Late show eases Rafa pressure
Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard struck late goals as Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners against 10-man Internazionale.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 20/02/08 8:57am
Liverpool ground down a drilled Internazionale side as Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard struck late goals in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 encounter to ease the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez
The Reds were restricted to just glimpses of goal by Inter, who played an hour of the fixture with 10 men, until the 85th minute when Kuyt fired home before Gerrard struck in the final moments to send Anfield delirious.
The Serie A champions were somewhat harshly reduced to 10 men on 30 minutes, with Marco Materazzi receiving two yellow cards after a pair of soft fouls on Fernando Torres - the first an accidental clip of the heels and the second a minimal tug on the Spaniard's shirt.
With Liverpool struggling to create, a 0-0 stalemate looked likely, until Kuyt's deflected effort left goalkeeper Julio Cesar with not a prayer and Gerrard hit a vicious long-range strike in off the post.
Liverpool had penalty appeals waved away by referee Frank de Bleeckere inside two minutes when Jamie Carragher saw his first-time shot hit the outstretched hand of Brazilian Maicon.
Cristian Chivu was booked for tripping Gerrard in full flow, then Materazzi was cautioned for accidentally clipping Torres' heels, while Ryan Babel and Sami Hyypia both had efforts saved.
The angled running of Torres was stretching Inter at the back, and Materazzi's next foul - a brush the shoulder of the Spaniard - in the 30th minute produced a second yellow followed by a red.
Inter were forced to rethink and Chivu dropped into central defence, with Maxwell filling in at left-back.
A Liverpool siege was expected but chances were few and far between. One Gerrard surge and cross was deflected away from Kuyt, who saw another effort held by Julio Cesar.
In the second period, twice in two minutes Liverpool should have scored.
First Torres burst onto a rebound off Kuyt and broke clear, only to see his shot touched wide by Cesar. And straight after Hyypia rose to head over a Kuyt cross.
On 60 minutes Patrick Vieira - on as a substitute - handled a Gerrard cross, but referee nor assistant saw it.
Torres drove another effort inches wide before Peter Crouch was ushered into the fray in place of Lucas in the 64th minute. Seven minutes later it was Jermaine Pennant's turn in place of Ryan Babel.
In the 75th minute the excellent Ivan Cordoba was carried off after falling awkwardly, with Nicolas Burdisso coming on. Crouch had another effort blocked and Steve Finnan blasted the rebound high into the Kop.
But then the breakthrough came. With five minutes left Pennant fired a cross back into a packed box and it flew on to Kuyt on the left, who saw his right-foot shot flick off Maicon and high past Cesar. Anfield erupted.
A minute from time Gerrard took possession on the far right corner of the box and fired the second home off the far post to seal the success.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||0|
|13||Shots off Target||3|