Thursday, December 27, 2007

Derby 1-2 Liverpool

Steven Gerrard's last-gasp goal spared Liverpool's blushes at lowly Derby.
Fernando Torres' superb goal had given Liverpool an early lead as the Spaniard scored after beating two defenders.
But Liverpool failed to take a number of chances and Jay McEveley sent an angled shot past Jose Reina to equalise midway through the second half.
Gerrard then crashed the ball against the bar, but with time running out the Liverpool captain was on hand to score after Lewis Price saved from Torres

Gerrard had had a relatively quiet game before the Derby equaliser, but he came into his own as Liverpool searched for the winner.
Liverpool had beaten Derby 6-0 earlier in the season and once Torres put them ahead on 12 minutes the visitors should have extended their advantage by the interval.
Jamie Carragher and Ryan Babel had reasonable chances, while Torres and John Arne Riise were thwarted by some well-timed tackles.
Derby had come close to winning at Newcastle on Sunday and had it not been for Gerrard they might have won for the first time under manager Paul Jewell.
The Derby manager had lost first-choice goalkeeper Stephen Bywater in the warm-up after he aggravated a shoulder injury and Stephen Pearson was another casualty to emerge from this game.
With Liverpool already ahead thanks to Torres' goal, the Scot dislocated his shoulder as both he and Darren Moore went for the same ball.
For the last 15 minutes Derby were virtually playing with 10 men, when having brought on all three substiutes, Rob Earnshaw was unable to contribute after he injured his calf.
Moore played a less than distinguished role in Liverpool's opener as Torres managed to push the ball through the Derby defender's legs.
Having established plenty of momentum, Torres eased his way past Dean Leacock before curling a shot past Bywater's replacement Price into the corner of the net.
Liverpool's Spanish striker was soon streaking away from the Derby defence, though this time McEveley denied Torres with a saving tackle.
Tyrone Mears proved just as diligent as he slid in to take the ball away from Riise as the Norwegian burst clear.
Derby's best two first-half chances fell to Giles Barnes, who almost reached Gary Teale's cross with Reina stranded.
And in first-half stoppage time Barnes worked some space just outside the Liverpool box only to miscue with his shot.
Derby made a postive start after the break and Teale's beautifully weighted pass freed Kenny Miller, who was let down by his first touch.
But Derby were rewarded for their more upbeat approach when Lewis' free-kick pinged around the Liverpool box before McEveley pounced to shoot past Reina.
Liverpool peppered Price's goals with shots but the Derby goalkeeper produced a couple of excellent saves from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso.
Barnes then missed with a close-range header, while Gerrard crashed a shot against the crossbar.
But Gerrard came to Liverpool's rescue as he prodded home after Price had made a reaction save to deny Torres and McEveley could only steer the ball into the path of the Reds captain.
Derby manager Paul Jewell:"There's not much justice in the game, particularly after battling so hard in the second half.
"I was bitterly disappointed with the first-half display, we looked frightened, scared of Liverpool.
"I couldn't wait to get at them at half-time, but in the second half we showed fight, and that is what the supporters want to see."
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"We were much better in the first half, but we could not kill the game off.
"That made it difficult for us. In the second half they were more aggressive and put us under a lot of pressure.
"We gave the ball away too much but in the end Gerrard scored, a player like that will always come to the fore in the end."
Derby: Price, Mears, Leacock, Moore (Feilhaber 46), McEveley, Teale (Earnshaw 56), Barnes, Pearson (Johnson 26), Lewis, Howard, Miller.Subs Not Used: Hinchliffe, Fagan.
Booked: McEveley.
Goals: McEveley 67.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia (Benayoun 54), Carragher, Riise, Babel (Kuyt 72), Gerrard, Alonso, Aurelio, Torres, Voronin (Lucas 90).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Goals: Torres 12, Gerrard 90.
Att: 33,029
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).


FERNANDO Torres produced a piece of pure individual magic last night to set Liverpool on their way to the knock-out stages of the European Cup.
Rafael Benitez can breathe again after his team’s comfortable 4-0 win over Marseille in France secured their passage, but the list of possible opponents in the next stage is daunting and includes Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Milans.

