Europa League: Shot-shy Liverpool are dumped out
Liverpool 0 Braga 0 (Braga won 1-0 on aggregate): Liverpool exited the Europa League with a whimper after a goalless draw at home to Braga, dealing a blow to their hopes of returning to the competition next season.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie, even a first start for record signing Andy Carroll could not turn things around as the visitors employed every trick in the book to hang on to their advantage.
With Liverpool low on creativity and even shorter on chances, the watching Reds owner John Henry, who sanctioned the £35million January purchase of Carroll, must have left wondering just how much it costs to buy a goal at this level.
The 22-year-old striker had his moments but very few were in areas in which he could utilise his talent.
Liverpool's defence looked for him at every available opportunity — although sometimes he was not necessarily the best option —and his aerial prowess was soon in evidence.
An early flick-on put Joe Cole through on the left of the area and his shot was parried by Artur back into the path of the former Newcastle striker but his shot was deflected behind.
Carroll headed behind Raul Meireles' corner and it was only set-pieces which really presented him with anything approaching a chance.
Danny Wilson's unfamiliarity at left-back was often exploited by Alan, the goalscorer in Portugal last week, but aside from Rodrigo Lima's drilled 35-yard shot straight at Jose Reina, making his 300th appearance, they were content to soak up the pressure.
Liverpool's first chance of the second half fell to Meireles when Dirk Kuyt crossed to the penalty spot but the Portugal international looped his header well over.
As the match entered its last quarter Glen Johnson finally put in a dangerous cross but Meireles was just short of reaching it.
One late Carroll header appeared destined to find the net from a Meireles corner only for Kuyt to get in the way.
That just about summed up his — and Liverpool's — night as they went out of the competition despite not losing a home match in Europe all season.