Torres 16, Gerrard 28 pen, 47, Dossena 88.
Real Madrid 0
(Liverpool win 5-0 on agg)
Job done and, lets face it, was an easy one.
Real Madrid might be a big club and a big name and on a good domestic run however, over the course of this tie they offered only small pockets of resistance. The tie was effectively over at half time. Welcome to Anfield senors! Nonetheless the ease with which we secured our quarter final berth should not be put completely down to the opposition. Rafa stated this week that he and the team should get more credit and after this game plenty should be available?
This proved to be tie in which we saw the two faces of Liverpool. Two weeks ago it was the professional, disciplined, mean machine that snaffled a win from under Madrid’s nose at the Bernabeu. Last night thankfully (where has it been?) we saw the adventurous, fearless, offensively minded outfit that, from the first minute battered and tormented Madrid into submission via attack after attack. Had it not been for the heroics of Casillas in the Real goal it would have been a rout instead of a simple thrashing not to mention an embarrassment.
It seemed to be good tonight even before a ball was kicked. We received a boost with the news that Torres was able to start. Kuyt went wide to make way while Arbeloa also returned from injury. Babel was given a chance on the left.
From the moment the referee started the game it was clear we meant business. No caution here and no sitting back to protect the one goal lead; we were out to kill the tie before Real could retrieve it. The first chance came after only three minutes Gerrard made surging run down the left leaving Diarra in his wake. He found Torres who turned Cannavaro brilliantly (perhaps showing that he’s recovered his sharpness?) however Casillas got a foot to his goal bound shot. From the resulting corner Casillas was at it again saving a Mascherano long range effort. Gerrard was then fouled on the edge of the area by Pepe. The resulting free kick completed the hat trick of good saves.
It seemed that it was us against Casillas and, inevitably he was unable to carry his team. Diarra let a Reina clearance bounce by the edge of the area and Torres and Kuyt seized on it. Pepe’s desperate attempt at a saving lunge knocked it wide, Kuyt collected, Torres moved into the centre, received the cross and did the rest. Easy stuff a great start and a sweet moment for Torres who has found it hard to score against Real?
We needed to keep up the pressure as efficiently the goal didn’t change anything. Two from Real and they would still be through. The next decent effort was from Skrtel from an Aurelio free kick. Then Torres outwitted Ramos with yet another great turn and Gerrard, at stretch, did well fire the cross low and force yet another decent save out of Casillas.
It sounds churlish in the extreme but it was a bit disappointing that the manner of the second goal did not reflect the way we’d been playing. After about half an hour Heinze, in a challenge with Aurelio saw the ball strike his shoulder. Although he moved his shoulder towards the ball the decision was harsh. Nonetheless Gerrard fired home to achieve a score line that at least reflected our dominance.
It was too late but for the first time in almost two hours of football, Madrid finally bared their teeth with a stinging Sneijder free kick that Reina did well to turn round his post. The Dutchman and Raul had further efforts that Reina barely had to move to deal with. Nonetheless it was an excellent first half for us as if the team been released and left to roam free and fearless, untroubled by whatever problems had been burdening them of late?
There was more of it the second half. After only a minute Babel on the left skipped past Ramos and the cross was picked up by Gerard arriving late and unmarked. The finish, a lovely controlled effort on the half volley beating Casillas at his near post when perhaps he had expected it to be hit it across him, was a fitting coup de grâce.
After that Madrid rallied a bit as we relaxed. Torres and Gerrard withdrew, presumably with Saturday in mind. Then, as the Spaniards got, more and more open at the back in pursuit of a consolation goal, things got quiet surreal with Babel feeding Mascharano on the right to cross to Dossena of all people who make it four. All we needed was for Lucas to score and, believe it or not, he nearly did!
So, a great night in which there were so many positives. The apparent return of Torres (although later we learnt he had played after an injection), Gerrard seemingly free of worry and back to his pomp, Babel reminding us of what he is capable of, in fact everyone played well. Our best performance so far? You decide! Whatever the case the inevitable questions of our Champions League chances and “why can’t we do that every week in the league” should held in abeyance, they probably can’t be answered anyway. For now we should appreciate a performance that surpassed most expectations, boosted confidence and swept away the gloom. A perfect antidote to take us into Saturday?
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Alonso (Lucas 60), Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard (Spearing 74), Babel, Torres (Dossena 83).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Ngog, Kelly.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Cannavaro (Van der Vaart 64), Pepe, Heinze, Robben (Marcelo 46), Lassana Diarra, Gago (Guti 77), Sneijder, Raul, Higuain.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Saviola, Metzelder, Miguel Torres.