Liverpool's travel troubles continued in Athens on Tuesday night as they crashed to a 1-nil defeat against an impressive Olympiacos side inside a deafeningly loud Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
The AK Graz Champions League qualifier aside, the Reds have failed to win away from Anfield this season - drawing at While Hart Lane and losing at both the Reebok Stadium and Old Trafford. That misserable record didn't look like coming to an end at any point tonight despite the best efforts of Rafel benitez's side.
The home side looked threatening from the off and when Ioannis Okkas hit Jerzy Dudek's near post after just five minutes, the signs looked particularly ominous. The first and only goal of the match came just 12 minutes later when Ieroklis Stoltidis rose high to meet Rivaldo's inswinging free-kick and head the ball beyond Dudek. While the Liverpool goalkeeper was never favourite to stop the header, with Chris Kirkland now fit again and pushing hard for a first-team start, the pressure is certainly on the Pole.
The last time the Reds visited Greece, Steven Gerrard and Nick Barmby were on the scoresheet as Gerard Houllier's team fought back from going behind twice to earn a respectable 2-2 draw. Houllier's successor Benitez had claimed on the eve of the match that you'll never see a side of his playing for a draw, but there's no question his flight back to Speke would have been far more comfortable had his side obtained one.
Benitez made just one change to the side that crushed Norwich at Anfield on Saturday with Djibril Cisse making way for Josemi, with Steve Finnan being moved forward to right midfield and Luis Garcia partnering Milan Baros in attack. Harry Kewell, though not 100% fit after missing Saturday's Premiership fixture with a thigh strain, was included on the bench.
With the Reds two points clear at the top of Group A going into the game, the match was never a 'must-win' as certain sections of the media had claimed in the build-up but Benitez will not have been happy with the way his side failed to create a single clear-cut opportunity during an opening 45 minutes in which Rivaldo almost single-handily ran the show. The half-time statistics told the whole sorry story when they reported the fact that the home side had 13 efforts on goal compared to just two - both of which were off-target - for the visitors.
Something had to change at half-time and it came as no surprise when Kewell was introduced for the re-start. Stephen Warnock, booked after 41 minutes, was the player to make way. Whether it was Kewell's introduction or not, the flow of the game changed in the second-half as Liverpool took the game to Olympiacos.
With the Merseysiders pushing forward in greater numbers, the home side found themselves having to defend deeper and deeper. John Arne Riise shot wide from a well-worked free-kick while Sami Hyypia and Harry Kewell both threatened to go close before the intervention of the referee's whistle.
With Liverpool growing in confidence, Cisse was introduced to add to our firepower after 74 minutes with Josemi taking his place on the bench. Within seconds though, Olympiacos might have doubled their lead when Stoltidis crashed a header against the bar from a Rivaldo corner.
Olympiacos were reduced to 10 men with just seven minutes to go when Anastasious Pantos was shown a second yellow card for tangling with Kewell but, even with an extra man, Liverpool couldn't score the goal that would have kept our record of having never lost on Greek soil alive.
Liverpool must now hope that Olympiacos don't break their own record of having never won away from home in the Champions League.