Liverpool 3-0 Lille: Torres double enough to see Liverpool through
Liverpool 3 – 0 Lille (Agg. 3-1)
By Patrick McLoughlin.
An efficient Liverpool performance coupled with a Fernando Torres brace was enough to see Liverpool progress into the Europa League quarter-finals.
The game itself was nearly overshadowed by off-field remarks by disgruntled winger Albert Riera claiming that Liverpool was “a sinking ship” however there seemed to be no problems on the field as a surprisingly attack minded Lucas gave the visitors a few early problems. Filling in for the absent Alberto Aquilani in an unfamiliar role he was employed as more of an attacking midfielder and soon won a penalty which Steven Gerrard easily dispatched.
The much improved Lucas was a threat throughout and had several shots on goal, perhaps an encouraging sign of things to come from the much criticized Brazilian. Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina had called on the Anfield faithful to cheer their side to victory and with the aggregate level at 1-1 they did not disappoint and began to force their team forward.
Furthermore, Ryan Babel’s recent run of good form continued as the fleet-footed winger was a constant outlet down the left-hand side; powerful darting runs and a general eagerness to run at defenders once again showed the talents of enigmatic Dutch man, perhaps now with a few starts he will finally begin to live up to his early promise.
Liverpool were dominant for much of the first-half, however, Lille were not out of the tie by a long way, Benitez knowing that a single away goal could spell disaster for the home team. His fears were almost realised when Belgian winger Edan Hazard surged through the Liverpool defence with Pepe Reina luckily deflecting his shot to safety.
Lille continued to threaten throughout the game particularly with Ludovic Obraniak’s free kicks, however, it was always going to be Liverpool’s night and a second Liverpool goal from Torres in the second half settled the crowd’s nerves; played through by a long ball from Babel, Torres easily beat his man and poked the ball past the on rushing Mickaël Landreau, Torres claimed his second in the last few minutes of the game, collecting the rebound of a Steven Gerrard shot and claiming four goals in his last two games, a sign that he is returning to form at just the right time with a crucial game against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Although the score sheet reads Torres and Gerrard it should really have been more, Daniel Agger had two glorious chances from crosses into the box and should have really registered, while Dirk Kuyt peppered Landreau’s goal with two ferocious shots from outside the area in the last few minutes.
Anfield was also host to a very special individual on Thursday evening; Diego Maradonna was spotted in the stands and was no doubt casting an eye over his captain Javier Mascherano. Meanwhile Emiliano Insua would have done himself no harm when staking a claim for a World Cup spot, perhaps motivated by the fact that Maradonna was in the crowd he was generally solid and confident going forward, although unlucky to pick up a yellow it was certainly one of his better performances in a Liverpool shirt.
The last ten minutes of the game saw somewhat of a stalemate and both teams began to show signs of tiredness, Yossi Benayoun was introduced for Ryan Babel and Liverpool were content to see the game out, perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s game and although Lille still pushed forward never really looked like scoring.
All in all a very pleasing display for Rafa Benitez, his team scored three goals, kept a clean sheet and left with new injury worries for Sunday; Liverpool have now won back-to-back games scoring eight goals in the process, confidence must surely be building however Old Trafford will prove a much sterner test.
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