Thursday, March 18, 2010

Liverpool 3 - 0 Lille (agg 3 - 1)

Fernando Torres scored twice to help Liverpool keep their season alive by reaching the Europa League quarter-finals with a battling win over Lille.
The Reds started perfectly with a Steven Gerrard penalty on eight minutes after Lucas was felled by Adil Rami following a fine run past four players.
Eden Hazard was denied an equaliser by a smart Pepe Reina save, but Torres chipped in the second after the break.
The Spaniard settled the tie by poking home following Gerrard's rasping shot.
It was an impressive result against an in-form French outfit and gave England a second team in the Europa League last eight following Fulham's earlier surprise win over Juventus.
European progression in front of the Anfield faithful was crucial to help salvage the season for a team without a trophy since their FA Cup triumph in 2006.
After an early Champions League exit and an ongoing struggle to secure fourth in the Premier League, boss Rafael Benitez admitted his players knew it was their "last opportunity to win a trophy".
And the mission to overturn their first-leg 1-0 deficit was clouded somewhat with Albert Riera's attack on the club's management 24 hours before kick-off.
The midfielder - suspended until Monday - may have called his team a "sinking ship" but they were riding high after just eight minutes.
A dazzling run by Lucas - in for the ill Alberto Aquilani - caused havoc in the defence and after the Brazilian had danced into the box, Rami's outstretched leg sent the midfielder crashing down. There were few protestations and up stepped Gerrard to calmly slot home.
Liverpool's three-pronged attack of Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt and Torres were moving the ball around crisply and a second goal almost arrived after a Gerrard corner, but keeper Mickael Landreau was alert to Daniel Agger's flicked header.
Lille seemed subdued for half an hour, but they finally showed their attacking prowess as Hazard, the goal-scorer from the home leg, burst into the box to shoot straight at the fortuitous Reina.
It was a warning for Liverpool and they hit back strongly with Agger going close again with his head, while Torres nodded Kuyt's floated cross just wide of the left post.
Despite enduring a number of nervy moments in the closing stages of the first period, the Kop were in full voice again three minutes after the break thanks to the lively feet of Torres.
A hopeful long ball from Agger found the Spaniard striding through the centre and after shrugging off the close attentions of Aurelian Chedjou, he stayed cool to chip the ball over the advancing Landreau.
The hosts were having plenty of possession but still looked anxious as the visitors pushed for the single goal they required to go through.
With 15 minutes remaining and chances few and far between, Lille came agonisingly close as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang poked a Ludovic Obraniak cross just over the bar.
Benitez looked concerned as Lille grew more confident and introduced Yossi Benayoun for the tiring Babel.
Two shots from Kuyt in 60 seconds, both pushed away by Landreau, came close to settling the late wobbles, and the tie was made safe in the final minute when Torres slotted home after Gerrard's shot from the edge of the box was saved.
It was relief all round at the final whistle and the Reds can now look forward to Sunday's visit to Old Trafford in the Premier League in high spirits.

No comments: