Two goals down and with nothing to show for their trip to St. Petersburg on Thursday night, Liverpool face the task of having to score three times against Zenit next week to advance—if they can keep a clean sheet. If they can't, the task becomes even harder thanks to the away-goal rule that would give Zenit the tie-breaking edge.
Liverpool's captain and vice-captain, though, still believe a victory in the two-legged tie isn't out of reach, and they're reaching back to Liverpool's history of doing things the hard way on the road to eventual glory for reasons why they think progress remains possible.
"We're obviously down," said Steven Gerrard. "On the back of two defeats, it's a difficult moment but we need a reaction. Up until the 70th minute against Zenit, the game was under control. It was a tough night in tough conditions. We're disappointed with the two sloppy goals we conceded, but the tie is not over. If anyone can pull it back, it's us."
Jamie Carragher's take on the matter was much the same: "It was a typical European night because you think you’re in control and then—bang—you’re 2-0 down with a mountain to climb. But it is a mountain the club have climbed in the past and we have to look to do again in a week’s time."
"It was frustrating because up until they scored it had probably been a perfect European night in the way we dealt with the onslaught in the first half and creating a few chances," claimed Carragher.
"Second half we looked in control but that's European football. You think you’re in control and then—bang—you’re 2-0 down with a mountain to climb. But it is a mountain the club have climbed in the past and we have to look to do again in a week’s time."
Problem is, the scoreline at the half didn't match the execution. It may have been nil-nil at the break, but that was thanks to a series of strong stops by Pepe Reina at one end and three bad misses by Luis Suarez at the other. The scoreline may have said perfect European night, but the performances—shaky at times at the back and wasteful in attack—didn't match up.
As for the second half, while Liverpool did finally snap into shape and begin to take the game to Zenit before succumbing to the sucker punch that was Hulk's strike from distance, the problem with Carragher's assessment is that for this side, it's not about "European football." For this side, that's the sort of thing that seems to happen half the time no matter the competition.
In the end, though, nothing is impossible. As unlikely as it seems, Liverpool could beat Zenit 3-0 or 4-1 at Anfield next Thursday, and there isn't a fan hoping they won't. Yet even if they do, conceding last night's match in a manner all too familiar this season will remain a problem, and few now want to hear how last night the game was "under control" or almost "perfect."
Read More: Form and False Dawns