Tuesday 28th September 2004 (7.45pm)
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Steve Finnan struggles to gain control

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Benitez competitive matches record: Played 9 Won 4 Drawn 1 Lost 4
Olympiakos 1-0 Liverpool FC

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Stoltidis 17

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Liverpool's Champions League future was put in serious doubt by an embarrassing defeat to Olympiakos.

The hosts finished in deep defence, down to 10 men and defiantly withstanding a late, dramatic surge by Liverpool.

But it would have been harsh had the Greeks not secured only their second-ever European victory over an English side - the first coming 31 years ago.

Liverpool were a bitter disappointment, lacking passion and fire and reliant on deep defence with the aim to hit on the break and Olympiakos deserved the win which Ieroklis Stoltidis' goal gave them.

Stephen Warnock kept his place in midfield with Harry Kewell on the bench while Milan Baros was the lone striker rather than £14million signing Djibril Cisse. Luis Garcia was asked to play as a support striker in Rafael Benitez's favoured 4-4-1-1 formation.

Twice in the opening minutes Baros and Garcia got behind the Greek defence with their pace, but it was Olympiakos who almost scored on five minutes and maintained a grip on the opening half to the point that Benitez could not have got his men off the pitch quickly enough at the break.

The danger signs were there when Ioannis Okkas, the Cypriot winger, got to the byline on the right, pulled the ball a yard back and hit a stinging right-foot shot that flicked off Jerzy Dudek's hands and crashed into the near post.

Liverpool conceded a string of free-kicks and Rivaldo, the former FIFA World Player of the Year, was quick to punish the visitors.

His 30-yard delivery from the right was met by Stoltidis, who rose above Sami Hyypia to head down and past Dudek to send the crowd even wilder.

Giovanni then found compatriot Rivaldo in space, and the former Barcelona star unleashed a tremendous drive from easily 35 yards which flashed past Dudek's left-hand post with the goalkeeper looking well beaten.

Dudek then almost added to Liverpool's woes with a sliced kick inside his own box which soared straight up into the air for Grigorios Georgatos to hook into the six-yard box where the ball bounced off a startled Okkas to drop a foot wide of the post.

Pantelis Kafes rose to send a headed just over the crossbar as Liverpool threatened to concede again and Italian referee Pierluigi Collina's whistle at the break was welcome relief for Liverpool.

Benitez sent on Kewell at the break for Warnock, maybe to protect the youngster after his early yellow card but also to add much-needed attacking support to Baros.

Liverpool became more adventurous, Steve Finnan getting away down the right and only a sharp challenge by Anastasios Pantos stopped the cross coming in to the unmarked Garcia, and then John Arne Riise saw a 25-yard shot soar wide from a tapped free-kick.

But even though Rivaldo does not have his pace of old, he was still a danger and brought the crowd to their feet with a superb nutmeg on Hyypia that left the Finn flatfooted on the halfway line.

Georgatos fired another long-range effort over the top, while at the other end veteran Antonios Nikopolidis - hero of Greece's Euro 2004 triumph - still had not had a genuine shot to save.

The Greeks put on Georgios Georgiadis and Stylianos Venetidis for Giovanni and Dimitrios Mavrogenidis on 71 minutes, but a more significant change came with the introduction of Cisse for full-back Josemi two minutes later, Finnan dropping back.

It at last gave Baros some support, but within a minute Okkas had hit the Liverpool crossbar with a fine header, the Merseysiders living dangerously now.

Salif Diao came on for a labouring Dietmar Hamann with nine minutes left and a minute later Olympiakos were reduced to 10 men when Pantos was sent off for a second yellow card, this time for tugging away at Xabi Alonso's shirt.

The Greeks sent on Spyridon Vallas for Georgatos with six minutes left, Olympiakos now forced back by the loss of their full-back. But they were still quick to break and almost embarrassed Liverpool when Georgiadis got clear and somehow pulled his shot wide of the far post.

Liverpool threw everything forward in the final pulsating minutes, Finnan was booked for a foul as was Gabriel Schurrer, but the Greeks hung on for a famous victory.

Press Association

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Olympiakos Nikopolidis, Mavrogenidis (Georgiadis 71), Anatolakis, Schurrer, Pantos, Rivaldo, Stoltidis, Kafes, Georgatos (Vallas 84), Giovanni (Venetidis 71), Okkas.

Subs Not Used: Giannou, Castillo, Maric, Kostoulas.

Sent Off: Pantos (82).

Booked: Anatolakis, Pantos, Mavrogenidis, Schurrer.

Liverpool Dudek, Josemi (Cisse 73), Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Finnan, Alonso, Hamann (Diao 82), Warnock (Kewell 46), Luis Garcia, Baros.

Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Traore, Sinama Pongolle, Biscan.

Booked: Warnock, Finnan.

Att: 33,000

Ref: Pierluigi Collina (Italy).

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Match Report filed: 30th September 2004