More to celebrate for Gerrard and Torres.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Will people shut
up about Torres
By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
Rafa Benitez has to be the only manager in
England who can dump the Italian champions out of the
Champions League - on their own turf - and get criticised
for doing so.
Liverpool moved ominously into the last eight of the
Champions League for the third time in four years on
Tuesday, yet despite a European record that Sir Alex
Ferguson and Arsene Wenger dream about, Benitez instantly
faced scarcely-veiled criticism.
It surrounded Fernando Torres, who had just leathered in his
26th goal of a wonderful season, justifying a huge Benitez
gamble in spending £20.1 million on the Spanish superstar,
who had scored just 14 goals the previous season for
Liverpool had just beaten Inter, and looked comfortable
doing so, so what could Benitez expect as his first
This is what he got: "Fernando Torres is in wonderful form,
but should he have played more games at the start of the
season, and can Liverpool fans expect to see him play every
game until the rest of the season?" Or words to that effect.
Now I won't mention names, but anybody watching coverage of
the game on T.V will know who I mean when I then turn to an
even worse comment: "How many goals could Torres have scored
had he not been in and out of the team all season? Wouldn't
Liverpool fans swap the Champions League for the League?"
More criticism of Rafa's 'rotation policy', where apparently
he has dropped Fernando Torres more times than Paul Robinson
So here is a fact for all those who bang on with this 'if
only Torres had played more games' nonsense.
Of the Premier League games that Torres has been fit for
this season, he has been rested only twice, the last of
which came six months ago. The only other game he came off
the bench for was on his return from injury against Fulham.
A game he scored in and Liverpool won.
Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile, has been rested three times,
and United lost one of those games away at Bolton.
Liverpool aren't trailing United because Torres missed two
games, they are trailing because they are not good enough
over the course of the season - yet.
The two games Torres was rested for, came just two weeks
before he picked up a thigh injury that saw him miss over a
month of the season. Maybe Rafa knew something.
After all, Frank Rijkaard suffered similar criticism for
resting Lionel Messi, right before the Argentine also
suffered a muscular injury.
As crazy as it sounds, maybe Rafa knows more than these
clueless pundits who continue to use magnificent victories
like Tuesday night to bash the Liverpool boss.
I wouldn't bet against him having a second European Cup in
his locker to prove it in May.
reflects on brilliant night
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Javier Mascherano today reflected on
Liverpool's latest epic European triumph and declared: "It
doesn't matter who we get in the next round."
The Reds made sure of their place in the last eight of the
competition after a 1-0 victory in the San Siro sealed a 3-0
aggregate success, and Mascherano - Liverpool's best player
on the night - believes that after knocking the Italian
champions out there is nothing to fear in the rest of the
"It was a very good result for the team and it is one of the
best. It was amazing for the players, for the supporters and
for everyone at the club," he said.
"Now we want to progress in this competition. We are playing
well and confidence is high so we have to keep up our form.
"It doesn't matter who we get next. It will be a difficult
game for us but it will also be a difficult game for them.
After a result like this we have to believe that we can go
further in the competition.
"It is all about working really hard for one another and
playing as a team. That is the only way you can get results
like we have had against teams like Barcelona and Inter
Milan. Liverpool is one of the best clubs in the world so we
have to prove this on the pitch.
"The history of the club is so special, everyone around the
world knows the history and we have a very good record in
Europe. We are just doing our best to try and create more
Mascherano was also keen to pay tribute to the vast army of
travelling Kopites who made themselves heard in the San
"We know that the Liverpool fans are the best in the world,"
he added. "They really are amazing.
"I don't know how many thousands of Inter Milan fans there
were in the stadium but we could still hear the Liverpool
fans supporting us and singing their songs.
"It is very important for us because it helps us to know
that our fans are with us and I would like to thank them for
Awesome Reds a team to fear
By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
Never mind the catwalks of Milan,
Liverpool made their latest visit to Europe’s fashion
capital look like
a cake walk.
On a night when their credentials to compete with the
continent’s finest outfits were expected to be put to the
sternest of tests, the Reds brushed Inter aside with such
ease it ultimately bordered on the mundane.
That is the way of things for Liverpool in Europe under Rafa
Benitez – it doesn’t matter how big a club they face, how
intimidating their reputation or how greatly the odds are
stacked against them, when it comes to the Champions League
they have a seemingly innate ability to produce results.
When Liverpool were paired with Internazionale in the draw
for the last 16, there were precious few outside Anfield who
gave them even the slightest chance of making it through to
the quarter finals.
But, such was the emphatic nature of their two-legged
victory over the Italian champions that it is unlikely
anyone will be making a similar mistake when the draw for
the last eight is made in Switzerland on Friday.
And nor should they.
Liverpool have won more European Cups than the other seven
clubs who will join them in the hat put together and having
earned their seat at the head of the continent’s top table
thanks to decades of conquest, they should be among the
teams to fear when the latest pairings are determined.