But Benitez can now go into talks over his future with the club’s American owners tomorrow buoyed by a recent run of results that culminated last night with this emphatic victory.

Liverpool’s nerves were settled after just four minutes when Steven Gerrard converted a penalty – on the rebound – after he had been hauled down in the box.

Then, seven minutes later, Torres ghosted past a clutch of defenders before sliding the ball in. Dirk Kuyt applied the killer blow just after half-time and Ryan Babel added the fourth in injury time.

Marseille 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool overwhelmed Marseille to win a third successive Champions League Group A game and reach the last 16.
Steven Gerrard won a penalty on four minutes and although his spot-kick was saved by Steve Mandanda, the Liverpool captain crashed home the rebound.
Fernando Torres then scored a superb solo goal, beating a posse of Marseille players before curling the ball in.
Early in the second half Dirk Kuyt swept home a third and in stoppage time Ryan Babel broke clear for the fourth.
The victory capped a remarkable recovery in Liverpool's Champions League campaign, given that after three games Rafael Benitez's side had found themselves bottom of the group with just one point.
Three years ago Liverpool's final Champions League group game against Olympiakos at Anfield had required a spectacular late Gerrard goal to secure a dramatic passage to the knockout rounds.
The Marseille tie looked even more tense potentially, but two goals inside the opening 11 minutes provided the platform for a comfortable victory.
Just as he had done against Olympiakos, Gerrard proved pivotal, with the skipper having an eventful start to the game.
Kuyt's pass from the kick-off was too short and Gerrard was left writhing in agony as he was tackled by Mamadou Niang.
He took a couple of minutes to shake off the injury, but when Gerrard had recovered the spring in his step he won the penalty that led to Liverpool's opening goal.
A neat interchange between Kuyt and Torres set free the marauding Gerrard who powered his way to the Marseille penalty area.
Gael Givet's sliding tackle was badly misjudged providing Gerrard with the chance to put Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot.
Gerrard passed up that opportunity as Mandanda got a hand to his penalty kick, but the Liverpool captain was quick to smash the rebound into the roof of the net.
Torres's goal was beautifully executed.
After receiving a pass from Harry Kewell, the Spanish striker scooped the ball round Julien Rodriguez to create a slither of space in front of Mandanda's goal.
And Torres finished off his scintillating approach play with a rolled pass into the corner of the goal.
With Marseille showing little signs of troubling Liverpool's defence the French club's coach Eric Gerets introduced the French young player of the year Samir Nasri just past the half-hour.
The French international had an immediate impact, lifting the spirits of the Marseille crowd and winning a couple of free-kicks.
But Liverpool weathered Nasri's arrival and Gerrard went close with a free-kick as did Kewell with a volley.
Torres continued to torment Rodriguez, ghosting past the former Rangers defender, only to lift his shot over the bar.
At the restart Gerets made his second substitution, throwing on Djibril Cisse, but rather than revive the Marseille cause the former Liverpool striker found himself looking on as Kuyt extended Liverpool's lead.
Mandanda's poor clearance only reached Kewell and the Australian's quick-thinking and pass found Kuyt unmarked in the box.
The Dutchman paused to consider his options before sweeping the ball past Mandanda.
Cisse went close with a header for Marseille, but Liverpool added a fourth in stoppage time as substitute Babel ran clear and then past Mandanda to slip the ball into an empty net.
Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Rodriguez, Givet (Faty 45), Taiwo, Cheyrou (Nasri 34), Ziani, Zenden (Cisse 46), Cana, Valbuena, Niang. Subs Not Used: Mate, Oruma, Zubar, M'Bami.
Booked: Cana.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Kewell (Aurelio 67), Mascherano, Gerrard, Benayoun, Kuyt (Lucas 86), Torres (Babel 77).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Finnan, Crouch, Hobbs.
Booked: Carragher, Aurelio.
Goals: Gerrard 4, Torres 11, Kuyt 48, Babel 90.

