PARIS, France November 23 – Five-time European champions they may be but Liverpool must wait before they can take their place in the last 32 of the Europa League after allowing Swiss side Young Boys to draw 2-2 at Anfield on Thursday.
A much-changed Liverpool side – coach Brendan Rodgers left Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard on the bench to begin with – let the Swiss off the hook after Jonjo Shelvey and the recalled Joe Cole had scored to sandwich a riposte from Raul Bobadilla.
With just two minutes remaining Elsad Zverotic had the 2,500-strong visiting contingent on their feet as he thrashed a fine strike past Pepe Reina, the Spaniard beating Ray Clemence’s European goalkeeping appearances record in Europe in his 81st game.
“Conceding a late goal is disappointing,” said Cole.
“It was just game management at the end, to see the game out, which let us down. We’ve got a lot of young lads on the pitch, but we should have seen the game out.”
Rodgers was likewise frustrated.
“We didn’t control the game well in the final few minutes. But it’s another point and we can still control our own destiny. It makes it harder than we would have liked.”
The draw means Liverpool may need to win their final game at Udinese as Young Boys joined the Merseysiders on seven points.
Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala are already through from Group A after Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o scored in a 2-0 success over Udinese.
Tottenham could only draw 0-0 at Lazio – who qualify – meaning they also have to gain a point in their final game at home to Panathinaikos, who trail the Londoners by two points.
Former England star Paul Gascoigne, who played for both clubs with distinction, was close to tears as he received an ovation on attending the game in the Italian capital.
Lazio fans hailed him as a “lionheart” and “still our hero” on his return to the city where he spent three seasons.
Another English Premier League side, Newcastle, did book their passage, however, despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Portugal’s Maritimo after Fidelis levelled Sylvain Marveaux’s opener for the Magpies.
Bordeaux of France join Newcastle in the hat for the last 32 after a 2-1 win at Belgium’s Brugge.
Joey Barton finished on the losing side as Marseille of France went down 1-0 at home to Fenerbahce of Turkey, who win Group C while Borussia Moenchengladbach also advanced after seeing of Cypriot side AEL Limassol 2-0.
Holders Atletico Madrid and Viktoria Plzen are through from Group B after a win over Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv and a draw at Coimbra respectively and Group F is cut and dried with Dnipropetrovsk and Napoli through, PSV Eindhoven losing out.
Group H sees Rubin Kazan advance with former European champions Inter Milan, despite the latter going down 3-0 in Russia.
Other sides through include Metalist Kharkov of Ukraine, Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon, Genk of Belgium, Hanover of Germany and Spain’s Levante.
There is still all to play for in Group E after Stuttgart won 5-1 at leaders Steaua Bucharest, whom they now trail by two points with FC Copenhagen a point further back and in contention after a 2-1 at Norway’s Molde.
The 24 group qualifiers will be joined by eight teams who finish third in the Champions League group stages.