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By ESPN Staff

Liverpool will improve in Europe, vows Kuyt

Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt spoke for an embarrassed Liverpool squad by vowing that they will not play as badly again in Europe.

Liverpool retreated from their Champions League mauling in Belgium, as close to their Waterloo in European competition as they would want to get.

And Kuyt promised: 'We will not play as badly as that again, we must improve and we will improve.'

Around £12million of UEFA prize money is now riding on the second leg of their third qualifying round against Standard Liege on August 27.

Failure to reach the group stages then would even leave a question mark over the future of boss Rafael Benitez, who could probably hear American knives sharpening as he witnessed Liverpool's inept 0-0 draw against Belgian champions Standard Liege last night.

Only Jose Reina's penalty save and his all-round defiance prevented the three or four-goal victory Liege deserved.

Kuyt, along with out-of-touch Robbie Keane, was taken off in the second half at the reverberating Maurice Dufrasne stadium, home of a club who had not won their domestic title in 25 years.

And the Belgians made it clear they wanted to grab with both hands the chance of a first-ever Champions League adventure.

Kuyt said: 'It was a bad performance. We tried to do our best and it was not good enough.

'The forwards just did not have enough of the ball, and our man of the match was Pepe Reina, that says everything about us.

'We will need a big improvement at Anfield. We know we did not play our best game against Liege, we know that as a team.'

A small, mainly silent Liverpool following high in the rafters of Liege's intimidating stadium watched in horror as the five-times European champions were battered from start to finish.

Kuyt said: 'We struggled. We could not pass the ball to our team-mates anywhere near enough.

'It was a difficult night and difficult to know what really went wrong. But the good thing was a clean sheet and that will give us the edge in a fortnight for the second leg.

'We know it was not our best game. But we want to step things up and we know there is quality in the team, we have shown that in pre-season and now we must show it in competitive matches too.

'We have some big games coming up. One of those is on Saturday at Sunderland. So we must not play like this again.

'Now we are looking forward to Saturday and the first league game at Sunderland to show who we are and what we are.

'As for the Champions League, fortunately we are still in the tie, but we definitely have to show better form than we showed in Liege. We need to score, we have to play better and we will.'

Benitez said: 'You must give credit to Liege because they were aggressive, competitive and played very well.

'It is different to playing pre-season friendlies, but we were lucky and the only good thing was that we did not concede a goal.

'But we know now what we have to do at Anfield. We will have had a few more competitive games and we will have a more people available.

'Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel will be back with us, Fabio Aurelio should be fit by then and Steven Gerrard will also be available and fully fit this time, as will Martin Skrtel.

'We were fortunate. We have to thank Pepe Reina, and make sure we are really ready for the next game.

'The service to the front players was not good enough, but it was more than that. Our passing was poor, as was our control and movement.'

He added: 'Now everyone, the manager, coaches and players have to do so much better next time to make sure we get through this round. We all know how important it is to reach the group stages.

'The next time will be different, I am sure of that. The understanding between the players - particularly the new ones - will be better.

'There will be more competition in every position by then and that will be good for the team. We have to improve and we will improve.

'We were aware that Liege were good and competitive. That was not the surprise, the surprise was the performance of my team.

'Hopefully it will a very different performance next time, it has to be.'


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