Att: 53,000
Ref: Terje Hauge (Norway).

Sami Hyypia insists Liverpool are still in the title race

Veteran defender Sami Hyypia has denied Liverpool are now facing mission impossible in the title race following yesterday’s defeat by Manchester United.
The Reds started the campaign with high hopes of ending their 17-year championship drought and despite some inconsistent form on home soil were well placed to make their move until 10 days ago.
Although Rafael Benitez’s side have secured a financially imperative place in the knock-out phase of the Champions League, the outstanding four-goal win in Marseille has been sandwiched by the loss of Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League record at Reading and yet another defeat to United at Anfield.
The latest loss against their fierce north-west rivals - their fifth in six seasons - has left the Merseyside giants nine points behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Admittedly, Liverpool do have a game in hand but, after picking up just two points in three meetings with their fellow ’Big Four’ members this term, the evidence is not pointing towards the end of that long wait for a 19th title.
Nevertheless, Hyypia is refusing to be downcast.
The Finland star is convinced Liverpool proved they were United’s equals yesterday.
And, while he accepts his team-mates have a lot to do in order to haul themselves back into contention, Hyypia believes they are up to the task.
“It is not the end of the world,” he said.
“Of course, if you think about 10 points it is quite a lot but I don’t believe it is a major obstacle to clear and it is certainly not impossible.
“It would have been an important game to win but we didn’t manage it, so we have to remained focused on each individual game and see where we are in May.”
For the second season running, Liverpool were undone by a set piece, fatally failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area when Ryan Giggs took a corner and then leaving Carlos Tevez on his own too as he turned home the England striker’s shot.
It is the kind of mistake that Benitez must eradicate if his team are to stand a chance of getting themselves back into the championship fight, although Hyypia feels there are plenty of positives to draw from the defeat as well.
“Manchester United achieved what they came for; a clean sheet and they also managed to sneak a goal,” he said.
“But there were lots of positives for us too.”
The worry for Liverpool fans is that while Arsenal, Chelsea and, now, United have all been to Anfield, they are still to play away from home against any of their major rivals.
Hyypia acknowledges it is imperative to inflict some damage when the Merseysiders go on their travels and is optimistic they can do just that.
“Our away form has been better than the home form so I am confident we will get something out of those games away,” he said.
“The matches against the other teams in the big four are very important. We have to catch them and we know for sure if we win those games our rivals cannot get any points.”
Ironically, Liverpool face one of their major rivals on Wednesday when they visit Chelsea looking to book a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals.
The Reds have enjoyed plenty of success against the Londoners in cup combat over recent times, including two thrilling Champions League semi-final wins.
However, Hyypia accepts history will count for nothing at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t want to look at the records at all,” he said.
“Every game is different - we go there to win and do our best.”

