UEFA Champions League holders Liverpool FC progressed to the third qualifying round as late goals from substitutes Steven Gerrard and Djibril Cissé earned a 2-0 win against FBK Kaunas at Anfield, the Lithuanian champions losing out 5-1 on aggregate.
The home side failed to create clear goalscoring chances for much of the game against determined opponents, and although Kaunas struggled to make any attacking impact they maintained their defensive shape admirably. It took the introduction of Gerrard to break the deadlock in the 77th minute before Cissé volleyed in a fine second late on.
Fernando Morientes had the first chance for Liverpool on 14 minutes as he latched on to a long throw from Boudewijn Zenden, directing his header goalwards only for Sarunas Kilijonas to save. A fizzing free-kick from Nukri Manchkhava forced Carson to make a good stop three minutes later, but that proved a rare chance for Kaunas. Mohamed Sissoko looked bright on his full debut after joining from Valencia CF, but positives were rare for the hosts in a disappointing first half.
Half-time substitute Cissé looked bright after the break and he unleashed a fierce right-footed drive which flashed just wide of the Kaunas goal eight minutes into the second period. Manchkhava then had two chances to open the scoring on 56 minutes - his initial low drive was met by Sami Hyypiä but the defender's attempted clearance was straight at his opponent, whose powerful strike flew over.
Kaunas's goalscorer in last week's meeting, Giedrius Barevicius, was introduced on 66 minutes as the visitors sought to mount a last-ditch attempt to overturn the first-leg deficit. It proved a forlorn hope, however, Liverpool threatening again two minutes later as Hyypiä headed Dietmar Hamann's corner against the crossbar.
The breakthrough did then arrive, with Gerrard's 74th-minute introduction the catalyst. Within three minutes, the Liverpool captain lifted Anfield; his effort from the left following a corner looked harmless enough but Kilijonas allowed the ball to squirm under his body and into the net.
The home side finished with a flourish, Luis García's cross picking out Cissé to volley the second four minutes from time. Liverpool next face either KF Tirana or CSKA Sofia in the third qualifying round. The Bulgarian team lead 2-0 ahead of the second leg on Wednesday.