Reds beaten in Portugal

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Ten-man Liverpool were undone by two harsh penalty decisions and an at-times shambolic refereeing display as they lost 2-1 to Benfica in a hostile Europa League quarter-final first leg in Lisbon.

Daniel Agger gave his side the perfect start in the ninth minute but things took a turn for the worse when Ryan Babel was dismissed on the half hour for thrusting a hand in Luisao's face.

Oscar Cardozo wasted numerous chances before converting two spot-kicks but with an away goal Rafael Benitez's side still have hope for the return leg.

Playing against a backdrop of a cacophony of noise and, in the second half, a stream of fireworks aimed at Jose Reina's goal, Liverpool had the ideal start.

Maxi Pereira's ninth-minute foul on Steven Gerrard gave the Liverpool captain a chance to whip in a dangerous free-kick from just left of the penalty area. However, with the hosts massed around the six-yard area the midfielder fooled everyone by rolling a low pass in towards the penalty spot where Agger produced a classy backheel into the corner of the net.

Fortunately for Liverpool, Benfica's European top scorer this season, Cardozo, could not show the same composure as he squandered three good chances in quick succession.

The highly-charged atmosphere exploded on the half-hour when referee Jonas Eriksson appeared to completely lose control. Centre-back Luisao took exception to a tackle by Babel and subsequently hacked right through the back of Fernando Torres, who had already been on the end of some severe punishment.

A melee ensued in which Luisao continued his protest at Babel and the Dutchman responded by pushing the Brazilian in the face. The Swedish official showed the Benfica defender a yellow card and then flashed a red at Liverpool's Holland international - sparking a sustained but fruitless protest by Liverpool's entire team.

Cardozo's 59th-minute free-kick rattled back off the right-hand post and when Pablo Aimar went down under Emiliano Insua's tackle chasing the rebound Eriksson pointed to the penalty spot. This time Cardozo finally hit the target to beat Reina.

And in the 78th minute Angel Di Maria's cross hit Jamie Carragher as he slid in to tackle and the fourth official signalled a penalty for handball. The defender was booked and Cardozo scored his second spot-kick of the night.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Europa League
Ryan Babel
Jose Reina
Premier League
Fernando Torres
Daniel Agger
Steven Gerrard
Jamie Carragher

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