0 at half-time playing with seven against eleven. As noted, the wretched Downing (does he never raise his head when he has the ball?) and the lightweights Allen and Sterling must be carried, but how far has Enrique's form dropped (and that's not considering what Jordan Henderson is for)? A balanced and intelligent team please!" Balanced and intelligent? Don't ask for much, do you Lou?
Half time: Liverpool have improved but still look vulnerable. There are gaps galore, though, for them to exploit down the Zenit right. "As a balance to my complete negativity, I just want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Gods for Suarez," writes Ian Copestake. "The one man capable of deflecting Downing's negative energies by failing to understand a word he mumbles."
"Few things," writes Sai Gopal tantalisingly. "I think Rodgers fancies West Brom's victory. Has barely registered a shot at goal. I think he will try to go for the jugular after 80 mins. Now who will come off the bench? Wait … there is no Joe Cole … er … anyway moving on … does Enrique fancy himself as Gerrard in the left-back position … always trying that clipped long through ball."
45 min+1: Liverpool have recovered their poise in the past 15 minutes, Carragher positioning himself adeptly and getting a foot in, Suarez making some dangerous runs and Gerrard getting further forward. Both sides have created about four chances each and the movement of Hulk and Danny is causing constant problems.
44 min: Downing drifts infield from the right touchline, makes 15 yards then tries to hit a shot from the corner of the box with his laces and puts it into orbit on a course for the left corner flag. Which segues into this from Ian Copestake: "There should be a set of Opta stats for the cynic, such as percentages of players whose form disappears immediately on securing a new contract. Or in Downing's case, upon signing."
42 min: Now Gerrard hits a 30-yard pass from central midfield towards the inside left channel and Suarez who took it on his chest and tried to cut inside Neto but slipped and Anyukov cleared.
40 min: Suarez has flicked the ball wide after an excellent move up the left begun by a one-two between Downing and Allen. The Welshman crossed it and it took a deflection out to the right where Sterling rolled it to Suarez eight yards out and he tried to hit it through his legs with a left foot drag into goal but instead clipped it wide.
38 min: What Suarez is doing effectively is forcing Neto to hurry his passes out of defence, thinking presumably that if you harry him he will make a mistake and give it to you. Twice Suarez has conjured half chances by pressing right from the front.
36 min: It took them four minutes to put Danny back together, and Rodgers used the time to chat to Gerrard, Johnson, Downing and Sterling. "The most worrying passenger this season has been Skrtel, whose form has dropped off alarmingly." writes Phil Sawyer. "When he's on the pitch we often may as well be playing with one centre-back. Which perhaps explains why Carragher appears to be sweating so much on a wintry St Petersburg evening." He has broken into a gentle glow, Phil.
33 min: Danny is receiving treatment having kicked Glen Johnson's foot and was on the floor as Liverpool advanced up the left through Enrique who cut a five-yard pass back to Suarez but he had the ball nipped off his toe and back to the keeper.
29 min: Cross from the right towards the edge of the Liverpool box, and Kerzhakov executse a perfect bicycle kick, perfect in every respect save from connecting with the ball.
27 min: Imran Zaidi points out two errors Skrtel not Enrique at the corner and Sterling on the left, Downing on the right earlier than I said. There you go. Hulk is dispossessed by Carragher in the box when he had sashayed on the inside of Enrique and minutes later smashes a shot against Reina's left post.
25 min: Enrique just hooked the ball over the top for Suarez to run on to in the box but the referee reckons he floored Anyukov illegally with an outstretched arm, a decision which looked severe from here. "It has become something of a game within a game to consider how many players Liverpool carry in any one match." laments Ian Copestake. "It used to just be Downing. With just one passenger we actually muddled through. But now Allen has no form (is played out of position anyway), and Sterling no longer uses his pace when he has the ball but trundles forward. He was an explosive presence but now he is also becoming passenger material." He's just switched wings with Downing who has been anonymous, whether for defensive reasons or not I can't be sure because they've looked vulnerable down that wing.
23 min: Liverpool corner, five in the box and four Liverpool players stay in their own half to mark three Zenit players. As the cross comes in from Gerrard, Enrique is penalised for shoving Hubocan.
