REDS' EURO-DREAM STILL ALIVE
By Steve Bateman. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
LIVERPOOL booked themselves a Uefa Cup quarter-final date with FC Porto after defeating Roma by an aggregate scoreline of 2-1 on Thursday night.
A Gianni Guigno strike was enough to secure Roma a win on the evening, but it was to be Liverpool who ultimately progressed into the last eight after a controversial and often ill-tempered affair.
Michael Owen was let off the hook after Liverpool were awarded a penalty only for the young England striker to hit a weak effort that was easily saved by Francesco Antonioli in the Roma goal.
The entire contest hinged on a bizarre piece of refereeing by Jose Maria-Garcia Aranda, when the Spaniard clearly pointed to the penalty-spot after Marcus Babbel handled a cross from Vincenzo Montella.
After pointing to the spot for a second time, Aranda, without consulting his assistant, incredibly changed his mind in a matter of seconds and pointed instead to the corner-flag.
Roma skipper Damiano Tommasi reacted angrily to the incident and received a booking for venting his displeasure before being sent off after receiving his second yellow card minutes later.
In spite of four minutes of time being added, the Italians were unable to break down the Liverpool defence as they began to vent their frustration on The Reds with much needless pushing and shoving along with a series of niggling fouls.
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier still has his feet firmly planted on the ground, however, as he said after the game: "Roma are a tremendous side and better than us at the moment, and we are very proud and happy to be through because we have beaten a very important team in Europe at the moment."
"I don't think we showed as much character as we did over there. Some of the boys are a bit young and should not have been involved in some silly situations.
"I thought we could have played better offensive wise. We had the pace and the power to threaten them a bit more, but we did not do it - we also missed a penalty at a very important moment of the game and when they scored, we were under pressure," he told the BBC.
Houllier clearly feels that although his side are progressing they are still a long way from being the finished article, as he concluded: "I don't think that six months ago we would have been able to withstand that pressure, so in some areas we are improving, but we still have a lot to do."