LIVERPOOL produced a defiant defensive display in the splendour of the Nou Camp to blunt Barcelona and take a 0-0 draw back to Anfield.

Gerard Houllier's men now stand without sight of their first European final for 16 years after an effective performance in the UEFA Cup semi-final first leg.

In recent seasons Manchester United, Leeds and Chelsea have perished at Barcelona's hands in this fine arena.

But Liverpool chalked up the third superb display by an English club against a Spanish team in 48 hours.

It was never going to be a flowing, attacking game, despite Houllier jokingly saying beforehand he could not see a 0-0 draw with so much attacking flair on show.

But by then the Frenchman had already formulated his plans for a display of defensive quality.

Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz shone at the back, with Dietmar Hamann commanding in midfield, but all around were men determined not to give Rivaldo and his colleagues a sniff of a goal.

The second leg in a fortnight now awaits, where the Kop will be expected to roar their heroes into what will probably be a final against Basque side Alaves, who hammered Kaiserlautern 5-1 in their first leg.

Houllier opted for the England strikeforce of in-form Michael Owen and Emile Heskey with Steven Gerrard fit after the now usual injury scares in the build-up.

Barcelona were without Michael Reiziger, who was injured in Sunday's 4-1 win over Las Palmas.

But the big names returned, in particular influential skipper Pep Guardiola, the veteran who really makes this team tick.

Heskey occupied a left-sided role virtually in midfield, Owen very much on his own up front to chase in all directions.

In that almost passive first period, Barcelona had all the possession, with Rivaldo in that dangerous, wandering role that makes him so hard to pick up.

The Barca build-up was slow, patient and intelligent, but the likes of Hyypia, Henchoz and the German pair were outstanding.

Hamann, in front of the back line, worked hard to contain the clever runs of Phillip Cocu, while Babbel's battle with Overmars was a key feature.

Two long-range efforts from Rivaldo and a similar effort from Cocu were about all Liverpool allowed Barcelona in the first half, a period when they had defended in depth and with great resilience.

Barcelona needed to quicken the pace of their game to unsettle Liverpool's defence and that was clearly the half-time message.

After the interval Luis Enrique became more involved, with Overmars too seeing more of the ball down the left.

The gaps started to appear when an Overmars cross reached Luis Enrique on the right of the box, and only a brave saving tackle from Carragher kept the Spanish international at bay.

Then from the corner on 55 minutes, Kluivert's effort fell just wide with Henchoz hurling himself at the ball.

Liverpool made an attempt to inject more adventure into their play by replacing Murphy with Vladimir Smicer on 59 minutes.

Barcelona themselves made a double substitution on 71 minutes, Boudewijn Zenden replacing Overmars and Hernandez Xavi on for Luis Enrique. Two minutes later Robbie Fowler took over from Owen.

And Fowler could have scored with his first touch, a difficult header from Steven Gerrard's 74th-minute cross from the right.

Westerveld had to make his first genuine save a minute later when he blocked a Kluivert shot after his international squad colleague had worked his way across the box.

Berger, playing only his second game since November, was replaced by Gary McAllister with eight minutes left.

Westerveld saved well from a Xavi 20-yarder, and with three minutes left Hamann was booked for protesting too much when Fowler was flattened by Poyol.

Zenden was next into the book for tripping Babbel, as Barcelona lost their patience with ''You'll never walk alone'' booming out from both ends of the ground.


Sander Westerveld: A solid performance by the Dutch keeper. 6.

Markus Babbel: Dealt professionally with everything thrown at them. 7.

Stephane Henchoz: In common with the rest of the back four, Henchoz handled the home side well. 7.

Sami Hyypia: A demonstration of security and strength 7.

Jamie Carragher: A mature display at left-back. 8.

Steven Gerrard: Few heroics from the star of Liverpool's recent fixtures. 7.

Dietmar Hamann: Effective in helping to restrict the Spanish 7.

Danny Murphy: Lively as usual in a deep role. 6.

Patrik Berger: Provided the sole moment of excitement for the visitors 7.

Emile Heskey: Coped well in an unorthodox role, far deeper than he is usually accustomed to. 6.

Michael Owen: Enlisted with the thankless job of leading the Liverpool attack on a night when their main interest was in robust defence 6.