Liverpool 3-1 Zenit St Petersburg: Hulk strikes as Reds fall short
Liverpool almost completed a sensational comeback as they scored three goals without reply in their 3-1 win over Zenit St Petersburg but ultimately were undone by Hulk's first half strike which sees them through to the next round.
Two goals from Luis Suárez and a Joe Allen strike setup a barnstorming finish but Liverpool fell just short of the required four goals to see Brendan Rodger's side stay in the competition.
Liverpool had to do without the services of the cuptied Phillipe Coutinho as the Brazilian had featured previously in Europe for Inter before signing for the Reds in January.
However, his compatriot, Lucas Leiva started the match as Liverpool looked to overhaul a two goal deficit after Hulk inspired Zenit to a resounding victory in Russia.
Liverpool had it all to do at Anfield as Rodgers fielded a side bereft of his two January signings, with Daniel Sturridge also cuptied following his move from Chelsea.
The task got even tougher after a mishit backpass from Jamie Carragher let in Hulk who slotted past Pepe Reina to put Zenit 1-0 up and three goals to the good on aggregrate.
Liverpool now faced an almost impossible task of scoring four goals without reply and they got off to a good start as Luis Suárez lashed a free kick straight through the wall and past Malafeev.
The Reds added a second shortly before halftime as Allen scored a rebound from his initial header in the box after excellent work from Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson.
Liverpool kept up the onslaught after the break and were rewarded with a sensational Suarez free kick, his second of the night.
But the game drew to the final stages without the crucial final goal which eluded the home side, with goalkeeper Reina charging up the field for one last desperate attack which came to nothing.
The Reds now crash out of the Europa League and Hulk's Zenit live another day in the competition as they enter the final 16.