Down but far from despairing, Liverpool FC hope to pip SL Benfica to a UEFA Europa League semi-final berth on Thursday, with defender Jamie Carragher suspecting that their away goal in Lisbon could well prove significant.
Rafael Benítez's side finished 2-1 losers in the Portuguese capital but only after taking a ninth-minute lead through Daniel Agger and playing out the last hour a man short following a red card for Ryan Babel. Having lost 1-0 at LOSC Lille Métropole before triumphing 3-0 at Anfield in the previous round, Carragher feels the Reds can consider themselves in a competitive position.
"It's good to get the away goal in the first leg, but we have to capitalise on that in the home leg to make it count," said the long-serving centre-back. "At the moment we're behind, but a 1-0 win is enough for us at home and if we can get that, then the away goal will have proved crucial."
They will need to remain vigilant, however, because Benfica have failed to register only once in 13 European outings this term and triumphed 2-0 on their last trip to Merseyside to take on group rivals Everton in November. For their part, Liverpool have suffered home defeats by Olympique Lyonnais and ACF Fiorentina, yet Carragher believes he and his colleagues could have done nothing more to increase their overall chances in Lisbon.
"We're disappointed, but there's still all to play for – it's only half-time," explained the 32-year-old. "The plan was to keep it tight and nick a goal and we got that goal early on, but obviously then the sending off had a big part to play in the game. To play an hour with ten men was always going to be difficult, so although it's still disappointing, a 2-1 result away in Europe is not too bad."
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