LONDON, Sep 19 (Reuters) Liverpool let their standards slip in a scrappy 1-1 draw away to Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday, according to captain Steven Gerrard.
Dirk Kuyt's header earned them a useful point from the Group A opener in northern Portugal but Gerrard says they must improve if they are to reach a third final in four seasons.
''A point away from home in the Champions League is a good result but we're disappointed with the way we played,'' Gerrard, who made his 80th European appearance, told Liverpool TV. ''We didn't start well and never really recovered.
''We've built a successful team in Europe on starting well, making it difficult for the opposition, being good in possession and very good on the counter attack.
''All these things never went well here. We've got to two finals in the past three years but we never reached those standards this time.'' Liverpool ended the match with 10 men after Jermaine Pennant was sent off early in the second half for a second yellow card but they hung on for a point that could prove vital in a group also containing Besiktas and Olympique Marseille.
Manager Rafael Benitez was also critical of his side.
''We have no complaints with the result,'' he said. ''We were really very bad in that first half, there are no excuses. It is hard to explain why because our build-up and preparation had been good.
''It was easier to do the right things in the second period but the damage had been done. We gave the ball away far too easily, we conceded clear chances and gave away a penalty that was also a correct decision.'' Benitez said Pennant's red card was also justified.
''I have no complaints about the decision. It was correct.
Hopefully Jermaine will learn from this experience.
''It's difficult to understand why he did it, we had talked to him about staying on his feet and not making rash challenges.'' Pennant will miss Liverpool's home match against early group leaders Marseille on Oct. 3.
Reuters SSC GC1752