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Holders Liverpool suffer shock exit to Benfica
Updated: 2006-03-09 09:19

LIVERPOOL, England, March 8 (Reuters) - Holders Liverpool paid heavily for missed chances as they were knocked out of the Champions League in a 2-0 defeat by Benfica on Wednesday.

Simao Sabrosa, who Liverpool tried to sign in the close season, played a key role for the Portuguese champions who now go into Friday's draw for the quarter-finals.

The tricky Benfica forward scored a stunning goal in the 36th minute before substitute Fabrizio Miccoli added a second in the dying minutes to secure a 3-0 aggregate victory.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was priced out of a move for Simao in August when Benfica asked for more than 11 million pounds ($19.13 million) and the winger showed his class on a night when Liverpool's lack of quality in front of goal told.

"He's a good player and when you play deep with spaces and you have pace and ability it's normal that you can play well," said Benitez. "But for me the key was the first 20 minutes."

"I had confidence because we were creating chances but then we made a mistake and everything changed," he added. "We needed to score, we could not, we conceded a goal."

Benfica coach Ronald Koeman agreed with Benitez.

"In the first 30 minutes they played well and had great pressure on us..." said the Dutchman. "We didn't play too well then and they had some big chances to score.

"We scored a fabulous goal from Simao and then we controlled it better. You need to be lucky, if not you can't beat teams like Liverpool... It's not just today that they've had problems to score, maybe now it's a mental problem for them."

Liverpool had not found the net in their last three Champions League matches but had to score to overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at the Stadium of Light.


Their misfiring forwards hit the post twice in the first half and squandered numerous chances but just could not find a way past Moretto in the Benfica goal.
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