Liverpool were brought down to earth in the UEFA Europa League today after losing 1-0 at Sporting Braga in the last 16, while big-spending Manchester City crashed 2-0 at Dynamo Kiev.
Liverpool, rejuvenated under interim coach Kenny Dalglish and 3-1 victors over arch-rivals Manchester United on Sunday, will have to turn their tie around in the 17 March return fixture if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Braga took the lead in the 18th minute in Portugal, with Alan guiding an emphatic penalty into the bottom-left corner after Mossoro had been sent sprawling by Sotiris Kyrgiakos. Full-back Silvio came within inches of doubling the hosts' advantage 20 minutes later, but his magnificent left-foot half-volley from 25 yards crashed back into play off the crossbar.
With Liverpool toiling, Dalglish introduced big striker Andy Carroll for his European debut just before the hour and the burly former Newcastle man had an immediate impact. A Carroll knock-down obliged Braga goalkeeper Artur to save at Dirk Kuyt's feet before Carroll saw a deflected left-foot shot fall narrowly wide of the left post.
Kuyt then drew a sharp stop from Artur with an instinctive half-volley from the edge of the box, but Braga, UEFA Champions League debutants earlier this season, withstood the pressure to claim a memorable victory. "The way we started the game, the first 35 minutes, we were terrible," said Dalglish. "To the boys' credit, they picked themselves up a bit in the second half. I think at 1-0 you have got a chance."
City frozen out
City completed an underwhelming evening for the English sides as they went down 2-0 amid freezing conditions in the Ukrainian capital. Former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko gave the hosts a 25th-minute lead when he diverted Andriy Yarmolenko's left-wing cross past Joe Hart to claim his 67th goal in European competition.
City introduced Carlos Tevez from the bench in the second half but to no avail as Oleh Gusev doubled Dynamo's advantage by controlling a clearance on his chest and volleying home.
Portuguese champions Benfica had to dig deep as they fought back from a goal down to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at the Estadio da Luz. Peguy Luyindula put PSG ahead before Mevlut Erding struck the post for the French side, but Maxi Pereira slammed in an equaliser shortly before half-time and Franco Jara lashed home a low shot to claim victory in the 81st minute.
Mixed fortunes for Russian reps
Dutch champions FC Twente took a sizeable step towards the last eight after Luuk de Jong claimed a brace in a 3-0 win at home to 2008 champions Zenit Saint-Petersburg. Spartak Moscow struck a blow for their country in the night's other Dutch-Russian encounter, however, by prevailing 1-0 at Ajax.
Earlier, Villarreal asserted control of their tie against Bayer Leverkusen as a goal in the fourth minute of injury time from Nilmar earned them a last-gasp 3-2 victory in the away leg.
Leverkusen, currently second in the German Bundesliga, took the lead in the 33rd minute when Michal Kadlec arrowed a fine drive into the bottom-right corner from 30 yards.
Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi drew the visitors level after exploiting a gap in the Germans' defence in the 42nd minute. A 70th-minute goal from Nilmar was swiftly cancelled out by Gonzalo Castro but the Brazil international striker had the final say in injury time, racing clear and beating goalkeeper Rene Adler with a low strike.
Elsewhere, a powerful 70th-minute effort by Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin gave Portuguese league leaders Porto a 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow, while Scottish champions Rangers' visit to PSV Eindhoven finished goalless.