Defeat leaves Liverpool on brink

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Skipper Steven Gerrard admitted Liverpool have “a mountain to climb” after their Champions League defeat away to Turkey’s Besiktas on Wednesday night left them facing group elimination.

The Reds went down 2-1 in Istanbul and now have just one point from their opening three games in Group A.

Two years ago in the vast Ataturk stadium outside the city, Liverpool won their fifth European Cup.

This time, in the small but intimidating Inonu stadium, Besiktas produced their greatest European victory to leave Liverpool bottom of Group A.

Liverpool were behind early on to a Serdar Ozkan effort which deflected in off central defender Sami Hyypia. And from then on the Anfield men toiled and labored in an increasingly desperate attempt to avoid a humiliating defeat.

Deivson Bobo made it two with nine minutes left before Gerrard’s header gave Liverpool hope — but a ferocious final effort failed to save the visitors.

“We were unlucky, we created chances,” Gerrard told Sky Sports. “We are pleased with how we played but disappointed with the result. We need to keep going and win the final three games and see what happens.

“We need to take the positives and learn from our mistakes. We are capable of winning our final three games.”

Gerrard admitted Liverpool contributed to their own downfall but felt they were unlucky.

“They took both chances. We played well for long periods and felt we deserved something, ” he said.

“It is the worst possible result. We had a mountain to climb but we have got an even bigger one to climb now. Mistakes happen as a result of misunderstandings but they put us under pressure.”

Manager Rafael Benitez told Sky: “We had a lot of shots on target and shots off target. We controlled almost everything but made a big mistake in the first half.

“We can do it for sure. The first thing is to start thinking about the next game and try to win that one. We can qualify with 10 points.”

Lucho Gonzalez scored a late equalizer from the penalty spot to give FC Porto a 1-1 draw at Marseille in the group’s other game.

Porto was awarded the penalty in the 79th minute, after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda fouled Lisandro Lopez inside the area.

Lopez outpaced the Marseille defense to bear down on Mandanda alone, and the goalkeeper was late on the ball and caught the forward’s feet with his hands as he tried to dribble past.

Mamadou Niang gave the hosts the lead in the 69th, deflecting a cross from Djibril Cisse to beat Porto goalkeeper Helton.

Marseille leads Group A with seven points from three games, followed by Porto with five.

“Porto dominated the first half,” Marseille coach Eric Gerets told TF1. “We raised our game in the second half. After the (first) goal, I thought we were going to win. But a positioning mistake cost us the game.”

Cisse almost stole the game for Marseille in the 84th, but the striker was unable to climb high enough to nod in a cross from Salim Arrache.

Porto was the most threatening side in the first half, aggressively pressuring Marseille in midfield to win the ball and create chances.

Midfielder Raul Meireles unleashed a powerful strike from 20 meters in the 10th that Mandanda deflected onto his right post.

The Portugal international mesmerized the Marseille defense again in the 19th, lifting the ball for himself with his first touch of a pass from Mariano Gonzalez before firing a volley that struck the post.

Marseille’s only occasion then came in the 34th from a curling free kick by Boudewijn Zenden punched away by Helton.

Porto kept the pressure on Marseille after the break as Mandanda had to tip over the crossbar a close-range header from Lopez in the 47th.

Helder Postiga, who replaced Mariano Gonzalez at halftime, broke the offside trap in the 51st to rush unchallenged into the Marseille area but the Portuguese substitute sent his low shot into the side-netting.

Marseille nearly scored against the run of play in the 57th on a counterattack, but Helton crouched to stop Niang’s angled shot.

Back in Istanbul Liverpool had Xabi Alonso back on the bench after his metatarsal injury, with teenage defender Jack Hobbs also a substitute.

The Besiktas fans had pounded out their anthems for two hours before the match, stopping only for a minute of silence while a lone trumpeter honored the Turkish soldiers killed in a terrorist attack at the weekend.

The volume was raised when Danish referee Claus Bo Larsen chose to ignore appeals for a penalty after three minutes when the ball struck Steve Finnan’s hand.

Besiktas were ahead after Jamie Carragher had produced a fine saving tackle on Bobo in the box. His attempted clearance deflected straight to Serdar Ozkan off Javier Mascherano.

The striker slammed a deflected shot goalwards from eight yards – which hit Hyypia and wrong-footed Jose Reina.

Besiktas coach Ertugrul Sagham was serving a one-match touchline ban – but it was not hindering the Turkish side who had to wait late into the second half before Bobo was sent clear and guided his shot past an exposed Reina.

Gerrard gave Liverpool hope with his goal – an 84th-minute header – but despite a rousing finish, they could not find an equalizer.