Liverpool 0-1 Man Utd

Carlos Tevez's first-half winner gave Manchester United a priceless victory at title rivals Liverpool.
Tevez was lurking to turn in Wayne Rooney's driven shot from a Ryan Giggs corner three minutes before half-time.
Liverpool had earlier come close, but Anderson scrambled Harry Kewell's shot off the line and Fernando Torres sent a header inches wide.
Rooney wasted a great chance to double United's lead late on, but he side-footed wide from only six yards.
It made uncomfortable viewing for Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, at Anfield before their summit meeting with boss Rafael Benitez after their recent disagreements.
The defeat leaves the Merseysiders outside the top four and nine points behind arch rivals United.
Liverpool, unchanged for only the third time in Benitez's reign, created the clearer openings in a disjointed first 45 minutes.
Jamie Carragher's 27th-minute header created confusion in the United penalty area, and when Anderson cleared Kewell's shot off the line, Torres headed just wide.
United were under pressure again three minutes later when keeper Edwin van der Sar misjudged Steven Gerrard's free-kick.
The ball bounced towards goal off Rio Ferdinand's head, but once again Evra was alert to clear as Dirk Kuyt closed in.
United capped their best spell of the game by taking the lead three minutes before the interval.
Liverpool boss Benitez was left fuming as his side failed to mark Rooney from Giggs' corner, and when the former Everton star lashed the ball into the danger area, Tevez was on hand to turn home from six yards out.
United were surviving in relative comfort, and Benitez made an inevitable change after 65 minutes, replacing the disappointing Kewell with Ryan Babel, with Kuyt quickly following as Peter Crouch came on.
It at least sparked Liverpool's best effort of the game as Babel shot inches wide from 25 yards after collecting Wes Brown's poor header.
Rooney then wasted a glorious opportunity to seal the points for United at the end of a lightning break, but he shot hopelessly wide from close range from Cristiano Ronaldo's pass.
Liverpool pressed, but lacked any ideas going forward and United's defensive resilience earned the three points.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise (Aurelio 80), Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kewell (Babel 65), Torres, Kuyt (Crouch 73). Subs Not Used: Itandje, Lucas.
Booked: Gerrard, Mascherano.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Anderson (O'Shea 90), Giggs, Rooney, Tevez (Carrick 83). Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Saha, Fletcher.
Booked: Evra, Anderson, Brown.
Goals: Tevez 43.
Att: 44,459.
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reading 3-1 Liverpool

Reading handed Liverpool their first league defeat of the season as they claimed a richly deserved home win.
Stephen Hunt's penalty put Reading in front after Jamie Carragher fouled Brynjar Gunnarsson, but Steven Gerrard soon equalised with a cool finish.
Liverpool hit the bar through Gerrard, but Kevin Doyle's glancing header on 58 minutes put Reading back in front.
James Harper scored a fine third and Reading, with the help of the post, kept the Reds at bay for the remainder.
In the build-up to the match, Reading boss Steve Coppell had asked the home fans to make more noise and his players certainly gave the supporters something to shout about with a committed and energetic team performance.
It was end-to-end stuff in the early stages, with the emphasis on speed rather than quality, and it took a defensive mistake to break the deadlock.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez gave young centre-back Jack Hobbs his first Premier League start, but it was a foul by the vastly experienced Carragher which led to the Reds falling behind on 15 minutes.
Carragher brought Gunnarsson down as the Reading midfielder burst forward and referee Andre Marriner, despite vehement Liverpool protests, decided the offence was inside the box, giving Hunt the chance to convert from the spot.
The goal sparked a brief purple patch for Reading as they began to stretch Liverpool, with Bobby Convey's screamer from the edge of the box going close after a precise passing move.
Reading's lead did not last long though, as their porous defence crumbled to concede their 33rd Premier League goal of the season.
Torres controlled Pepe Reina's punt upfield under no pressure from Ibrahima Sonko before squaring the ball to Gerrard, and the England midfielder shrugged off Hunt and passed into the net for his ninth goal in 10 games.
Sonko's questionable challenge on Torres led to half-hearted appeals for a Liverpool penalty, but replays suggested the centre-back had got a touch of the ball.
The half ended with Liverpool well on top but they were unable to fashion a clear-cut chance despite a couple of decent self-made efforts from Andriy Voronin.
Liverpool started the second period purposefully, with Torres flashing a diving header just wide from Peter Crouch's cross.
A comical piece of defending from Gunnarsson, who played the entire Liverpool team onside from a free-kick before belatedly rushing out, gave Hobbs the chance to mark his full league debut with a goal but the 19-year-old smashed the ball into the stands.
John Arne Riise's trademark swerving free-kick drew a fine save from Hahnemann as Liverpool pressed hard for a second goal and Gerrard went even closer with a brilliant strike from distance which rattled off the bar.
The near miss proved a decisive moment as 60 seconds later Doyle just got a touch to Nicky Shorey's dangerous free-kick into the box to give his side the lead.
If there was a hint of fortune about Doyle's effort, there was no doubt whatsoever about the quality of Harper's goal soon after.
The midfielder took a clever pass back inside from Convey and outstripped Riise before clinically rounding Reina and slotting home on 66 minutes.
Liverpool tried to get back into the game, although they were not helped by Benitez's decision to bring Gerrard off with 20 minutes to go, with Harry Kewell going close and Crouch just missing making contact with a low Carragher ball into the box.
Crouch went even closer moments later as he hit the post with a well-struck effort from outside the box, but Reading were good value for a win that takes them up to 12th in the table.
· Reading boss Steve Coppell:
"To get a good result against a top side is pleasing but this season is a grind - there's five more months to go.
"We needed to be seen to be having a go and I think the fans can have a few pints and be happy.
"Results against big teams won't decide our season but it's a good feeling and hopefully a solid foundation."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez on the two key penalty decisions:
"For me (Jamie Carragher's foul) was clearly outside the area. Normally it would be a yellow card but it wasn't because the ref wasn't sure.
"I think it was clear Fernando Torres was fouled, but we can't change the result - I won't use that as an excuse.
"But the key was that we had some chances and we could not take them. I'm not happy with the goals we conceded."
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Cisse 90), Sonko (Bikey 81), Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt, Harper, Gunnarsson, Convey (Lita 88), Doyle, Kitson.Subs Not Used: Federici, Long.
Goals: Hunt 17 pen, Doyle 60, Harper 67.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher (Hyypia 82), Hobbs, Riise, Gerrard (Babel 71), Mascherano, Sissoko, Voronin, Torres (Kewell 61), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kuyt.
Booked: Gerrard.
Goals: Gerrard 28.
Att: 24,022
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Monday, December 3, 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Bolton

