It was third time unlucky for Liverpool as they completed an unwanted hat-trick of defeats in the contest to decide the world's best club. And as the crown slipped from their grasp yet again, the sense of disappointment among Rafael Benitez' charges was all too palpable. After dominating for long periods and creating countless chances, the Reds came off second best against Sao Paulo in the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup, Japan 2005. No matter how hard they tried, there was simply no way past Brazilian keeper Rogerio Ceni, winner of the adidas Golden Ball and Toyota award, and Mineiro's 27th-minute strike ensured the Copa Libertadores champions would be taking the trophy back to Brazil.
"We deserved to win. The statistics show we had 21 shots, 17 corners, 2 crossbars and three goals disallowed. What more can you do?" Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez asked reporters. "In the last 10 minutes we played inside their box. I'm disappointed with the result but very happy with my players."
Those European champions cut dejected figures as they trudged through the mixed zone, with many of the players reluctant to share their feelings as the disappointment of losing a game they felt they deserved to win began to sink in.
"I think it was a totally unfair result. We dominated the game in the second half, created lots of chances, played well as a team and had three goals ruled out. We're bitterly disappointed but we've got to accept it and get on with things. There's no point in moaning about it now," said Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso. "I can't believe we couldn't get an equaliser after all the chances we had. It's a shame we couldn't lift the trophy, but we've got to pick ourselves up and keep on working."
After 11 consecutive clean sheets, Goalkeeper Pepe Reina had to endure the strange sensation of picking the ball out of the net again. His record-breaking run was over and with it Liverpool's charge for the trophy: "I'm angry at the way it's ended because we were the better side. We've let a title slip out of our hands and it's the kind of competition you only ever get one chance at."
"I wasn't that bothered about the record. It had to end some time. I'm just annoyed that it had to happen in the final with a title at stake," added the Reds' keeper. "We made a mistake and it cost us very dear. We had eight or 10 clear-cut chances and I reckon at least one of the three disallowed goals should have stood."
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was in little mood to talk as he left the stadium.
"We should never have fallen behind. We were the better side but there's no point in going over it now and we've just got to start thinking about the next game," he said as he made his way to the team bus.
Fellow defender John Arne Riise tried to look on the bright side and take some positives from the tournament: "It's been a great experience and we've had another two games we can learn from and build on for the future."
"We played really well in the second half. We created lots of chances and the offside decisions made it really hard for us. We're going home very disappointed, but there's no time for complaining and we just have to turn our minds to the future," he added.
As the Norwegian international knows only too well, if you fail to take your chances, as Liverpool did here, you can expect no mercy from the unwritten laws of football. "As far as I'm concerned, there was nothing wrong with the third disallowed goal but we should have scored two or three by then. That's football I suppose."
The anger on Luis García's face was clear to see as he exited the International Stadium in Yokohama. The attacking midfielder headed past Ceni after 62 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. "Their goal in the first half hit us hard," lamented the Spaniard, one of his side's liveliest attackers on the day.
Sami Hyypia summed up the mood of the Liverpool camp in a single sentence: "We're disappointed because we failed to put our chances away."
It was left to Luis García to have the final word: "I don't think we made any mistakes. We controlled the game, made chances and had three goals disallowed. We showed what we're made of and we played well. It's a shame we haven't won the title after travelling so far."