PARIS, October 21 – An injury-time goal from substitute Cesar Delgado clinched a dramatic 2-1 victory for Lyon in their Champions League group visit to Liverpool on Wednesday, inflicting a fourth successive defeat on the English side for the first time in more than two decades.The Anfield crowd booed their team on the final whistle after they had squandered a first half lead handed them by Yossi Benayoun and the defeat leaves major question marks over whether Rafa Benitez can deliver silverware for his club this season.
Liverpool looked in control of the game until a 72nd minute equaliser from substitute defender Maxime Gonalons and worse was to follow, a minute into added time, when Delgado slid in at the far post to meet Sidney Govou’s cross for a memorable winner.
Benayoun struck five minutes before the interval, ending an anxious period for the home side who had lost Steven Gerrard after only 25 minutes, presumably due to a recurrence of the groin injury which had kept him out of the bizarre weekend defeat against Sunderland with the decisive goal deflected off a beach ball.
Just ten minutes had gone here when impressive full-back Aly Cissokho delivered a stunning far post cross onto the head of Lisandro only for the Lyon striker to place his effort too close to Jose Reina who responded with a reflex save.
That attack exploited Liverpool’s teenage debutant Martin Kelly, thrown into the fray in place of the injured Glen Johnson, but after a couple of early anxious moments, the right-back coped well with the occasion.
Before his departure, Gerrard had set up a ‘goal’ for Dirk Kuyt, only for the effort to be ruled out for a push by the Dutchman on Jeremy Toulalan.
Just before half-time Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris made a magnificent block to keep out a powerful header from Gerrard’s replacement Fabio Aurelio.
By then, however, Liverpool were a goal to the good against the French visitors.
Benayoun drove Liverpool forward on the counter attack, feeding Aurelio wide on the left from where his low shot was missed by a number of bodies in the six-yard before being driven home calmly by the Israeli international.
With the Spanish international forward Fernando Torres still injured, Benitez had opted to hand Ngog his first start of the season in the by- now familiar 4-2-3-1 formation Liverpool have adopted.
David Ngog came close to marking his call-up just before the hour, taking an excellent cross from Kelly on his chest but being able to only produce a tame left-foot shot wide.
The second period had opened with Anthony Reveillere sending a dipping shot over the Liverpool crossbar but, as the half wore on, the visitors seemed to be running out of ideas at the attacking end.
That changed dramatically in the 71st minute when Gonalons headed Lyon level following an acrobatic double save from Reina. Liverpool’s Spanish keeper only half cleared a corner with his punch but seemed to have made amends with blocks to deny efforts from Toulalan and Govou.
The rebound from that second attempt fell unkindly for the home goalkeeper and Gonalons was well placed to steer an uncontested header into the unprotected net.
Substitute Martin Skrtel hooked a shot over the bar and Javier Mascherano saw a long-range attempt saved before the dramatic finale brought defeat.