Liverpool climbed to third after beating struggling Bolton at Anfield.
Steven Gerrard created both first-half goals, first sending over a free-kick that was headed in by Sami Hyypia.
After Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka missed an open goal, Gerrard rolled a pass into the path of Fernando Torres who chipped keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The Liverpool captain added a third with a second-half penalty after Abdoulaye Meite fouled Peter Crouch, and Ryan Babel tapped in the fourth.
How Anelka failed to equalise when Bolton were trailing by a single goal, only the Frenchman will know.
The ball landed at Anelka's feet after Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher collided in trying to clear a Kevin Davies pass, but with the goal at his mercy the former Liverpool striker shot wide.
Had Anelka scored the course of this game might have been different, but Torres' goal a minute before half-time made Bolton's task of taking any points almost impossible.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez partnered Torres and Crouch in attack for the first time in the Premier League.
The two have played in the Carling Cup as well as the Champions League, but on the evidence of this game their attacking partnership remains very much a work in progress.
Torres, who received a huge ovation when he was taken off in the second half, completely overshadowed Crouch.
As well as winning the penalty, Crouch did go close in one of Liverpool's early attacks when his goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by Lubomir Michalik, but this was not one of his most effective games.
While Anelka endeared himself to his old club's fans with that awful miss, El-Hadji Diouf earned the opprobrium of the Anfield crowd with a horrendous tackle on Alvaro Arbeloa.
Diouf complained long and hard over the yellow card, but given the way he raked his studs down Arbeloa's leg the Senegalese player was lucky not to be sent off.
It was from a free-kick that Liverpool took the lead, Gerrard whipping over the ball and Hyypia getting the faintest of glances to beat Jaaskelainen with a header.
A minute before the interval Gerrard and Torres combined to punish Anelka's profligacy.
If Gerrard's curling pass to release Torres was exquisite, the Spaniard's finish probably bettered it.
Torres gently lifted the ball over the advancing Jaaskelainen, in a finish reminiscent of Kenny Dalglish's winning goal against Bruges in the European Cup final of 1978.
The second half proved a formality for Liverpool, with Crouch's emphatically taken penalty further extending their lead.
Just before being substituted Torres zigzagged his way past a succession of Bolton defenders, only to then send his shot over the bar.
Dirk Kuyt replaced Torres and the Dutchman played a key role in Liverpool's fourth goal.
Jaaskelainen was unable to hold Kuyt's shot and Babel had the simplest of jobs to roll the ball into the empty net.
Soon after Babel might have had a second goal, but Meite did well to head off the line.
Liverpool are still unbeaten in the Premier League, but their title credentials are likely to be given a more rigorous assessment in a fortnight when Manchester United travel to Anfield.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"The team had confidence and you can see that in the number of chances we are creating.
"We're trying to keep the momentum, but we're in a good position, much better than last season.
"The second goal was important as it gave us more space and they had to change their shape."
· Bolton manager Gary Megson:"It was a poor day for us, but we will pick up ourselves up.
"There will be no knee-jerk reaction. Given Nicolas Anelka's status it was a poor miss, but there were many other things that didn't go for us.
"I'm most disappointed about the first goal as we didn't get our best headers on it. You learn from adversity and we'll see how we react to this."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher (Hobbs 51), Riise, Benayoun, Gerrard, Lucas, Kewell (Babel 67), Torres (Kuyt 76), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Goals: Hyypia 17, Torres 45, Gerrard 56 pen, Babel 86.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Samuel, Meite, Michalik, Gardner, McCann, Campo, Speed, Davies, Anelka, Diouf (Giannakopoulos 66).Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Wilhelmsson, Teymourian, Alonso.
Booked: Diouf, Campo, Michalik.
Att: 43,270
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