19 min: Oh great – ITV have taken the clock off the screen and I've left my stopwatch at home. It's back. "I'm here to share Copestake's pain," writes Phil Sawyer. "And I'll have to work late tomorrow evening to make up for the time lost today finishing early to get home in time for kick off. Still, at least Reina hasn't already had to make two crucial saves which would really set the nerves jangling in anticipation of the ahem entertainment ahead. Oh, wait..."
17 min: I'm afraid the partnership between Allen and Gerrard still hasn't clicked, Sterling is not helping Johnson out all that much and Danny and Hulk are having fun down the right of Liverpool's defence, Gerrrard's canny interception just stopping Denisov from having a shot on goal from 15 yards.
14 min: Mark Abbott asks if it's still snowing in St P, and the number of hats, gloves and scarves on show in the starting XXII. More gloves on Zenit players than Liverpool ones, no hats, no snoods. Fair few polo necks which give them the look of Terry Wogan on pro-celeb golf. Suarez has just squandered a chance when Lombaerts passed it straight to him. He dipped his shoulder and tried to round the keeper having advanced 10 yards but knocked it too far so by the time the keeper had dived and missed the angle for the shot was unfavourable, and easily stopped by the retreating Lombaerts.
11 min: Suarez's interception ion the centre-circle wins the ball back for Liverpool after some keepball from Denisov and Witsel but Alleb had to offload quickly and then Gerrard came in to help, shovelling it back to Skrtel who cleared upfield and seconds later on the right Henderson invited the foul and was rewarded with a free-kick that Gerrard played across the box but no one made contact with it.
8 min: Joe Allen hasn't started particularly well – not sure if the "Welsh Xavi" (arf!) ideally fits in the screening two of the 4-2-3-1. This time he tried to play a ball out of defence and wholly miscalculated the distance between him and the player closing him down. Enrique got him out of trouble.
6 min: "I was determined to avoid following Liverpool after their West Brom defeat, but here I am again dragging my carcass through the grinder," writes Ian Copestake. "It reminds me of my capacity for delusion as a kid when every credit sequence for Looney Tunes cartoons would suddenly switch to sad music when Fred Quimby's name came up. I always imagined it meant he was a tragic figure." I always thought Hannah Barbera was a woman. Shirokov stood tall when Suarez went on a slaloming run cutting in again from the left, hoofing the ball away off the Uruguayan's toe.
4 min: Reina has just saved Liverpool from going a goal down again with a fine diving save to thwart Hulk who sliced through the middle of the pitch with Allen out of position.
2 min: Liverpool race up the other end, pulling Witsel out of position and Suarez storms into the gap, shooting only inches wide across goal from left to right.
1 min: Liverpool kick off, the ball trickling back to Reina who lashes it forward but Zenit are out of the traps fast, Kerzhakov dribbling through the middle, making 20 yards before slipping it out to the left for a shot blocked by Johnson. From the corner, there's a pinball moment and Kerzhakov's shot on the half-volley from 10 yards is blocked acrobatically by Reina.
Apologies for the rather strung out preamble … other tasks, other preoccupations but you've read all about the threat of racism, the cold, the line-ups and had the opportunity to watch Liverpool in action 40, 37 and 12 years ago.
Brendan Rodgers is dressed entirely in black and is talking about why he is playing a full-strength team. Basically it's because he wants to win the tournament. Hurrah. Many say it but not many back it up with their selection.
… or Eufa Cup as it was still known back in 1973, before Kevin Keegan legged it down the Carmen shop.
Afternoon everyone for the first leg of the round of 32 Uefa Cup tie between Zenit and Liverpool from Stadion Petrovski.
Let's get straight into it with the teams:
Zenit St Petersburg: Malafeev, Aniukov, Luis Neto, Lombaerts,
Hubocan, Shirokov, Denisov, Witsel, Hulk, Kerzhakov, Danny.
Subs: Zhevnov, Faitzulin, Rodic, Lukovic, Semak, Djordjevic,
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Jose Enrique,
Gerrard, Allen, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Sterling.
Subs: Jones, Coates, Lucas, Borini, Suso, Shelvey, Wisdom.
Referee and most nervous man in St Petersburg : Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)