Monday, August 06, 2007

Feyenoord 1 Liverpool 1

Liverpool's pre-season campaign ended amid astonishing scenes in Rotterdam as six of their players were booked and skipper Steven Gerrard was fortunate not to be sent off.

The final match of the Port of Rotterdam tournament was anything but a friendly as Liverpool fought back from a goal down for Gerrard to grab a second-half equaliser.

But the game in a packed De Kuip stadium had been simmering for a while, with young winger Royston Drenthe in the thick of the trouble.

His late tackle on Gerrard in the dying minutes caused uproar with players from both sides converging in a angry melee, and Gerrard was seen to shove Theo Lucius.

The England midfielder could easily have seen a red card, but the game eventually produced a surprising nine cautions and a late penalty save by Jose Reina.

The fact that the result left Porto as the competition winners meant little as the tempers of Feyenoord and Liverpool players boiled over.

Manager Rafael Benitez will have been disappointed with Liverpool's failure to create a glut chances, but happy he got his players out of Holland without injuries or suspensions.

Benitez fielded a completely different team to the one that comfortably beat Shanghai on Friday, this one much closer to his ideas for the league opener at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Only Alvaro Arbeloa, Andriy Voronin and Harry Kewell from the opening XI are unlikely to play at Villa Park.

And Liverpool started with poise, control and dominance. But they could not turn possession into goals.

Gerrard had a volley over and saw another effort glide wide after a surge into the box, while John Arne Riise was also wide with a drive.

On 15 minutes, Dirk Kuyt, back in front of the Feyenoord fans he served so well before his move to Anfield, saw a fierce drive crash against the bar, giving Egyptian keeper Sheriff Ekramy no chance.

It bounced down, seemingly over the line, but with no official near enough to award the goal play went on.

And a minute from the break Liverpool's wastefulness was punished when Andwele Slory got in behind Riise on the right and saw his shot cannon back off a post for Drenthe to score.

The flying winger, a key member of Holland's European Under-21 Championships title winners this summer, gave Liverpool plenty of problems, Arbeloa being booked for one desperate tug on the youngster.

Liverpool's frustrations boiled over after the break with both Kewell and Jermaine Pennant also booked.

Not surprisingly, Kewell was replaced by Ryan Babel soon after. Pennant was next off on 64 minutes, Fernando Torres taking over.

And with Liverpool looking laboured and short of ideas against a deep defence, it was Gerrard who came to the rescue on 72 minutes.

He strode past two men on the right of the box and drilled an angled shot past Ekramy.

Babel and Xabi Alonso both had good efforts wide before Yossi Benayoun replaced Voronin.

But Feyenoord continued to be competitive, and it was Gerrard who had to kick off the line from Hofs, before Alonso and Drenthe were booked for squaring up.

Javier Mascherano soon replaced the Spanish midfielder.

There was more drama when Feyenoord were awarded a penalty for a supposed hand-ball against Arbeloa, the ball in fact striking his head following a Drenthe cross.

But Reina's famed penalty-saving ability saw him turn away Danny Buijs' effort.

But worse was to follow when Drenthe caught Gerrard with a late tackle.

All hell broke loose, and Gerrard was booked for pushing Theo Lucius in the fracas.

He was instantly withdrawn with Mohamed Sissoko coming on in the final seconds.