Liverpool 4 Porto 1: Torres displays striker's instinct to prolong Liverpool's European life

Rafael Benitez made an impromptu speech last night in praise of the fans who sang his name at Anfield and marched through the streets in support of him before the game, but he will know in his heart who really served up the rescue act last night. Chants and protests are all very nice but nothing counted quite as much as the two goals scored by Fernando Torres.
Into the last game of the Champions League group stage and Liverpool have to beat Marseilles in the Stade Velodrome on 11 December for a place in the knockout round. No small task, but when you compare it to the tumult of the last week the basics of winning football matches will be a welcome departure from the politics of Benitez's feud with his club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. A feud the Spanish coach was still trying desperately to defuse last night.
First the football: three goals in 12 minutes turned a game heading nowhere featuring a team facing Champions League oblivion into a match worthy of Anfield's European pantheon. At 1-1, Liverpool were heading out of the competition, but Torres' brilliant second goal of the match and a flourish from Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch gave this game a scoreline that scarcely reflected the full scope of the match. All three came after the introduction of Crouch, who is saving the skin of a manager who can hardly bring himself to pick the Englishman.
Then the politics: Benitez has been backtracking for two days straight over his fall-out with the Americans so last night he made sure there was no mistake. Having first said he wanted to thank the fans "because as always they were magnificent" he went on to placate the bosses. When it came to the owners it was, Benitez said, "nothing personal". "We were talking about the future of the club and some issues," he said. "I don't have any personal problems. I was not angry, I was just surprised a little."
Surprised at what? He was, Benitez said, just acting in the best interests of the club. "I have read things about my ego, it's not my ego, it's my responsibility," he said. "I take care of the team and the squad because I want to do it. It would be easier for me to say nothing and just take my wages but I prefer to be involved and I think they understand. I don't have any problems with them and we all want the best for the club."
It was wise not to make too much of the supporters fulsome backing of their manager for fear of taking sides against Hicks and Gillett although Benitez happily milked the adulation for most of the game. Up on his feet in the coaching area, he affected a kind of nonchalance that was fooling nobody – the sentiments of the Kop evidently meant a great deal to him. "Rafa's going nowhere," trilled the Liverpool fans at the end, although for long periods in between nothing was quite as clear cut.
This was not a convincing Liverpool performance until Crouch and Harry Kewell came on in the later stages to change the course of the game. Any one of Group A's four teams can still qualify after Besiktas beat Marseilles last night, and having hauled themselves back from the brink it would be crushing for Liverpool to throw it away now, although there was much to suggest in this performance that they might just do that.
Andriy Voronin, Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel were all dreadfully off the pace and until Torres scored the first goal on 19 minutes it was fair to say that the most exciting moment thus far had been whether Roy Keane would shake the hand of Carlos Queiroz when he found himself two seats away from the Manchester United assistant manager (he did). In the Anfield Road end someone held up a banner that said Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry was "a wolf in sheep's clothing". That disappeared as quickly as it came.
Whether in sheep's clothing or just a sheepskin jacket, Parry will not have been too discomfited by such a low-level protest. The Benitez chants started again when Torres broke the deadlock from a corner won by Steve Finnan and delivered by Gerrard. The Spanish striker was virtually unmarked when he headed down and past the Porto goalkeeper Helton.
It was not to last. On 36 minutes the winger Przemyslaw Kazmierczak crossed from the left and Lisandro Lopez found himself in enough space to cleverly direct his header back across goal from the side that Jose Reina had come. Back on level terms, Lopez nearly had a second three minutes later when Lucho sprung the offside trap and the Porto striker just put his shot wide.
It all changed on 78 minutes, Kewell fed the ball into Torres who held off Jose Bosingwa in the inside-right channel and slipped the ball past Helton. And from there, Porto proceeded to collapse. The brutal centre-back Milan Stepanov handled a cross and Gerrard slipped home the penalty. As Liverpool cruised, Crouch headed in Gerrard's corner with Helton nowhere. The Kop were singing Benitez's tune again.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa; Benayoun (Crouch, 71), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Kuyt, 85); Torres, Voronin (Kewell, 63). Substitutes not used: Itandje (gk), Riise, Leiva, Sissoko.
Porto (4-4-1-1): Helton; Bosingwa, Stepanov, Alves, Cech; M Gonzalez (Sektioui, 77), L Gonzalez, Assuncao (Postiga, 81), Kazmierczak (Meireles, 65); Quaresma; Lopez. Substitutes not used: Nuno (gk), Emanuel, Fucile, Bolatti.
Referee: R Rosetti (Italy)
Champions League Group A

