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Kuyt strikes to save 10-man Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt ensured 10-man Liverpool escaped with a hard-fought point as Rafa Benitez's side started their Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw.

sports Updated: Sep 19, 2007 20:21 IST

Dirk Kuyt ensured 10-man Liverpool escaped with a hard-fought point as Rafa Benitez's side started their Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw at Porto on Tuesday.

Kuyt's clinical header cancelled out Lucho Gonzalez's early penalty but Liverpool had to survive a nervous final half hour at the Dragao Stadium after Jermaine Pennant was sent off for a second booking.

Rafa Benitez will be relieved last season's Champions League runners-up emerged unscathed because they were well below their best.

There were few glimpses of the imposing form that has taken Liverpool to two European finals in three years, although the Reds will be happy enough to snatch a draw from arguably their most daunting Group A assignment.

Benitez had bemoaned his lack of preparation time due to last week's internationals and his worst fears were confirmed as Liverpool made a sloppy start.

Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel were all back in the team after being rested at Portsmouth on Saturday.

But the star trio's return did little to lift the Reds. In the second minute Steve Finnan's careless clearance only reached Ricardo Quaresma and he crossed to Lisandro Lopez, unmarked six yards from goal.

Lisandro should have scored but the striker's shot was too close to Jose Reina and cannoned to safety off his chest.

Even that narrow escape failed to shake Liverpool out of their lethargy and they fell behind in the eighth minute.

Sami Hyypia had been picked ahead of Daniel Agger, but the aging Liverpool centre-back's lack of pace was cruelly exposed as Tarik Sektioui surged past him on to Quaresma's clever pass.

Sektioui was clear on goal and he clipped the ball round Reina before being sent sprawling by the Liverpool keeper.

It was a clear penalty and Porto captain Lucho stepped up to send Reina the wrong way from the spot. Jesualdo Ferreira's side had torn into Liverpool and were well worth their lead.

But Lucho's goal seemed to take the wind out of Porto's sails. Rather than going for the kill they slowed the tempo. It was a costly mistake.

Liverpool are an obdurate proposition on their travels in Europe and took full advantage of the chance to regroup.

When Fernando Torres won a free-kick from his side's first meaningful attack in the 17th minute, Hyypia went some way to redeeming himself by setting up the equaliser.

Hyypia looped Finnan's set-piece across goal to Kuyt and the Dutch striker got in front of Joao Paulo to plant a close-range header past Nuno.

Benitez's team had punished Porto's one lapse in ruthless fashion. But the Portuguese champions had never lost at home to English opposition and they showed why by dominating the rest of the half.

If Sektioui had kept his nerve when he met Lisandro's cross, Porto would have regained the lead but instead the Dutch winger headed tamely wide.

Liverpool had been growing frustrated at Porto's occasional exaggeration of fouls, but they could have few complaints when Pennant was dismissed in the 58th minute.

Pennant had already been booked, so his lunge on Fucile as the Porto left-back shepherded the ball out for a goal kick was foolhardy in the extreme.

Lubos Michel was some way from the incident but the referee wasted no time showing Pennant the red card.

Inevitably Liverpool were forced back and it took a goal-line clearance from Hyypia to keep the score level as he hacked away Quaresma's chip after Reina missed a cross.

To Liverpool's credit they refused to be overwhelmed and Jamie Carragher marshalled his defense well enough for the visitors to hold out.

First Published: Sep 19, 2007 20:14 IST