Beşiktaş kicks Liverpool out of Europa League
ISTANBUL - Agence France-PresseBeşiktaş held their nerve with five imperious penalties as they knocked Liverpool FC out of the UEFA Europa League at the same Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadium where they won the 2005 UEFA Champions League final.
A beautiful strike from Tolgay Arslan 18 minutes from time forced the game into an additional 30 minutes, and then the shootout. Ten years ago it had all gone right for the Reds at this venue and while they initially did not put a foot wrong in the shootout, nor did Beşiktaş. After nine successful conversions Dejan Lovren stepped up and blazed over.
What will be remembered as one of Beşiktaş's finest nights began calmly enough amid a contained first half, but in front of a bumper crowd of 63,000 the second leg slowly gathered pace. Slaven Bilić's side – trailing 1-0 after the first instalment – were forcing the issue and after a couple of long-range sighted, Arslan broke through.
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It was a lovely team effort. Gökhan Töre cut inside from the left and delivered to Demba Ba, who classily back-heeled to Arslan. Only 11 minutes into his European debut, the midfielder's first-time effort from the edge of the box gave Simon Mignolet no chance as it found the top corner.
Arslan almost created a winner right at the end of regular time, the 24-year-old slaloming through the Liverpool defence and forcing a corner on the left. In the following set piece, Demba Ba's close-range shot ricocheted off the bar. Liverpool had a reprieve; there would not be one when Lovren blazed over 45 minutes later.
The Europa League top 16 draws are on Feb. 27.