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November 6, 2009

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Late goals foil Liverpool, revive Inter

LIVERPOOL conceded a last-gasp goal in a 1-1 draw at Olympique Lyon on Wednesday, leaving it in danger of an early Champions League exit, while Inter Milan was on the right end of some late drama.

The Italian champion scored twice in the last five minutes to beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 away and claim its first win in nine European matches.

Lyon's point was enough to send it into the last 16 along with Sevilla, which was held 1-1 at home by VfB Stuttgart.

The duo joined Manchester United, Chelsea, Girondins Bordeaux and Porto in the knockout stages.

European champion Barcelona, beaten 1-2 at home by Rubin Kazan two weeks ago, was held to a 0-0 draw away to the Russians in freezing conditions, leaving it in an uncomfortable position in its group.

Arsenal, inspired by two goals from Cesc Fabregas, thrashed AZ Alkmaar 4-1 and virtually ensured its place after becoming the only Premiership side to manage a win this week.

Five-time champion Liverpool travelled to Lyon having lost six of its last seven games in all competitions, including a 1-2 loss to Lyon at Anfield, and was again missing injured captain Steven Gerrard.

It looked to have done enough when Ryan Babel fired them ahead with an eye-catching strike from 25 meters in the 83rd minute. But former Porto forward Lopez slotted home the equalizer in the last minute despite nearly being dispossessed by a teammate.

"You have to be really disappointed because it was a great opportunity tonight," said Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez. "It is difficult but not impossible. We have to win our next game (at Debrecen on November 24) and see what happens between Fiorentina and Lyon the same night. We have done it in the past."

Liverpool, third in Group E with four points, dropped five behind Italy's Fiorentina, which thrashed pointless Hungarian debutants Debrecen 5-2.

Serie A leader Inter, which drew its first three games in Group F, finally brought its winning domestic touch to Europe, although victory looked unlikely for a long time.

Former AC Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko, whose career nosedived under Inter coach Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, opened the scoring for the hosts in the 21st minute with a deflected goal.

Argentina striker Diego Milito scuffed in the equalizer and Wesley Sneijder poked in the winner in the 89th minute after waves of pressure from the twice European champions.

The win catapulted Inter from bottom to top in the group with six points, one ahead of Barcelona and Rubin Kazan. Kiev is bottom with four but still in the hunt.

Arsenal's win over another struggling debutant team took it four points clear of Zico's Olympiakos at the top of Group H. Olympiakos lost 0-2 at Standard Liege.

Sevilla's qualification was tinged with frustration as it lost its 100 percent record in the draw with Stuttgart, completing a week in which all four Spanish teams drew. Zdravko Kuzmanovic levelled in 79th minute for the Germans after Jesus Navas had given the Spaniards a 14th minute lead.


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