Early Doors

Babelin’ under

Early Doors

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It wasn't supposed to be this way. Last night was meant to be Ryan's night.

Ryan Babel looked as though he had pulled off an uncanny Steven Gerrard impression when he came off the bench to put Liverpool ahead against Lyon, only for Lisandro Lopez to score a late equaliser that leaves Rafael Benitez's side no longer in control of their own destiny.

The Dutchman has not been so much a 'nearly man' for Liverpool as 'oh, that guy'. His winner against Manchester United last season is the only one of his 17 goals for the club which has been truly decisive.

In fact, Babel's thunderbolt strike at the Stade Gerland was the first time he has scored the only goal for his team in a Liverpool shirt.

The vast majority have come when Liverpool have gone on to bag three or more. He has been a passenger for most of his Anfield career, never a game-changer.

But, with Liverpool firing as blank as the sponsor-less fronts of their shirts, Babel came on with 20 minutes to go in a change that even Andriy Voronin's mother was crying out for.

Imagine not being selected ahead of Voronin? "Sorry Ryan, I'm starting the low-level henchman from Die Hard ahead of you tonight. His ponytail-undercut combination might just horrify our stylish French opponents into submission."

However, what could have turned out to be a turning point in what is still a promising young career (ED means his football career, not his hip hop career), is now just a footnote.

Liverpool must now win their remaining two matches, against Debrecen and Fiorentina, and hope Lyon do a number over La Viola, something Lyon boss Claude Puel has rather sweetly promised.

"Do not worry, we will play properly because it is our goal to finish top of the group," Puel said.

"It is important for us to get a good result in Florence, and it will give Liverpool a chance." Who says the French are harsh and inhospitable?

Less than a month ago, it looked as though Sotiros Kyrgiakos's season was over as he was struggling with a knee injury. Benitez must be wishing that had been the case after the Greek had an absolute stinker.  

It was easy to look at the decision to bring Fernando Torres off soon after the goal, but even if El Nino had remained on the pitch he could not have stopped Kyrgiakos flailing about helplessly as he allowed Lisandro to pass him and score.

It would be disingenuous to simply call Benitez a lucky manager, as many have. Every top boss has their fair slice of fortune along the way. But the Spaniard's fairy godmother certainly deserted him last night.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We've never had so many options on the creative side. We still have Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott who are offensive players who are not available. Denilson, Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky did not start... and Carlos Vela as well. I forgot him!" - Arsene Wenger lists Denilson ahead of Eduardo, Rosicky and Vela in his list of great attackers in the Arsenal squad. No Nacer Barazite, Arsene?

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 0 - The number of shots on target hit by Emile Heskey in 306 Premier League minutes for Aston Villa this season. Villa went down 2-1 at West Ham last night.

FOREIGN VIEW: "A draw that felt like a win" - L'Equipe basks in the fact that Lyon's late draw against Liverpool means they are the second French side to qualify for the knockout stages at the earliest opportunity.

COMING UP: The European action isn't quite over for the week yet, oh no. It's the Europa League, the competition where the groups go all the way up to L! You can follow Celtic's tough trip to Bundesliga high-flyers Hamburg and Fulham's fairytale trip to Roma at 18:00. Then at 20:05, Everton host Benfica.

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