Group B Roundup
Valencia leaves Liverpool hopes in balancePosted: Wednesday October 30, 2002 4:55 PM
Updated: Wednesday October 30, 2002 6:51 PM
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) -- Spanish champion Valencia cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory at Anfield over high-flying English Premier League leader Liverpool.
A 34th minute deflected strike by Francisco Rufete enabled Valencia to complete two shutout victories over the four-time winner of the trophy as Liverpool lost for the first time at home since late 2001. Valencia won 2-0 at home six weeks ago.
The Spanish club dominated the game against a luke warm Liverpool which never looked like the team holding a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
While Valencia prepares for the second phase, Gerard Houllier's team holds a two-point lead over third place Basel which has a game in hand. The Swiss champion's game at Spartak Moscow was postponed a week as a mark of respect to the victims of the Moscow theater siege and it hosts Liverpool in the final round of games Nov. 12.
There were early signs that Valencia was too strong for Liverpool on the night.
A floated cross from Kily Gonzalez landed on the Liverpool crossbar in the 11th minute while another chance for the visitor came when John Carew was fouled by Sami Hyypia just outside the area.
Pablo Aimar, who scored three times in a 5-1 beating of Athletic de Bilbao on Saturday, fired the 20-yard (meter) free kick over the bar.
The Spanish champion should have gone ahead in the 29th minute when Carew forced a corner on the left. The ball dropped to Aimar who set up Ruben Baraja with a clear chance but last season's leading scorer fired over the bar from 10 yards.
Valencia was dominating the game and richly deserved to take the lead in the 34th minute although the strike had a little luck.
Liverpool was chasing shadows as Valencia strung together a series of passes down the right and, when Carew slid the ball back to Rufete, the midfielder's first time shot struck defender Sami Hyypia on the leg and deflected past goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
Liverpool's first chance came six minutes later when Michael Owen released Steven Gerrard on the right but the England midfielder's first time shot was blocked by the legs of Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares.
Valencia almost made it 2-0 within a minute when Carew got clear of a defender and his angled shot was fingertipped wide of the far post by Dudek.
Liverpool looked far more impressive in the early stages of the second half and, from Gerrard's initial approach work, Emile Heskey put Owen clear but his close range shot was well read by Canizares and the 'keeper blocked the shot again.
When a Gerrard corner finally eluded the Valencia goalkeeper, German midfielder Dietmar Hamann got in a header from six yards out but it was blocked on line by Rufete's thigh.
Liverpool gambled by sending on Czech forwards Miklan Baros and Vladimir Smicer for Heskey and Danny Murphy in the 60th minute.
But Miguel Angel Angulo came on for Aimar and forced Dudek to make an acrobatic save with 15 minutes to go with a powerfully struck shot from 25 yards.
Liverpool 0 Valencia 1 - result
Champions League first stage, Group B
Scorer: Francisco Rufete 34
Halftime: 0-1; Attendance: 41,831
Liverpool: 1-Jerzy Dudek; 23-Jamie Carragher (28-Bruno Cheyrou 82), 4-Sami Hyypia, 30-Djimi Traore, 18-John Arne Riise; 13-Danny Murphy (7-Vladimir Smicer 61), 16-Dietmar Hamann, 21-Salif Diao, 17-Steven Gerrard; 8-Emile Heskey (5-Milan Baros 61), 10-Michael Owen
Valencia: 1-Santiago Canizares; 23-Curro Torres, 2-Mauricio Pellegrino, 12-Carlos Marchena, 15-Amedeo Carboni; 19-Francisco Rufete, 6-David Albelda, 8-Ruben Baraja, 18-Kily Gonzalez (14-Vicente 87); 21-Pablo Aimar (10-Miguel Angel Angulo 68), 7-John Carew (20-Mista 79)
Referee: Terje Hauge (Norway)
Reuters contributed to this report.