Reds reach Asia Trophy final
By Peter Fraser
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Liverpool booked their place in the Asia Trophy final with a 3-1 win over South China.
Liverpool set up an Asia Trophy final meeting with Portsmouth after a comfortable 3-1 win over South China.
Portsmouth had already secured their place in the pre-season tournament's showpiece event with a 1-0 win over Fulham and The Reds made sure it will be an all-English affair with their victory.
Goals from John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger handed the Anfield outfit the win, but they did survive a slight scare following a wonder strike from South China's Li Haiqiang.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was unable to select Steven Gerrard, who was missing with a groin injury, and new signings Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres, who had not been given international clearance to play, but his side were always in control.
The Reds did not hesitate in demonstrating their comfort and they were soon in front courtesy of a trademark Riise thunderbolt.
The Norwegian left-back claimed ownership of a 10th minute free-kick, centrally placed on the edge of the South China area, and he promptly smashed it through a weak defensive wall to give goalkeeper Zhang Chun Hui no chance.
Liverpool, though, were not completely without worry and they continued to show the shaky signs at the back that have been a reoccurring theme in their pre-season.
Bai He and Lee Chi Ho should have done better with efforts from range for last season's Chinese treble winners and the bustling Brazilian striker Detinho was a handful for Liverpool defenders Jamie Carragher and Agger, but South China never looked like threatening.
On 28 minutes South China coach Jose Luis was ruing his side's missed chances as he watched Liverpool double their lead from another set-play situation.
Alonso played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Andrei Voronin who, having made inroads into the South China 18-yard area, was hauled down by Sidrailson to give referee Mark Clattenburg little option but to point to the spot.
Spanish midfielder Alonso then stepped forward to coolly dispatch the penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.
However, The Hong Kong Stadium was then on its feet when, with 10 minutes of the half remaining, South China's captain and free-kick specialist Haiqiang curled a spectacular dead-ball past Scott Carson in the Liverpool goal from 40 yards.
The game continued in much the same vein after the interval with Momo Sissoko aggravating the home fans with his persistently physical, but fair, style of play and with Liverpool content to keep controlled possession.
Centre-back Agger rose well to head on target from a Jermaine Pennant, who looked lively after replacing Harry Kewell, corner as the Reds totally dominated.
Agger, though, did not have to wait long for his goal when he robbed Flavio Barros on 74 minutes before continuing his run forward to meet a Dirk Kuyt lay-off to secure the victory with his left foot.