Liverpool 4-1 FC Porto

Fernando Torres' double proved key to Liverpool's win over Porto to keep alive their Champions League hopes.
Torres headed in Steven Gerrard's corner to give Liverpool the lead, but Porto equalised with a header of their own, Lisandro Lopez nodding home.
Liverpool huffed and puffed in search of the second goal and on 78 minutes Torres curled a shot into the net.
Steven Gerrard's penalty made it 3-1 after Milan Stepanov's handball, with Peter Crouch heading in a fourth.
Liverpool must now beat Marseille in their final Group A game on 11 December to guarantee they will reach the knockout stages, but if Besitkas beat Porto a draw in France could be enough.
The scoreline suggests Liverpool won this game with something to spare but that was never the case and it was only with Torres' second goal that the home side began to breathe more easily.
Too many passes went astray and there was little of the pizzazz that had been on show in Saturday's 3-0 away win over Newcastle.
Ahead of the game over 2,000 fans had marched to Anfield from a nearby pub in support of manager Rafael Benitez over his very public row with club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
During the game there were plenty of supportive chants for Benitez and the crowd's mood was improved immeasurably by Torres' first goal.
When Porto rewatch the video of that goal, Stepanov and Lucho Gonzalez will want to avert their gaze.
As Gerrard swung over a corner Stepanov and Gonzalez could not make up their minds as to who should mark Torres.
The former Atletico Madrid striker needed no second invitation and proceeded to guide a downward header past Porto goalkeeper Helton.
Anfield might have been hoping for a reprise of the 8-0 thrashing of Besiktas in Liverpool's previous Champions League home game, but Porto had other ideas.
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak was allowed to cross from the left and Lopez got the better of Alvaro Arbeloa and powered a header past Pepe Reina.
That goal unsettled Liverpool and Lopez should have extended their lead, when with just Reina to beat, the Porto goalscorer put the ball narrowly wide of the post.
Torres was quickly back to work in the early stages of the second half, setting up Yossi Benayoun, but the Israeli international badly miscued his shot.
The desperate need for three points clearly got to Liverpool, and devoid of rhythm, chances began to dry up.
Benitez introduced Harry Kewell and Crouch and both of them played key roles in Liverpool's rousing finale.
Kewell dribbled the ball to the area before Torres took over, bending the ball round Helton.
After Torres' second goal, Porto imploded.
Stepanov gave Liverpool a penalty by handling a Gerrard free-kick and the England midfielder spot-kick was precisely placed in the corner as he wrongfooted Helton.
Another corner provided Liverpool's fourth, Gerrard swinging over the ball from the right and Crouch towering over the Porto defence to head in.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Benayoun (Crouch 71), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Kuyt 85), Voronin (Kewell 63), Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Lucas, Sissoko.
Booked: Hyypia.
Goals: Torres 19, 78, Gerrard 84 pen, Crouch 88.

