Liverpool edges Betis 2-1

First-half goals from Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Luis Garcia on Tuesday earned defending champion Liverpool a 2-1 victory over Real Betis in a Champions League Group G match.

Striker Sinama-Pongolle scored in the second minute after he controlled a long ball from acting captain Jamie Carragher and delivered a deft chip over Betis goalkeeper Toni Doblas.

Liverpool doubled its lead in the 14th when Garcia clipped home a cross from Boudewijn Zenden on the left flank at Manuel Ruiz de Lopera stadium.

Betis, making its debut in this season’s competition, pulled a goal back in the 51st when midfielder Arturo Arzu received a through ball from substitute Dani Martin and slid the ball through the legs of the Liverpool ‘keeper Jose Reina.

“The two early goals made the game much more difficult. Then we had to fight against the clock,” Betis’ Spain winger, Joaquin Sanchez, told Spanish state TV.

“We tried hard to get a draw but it wasn’t to be. I’m happy about our display in the second half.”

Benitez, who led Liverpool to its fifth triumph in the competition last season, sprung a surprise by leaving captain Steven Gerrard on the bench.
He included four of his compatriots—Garcia, midfielder Xabi Alonso, defender Josemi Gonzalez and Reina.

Benitez’s team contained Betis well for the rest of the second half, although Reina made three good saves from Ricardo Oliveira, Fernando Fernandez and Fernando Varela.

Roared on by a passionate crowd, Betis went on to dominate the second half, although it created few clear-cut chances as Liverpool weathered the storm.

Liverpool went into Tuesday’s match having competed in the three preliminary rounds. As champion, it was allowed to play in the competition even though it didn’t finish in the Premier League’s top four last season.

The champion hosts Chelsea in its next game on September 28, while Betis visits Anderlecht. - Sapa-AP

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