Liverpool defeated Debrecen 1-0 but failed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage as Fiorentina secured the last qualification spot in Group E with a victory over Lyon on Tuesday.
“I'm very disappointed because we had chances in all the games,” said Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. “We have to be disappointed but at least we won. We did our job today.” David Ngog scored in the fourth minute, his tap-in from three meters deflecting in off the post after Jamie Carragher headed the ball back across the box.
Benitez lamented that late goals suffered in earlier group games had undermined Liverpool's campaign.
“We were not worse than the other teams,” Benitez said, adding that Liverpool would now concentrate on Sunday's English Premier League match against Everton and later on the Europa League, for which it qualified courtesy of its third-place finish in Group E. Despite the defeat, Benitez found solace in Gerrard's return from injury and the England midfielder's good form during the match. “He can now play more or less 90 minutes,” said Benitez, who sent Alberto Aquilani on for Gerrard with just seconds left in the match.
With one round remaining in the group stage, Fiorentina leads Group E with 12 points, followed by Lyon with 10. Liverpool has seven points, while Debrecen has none. Liverpool will host Fiorentina on December 9, when Debrecen plays at Lyon. Debrecen and Israel's Maccabi Haifa — which plays against Bayern Munich on Wednesday — are the only teams without a point in the Champions League this year.
Fiorentina aim high after ten long years
Fiorentina believe they can spring more Champions League surprises after qualifying from the group stage for the first time in 10 years.
Their 1-0 home win over already-qualified Olympique Lyon on Tuesday sent the Serie A side into the knockout round and eliminated five-times winners Liverpool.
Coach Cesare Prandelli says there is more to come from his side.
“This qualification represents something huge,” he said after Juan Vargas's first-half penalty sealed the win. “This game has given us the confidence to be challengers at a European level. I am satisfied but I like to think you can always do better.”
The Florence club, who can keep top spot in Group E with a second win over Liverpool next month, last got out of the first group stage in 1999 when Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta was in his prime.
Bankruptcy and relegation followed before a Florentine renaissance bankrolled by the Della Valle family, although their commitment to the club was questioned in September when Andrea nominally quit as president.
Further Champions League success could again whet their appetite, especially given Fiorentina won on Tuesday without Adrian Mutu, hot young prospect Stevan Jovetic and top defender Alessandro Gamberini. Italian media hailed their progression and talked up Prandelli as a future Italy boss.