FC Porto: Helton, Bosingwa, Stepanov, Bruno Alves, Cech, Mariano Gonzalez (Sektioui 77), Lucho Gonzalez, Paulo Assuncao (Postiga 81), Kazmierczak (Raul Meireles 65), Quaresma, Lopez.Subs Not Used: Nuno, Pedro Emanuel, Fucile, Bolatti.
Booked: Paulo Assuncao, Stepanov, Quaresma.
Goals: Lopez 33.
Att: 41,095
Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

'I don't have any personal problems with Hicks and Gillett'

Belated recoveries were not limited to Liverpool's Champions League campaign last night as Rafael Benítez took his first genuine steps towards repairing relations with the club's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
A fractious week inside Anfield ended with Benítez savouring the most emotional night of his Liverpool reign as supporters marched in support of the manager before kick-off and his players produced an ultimately impressive victory over Porto.
From a renewed position of strength it would not have been difficult for the Spaniard to reinforce his opposition to the transfer restrictions which had cast serious doubt on his future at the club. Instead, he made his clearest peace offering to the Americans, reluctantly accepting their revised work structure and insisting their relationship has not been irrevocably destroyed by his previous outbursts
. "I want to make it clear that I don't have any personal problems with the owners," said Benítez. "We were talking about some issues but it was nothing personal. I was not angry with them, just surprised. I was surprised with the situation in the end because I was trying to improve my club.
"OK, now I know I may have to wait but it was a strange situation. I was just trying to do my best for my club but I don't have any personal problems with Tom Hicks or George Gillett."
The Liverpool manager had suggested a thawing in the damaging dispute on the eve of the game but that merely extended to not aggravating his American employers any further.
He had previously infuriated the pair, and courted the sack, with two petulant public displays after their instructions to freeze his January transfer plans - an order that Benítez took as a lack of faith in his ability to bring the Premier League title to Anfield.
But last night he continued: "We need to talk in the future and we will see what happens then about transfers. This has never been about my ego, but it is my responsibility. I need to take care of my team, my squad and my club.
"It would be a lot easier for me to stay and do nothing, just pick up my wages at the end of each month but I want to be involved. We all want what is best for the club and I think the owners understand that."
Benítez's conciliatory tone was in marked contrast to his stinging criticism of the Americans following Liverpool's win at Newcastle last Saturday, and his insistence that he wants to remain involved in transfer policy, a requirement now handed over to the chief executive, Rick Parry, may yet prove a problem when the manager meets his employers on December 16.
Foster Gillett, George's son and appointed representative on the Liverpool board, was at Anfield last night to witness a fervent show of support for Benítez and his report home will certainly ease tensions with the co-chairmen. "This is not about me being in a stronger position at the club," added Benítez. "I think I am in the same position as before and we need to talk about the future and our ideas."
The possibility of qualifying for the knockout phase of the Champions League with victory over Marseille in France on December 11 will aid Benítez's reconciliation process as much as his post-match words. And the Liverpool manager was also keen to show his appreciation for those supporters who marched in his support before kick-off.
Benítez said: "I think this was the most emotional night I have had here because it is important to get through in the Champions League and because of what has happened in the last few days.
"It was not the most difficult time I have ever experienced, but it was strange. I was just trying to do my job properly and, at the end of the game, I enjoyed it a little bit. I want to say thank you to the supporters."