Reds reinforce Euro reputation
Liverpool hammered Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
By Peter Fraser
Last Updated: 11/03/09 12:05am
Liverpool reaffirmed their formidable reputation in the UEFA Champions League as they eliminated Real Madrid from the last 16 of the competition with a sensational 4-0 second-leg victory at Anfield.
In the build-up to the match, Reds boss Rafa Benitez called for his side - who held a 1-0 first-leg lead over their Spanish opponents - to be offered greater respect due to a Uefa ranking as the best team on the continent after lifting the European Cup in 2005 and reaching the final two years later.
And a goal from Fernando Torres followed by a Steven Gerrard penalty and a second strike from the Liverpool captain before a late Andrea Dossena effort ensured Benitez's point was proven as record-breaking, nine-time winners Real crashed out at the first knockout stage of the tournament for the fifth successive season.
Liverpool came charging out with pace and purpose and deservedly took the lead in the 16th minute when Real failed to clear a bouncing ball and Dirk Kuyt was eventually able to set up Madrid-born Torres for a tap-in.
The home side doubled their lead on the night in controversial style 12 minutes later when former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the 18-yard area when challenging Alvaro Arbeloa, allowing Gerrard to make no mistake from the spot.
Two minutes after the half-time interval, Liverpool had their third as England midfielder Gerrard met a Ryan Babel cross on the half-volley to fire past Iker Casillas, who kept the score down with a string of fine saves.
Casillas, though was helpless as substitute Dossena wrapped up an extremely convincing 5-0 aggregate hammering when netting in front of the Kop with two minutes remaining.
England coach Fabio Capello was at Anfield for another Benitez masterclass, and Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan - Liverpool go to Old Trafford on Saturday - was a more than interested observer.
The red half of Merseyside was at its European best, a cauldron of pounding sound cascading down from the home supporters as Primera Liga champions Real were torn to shreds.
And it inspired a stunning start from Liverpool, with Casillas making two world-class saves in the opening minutes.
Torres, back after an ankle injury, had already embarked on one surging run into the box, before he dumbfounded Fabio Cannavaro with a brilliant turn to control a Gerrard pass, only for Casillas to save with his right foot.
Babel and Javier Mascherano both had shots deflected wide before Casillas rescued Madrid again, stretching to his left to touch a Mascherano 20-yard effort onto the bar and over.
After 16 minutes Liverpool were ahead. Jamie Carragher's long ball had Real on the turn with Torres and Kuyt running down on Pepe.
Torres looked to nudge Pepe from behind, and the Portuguese defender fell, leaving Kuyt to square the ball for Torres to beat Casillas from six yards, only his second goal against Real having managed just one against them for Atletico.
Real were furious with referee Frank De Bleeckere, the official who sent off Marco Materazzi when Inter Milan were beaten at Anfield at this same stage last season, but the Belgian was unmoved.
Pepe was soon booked for dissent before Casillas needed to be at his best to stop a towering Martin Skrtel header, before he somehow beat away a Gerrard shot following more brilliance from Torres on the left.
Gerrard was booked for a foul on Sergio Ramos before more misfortune befell Madrid. A linesman's flag signalled to De Bleeckere after 27 minutes that Heinze had handled in the box.
Replays showed the ball hit the Argentine on the shoulder, and he was booked for making his point. But Gerrard was nerveless, driving home the spot-kick.
Real were fuming. Heinze hurled himself feet first into Torres and it needed De Bleeckere and Gerrard to calm the situation, before Jose Reina produced his first saves of the night to turn away a Wesley Sneijder free-kick and hold Raul's header.
Another instinctive save from Reina stopped Sneijder from close range before Mascherano found himself booked after Xabi Alonso had tripped Pepe.
That will rule him out of the next European match, but it was unclear whether the yellow card was mistaken identity or because the ball was kicked away from the free-kick.
Real needed to do something, and they sent on Brazilian forward Marcelo for the anonymous Arjen Robben at the break.
But any plans for a fightback were destroyed just 65 seconds into the second period. Babel got away on the left and laid the ball back for Gerrard to volley superbly high into the net with Casillas helpless.
Real were in pieces, and had it not again been for Casillas - punching the ball away to his right - Gerrard would have had another after 54 minutes.
On the hour Lucas Leiva was sent on to replace Alonso, with Saturday's likely epic no doubt in Benitez's mind.
Belatedly Real took off a defender, Cannavaro, and sent on an extra forward in Rafael van der Vaart. But Madrid had been bereft of attacking ideas, and it was far too late by now.
Liverpool were able to indulge themselves by bringing on local teenager Jay Spearing in midfield for Gerrard, an Anfield debut for the former FA Youth Cup-winning captain.
Raul and Fernando Gago both had chances, but Liverpool were cruising at this stage and next to be given a rest was Torres with eight minutes to go, Dossena taking over, only to be booked within seconds.
With two minutes to go, the Italian defender appeared in the box to fire home the fourth goal of the night after a fine build-up involving Babel and Mascherano.
|Liverpool||Team Statistics||Real Madrid|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|11||Shots on Target||3|
|1||Shots off Target||12|