As Inter Milan can testify, Liverpool have developed a way
of playing in Europe which makes them phenomenally difficult
opponents simply to score a goal against.
Defensive solidity has underpinned their assaults on
European football’s top title since Benitez took over at
It served them incredibly well en route to the glory of
Istanbul in 2005 and it also took them to last season’s
final in Athens.
The difference this time around is that they now also have a
striker who is capable of terrorising even the very best
It is this new added dimension which should give Liverpool
all the confidence and belief they could ever need to launch
yet another assault on a title which only Inter’s local
rivals AC and Real Madrid have won more times than them.
Inter tried and failed to contain Torres but they should not
feel any shame about that because the Spaniard is well on
his way to becoming one of the very best around.
Before last night’s game, he had been busily gobbling up
goals against some of the Premier League’s weakest outfits
Inter on their own patch were an altogether more difficult
proposition though and his winning goal in the second half
provided proof, if any was needed, that he is no flat track
Decisive goals in such iconic locations are the stuff
legends are made of and judging by the way the magnificent
travelling Red army bellowed his name long into the Milanese
night, Torres is already well on his way to securing such
exalted status even at such an early stage in his Liverpool
But he would be the first to admit that Inter were
vanquished thanks to a supreme team effort rather than his
own moment of individual brilliance following a piece of
imaginative build up play by the outstanding Fabio Aurelio.
This was a victory which owed everything to the team ethic
instilled in Liverpool by Benitez and one which would not
have been possible had it not been for the way every player
wearing red worked his socks off from the first minute to
Steven Gerrard had called on Liverpool’s players to become
heroes in the build-up to the game but the captain knew only
too well that even holding onto the two goal advantage they
had built up in the first leg might have proven difficult
had the Reds not produced as a team.
As expected, Inter did have their chances but with Pepe
Reina again showing the kind of form which marks him out as
one of the finest keepers around it was always going to be
difficult for them to get the goal which would have set
nerves jangling in the away end.
Reina made a pair of top class saves from Julio Cruz in the
first half as the hosts tried to whip up a storm to match
the one which battered Merseyside overnight.
But, significantly, he was not called into action anywhere
near as often as many expected before the game and, again,
this comes down to the tactical acumen and supreme
organisational skills of his manager.
Benitez revels on this stage and it was no surprise that
members of the Italian press corps wanted to know if he
would be willing to take over from outgoing Inter boss
Roberto Mancini when he quits the San Siro in May.
Only a month after it looked like only a win over Inter
would keep him in position at Anfield, Benitez is again back
in fashion and victory in the European style capital merely
Having reached the last eight of the Champions League for
the fourth time in just seven years, Benitez and his players
will know that they are unlikely to meet opponents as
reckless and lacking in discipline as Inter.
After going down to ten men at Anfield in the first leg, the
Italians again left themselves at a numerical disadvantage
when Nicholas Burdisso was dismissed for his second booking
with 40 minutes remaining.
That was all the incentive Liverpool needed to hammer home
the advantage they had fashioned on Merseyside and with one
swipe of Torres’ right foot the contest was well and truly
From that point on, Liverpool coasted home in a manner which
totally belied their billing as rank outsiders when the
fates brought them together with mighty Inter back in
It became so comfortable that the 5,000 fans packed into the
away end even indulged themselves in a chorus of “oles” as
the clock ticked down.
Liverpool have cleared one of the toughest obstacles with
the minimum of fuss. The challenge for them now is to repeat
in rock solid show
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
It's not just a player's fitness, form,
diet and state of mind which troubles the thoughts of modern
They now have to keep a check on when children are
Rafa Benitez will have been mightily relieved that Mrs Reina
chose to deliver on the eve of a run of the mill home match
against Sheffield United last season.
Hubby Pepe's absence was hardly noticed against the blunt
But while Xabi Alonso was left at home last night as
girlfriend Nagore went into labour, Reina was Liverpool's
minder in the San Siro.
Brazilian Lucas was a more than adequate deputy for
Liverpool’s latest father-in-waiting.
The prospect of Charles Itandje facing Cruz, Ibrahimovic,
Zanetti and co hardly bore contemplating.
A clean sheet was crucial to Liverpool’s hopes of progress
in Italy last night. The longer the Reds went without
conceding the greater the pressure cranked up on Inter.
And Reina’s splendid tip round the post early in the contest
from Julio Cruz was pivotal.
So, too, was Liverpool’s new-found formation, which once
again was highly efficient.
While in recent weeks the 4-4-1-1 system has proved capable
of generating chances and goals, it showed last night it can
also be used as an effective suffocating system.
Liverpool largely restricted Inter to long range efforts at
Reina, while on the occasions they did chisel their way
through the Reds’ rearguard, Ibrahimovic looked less than a
player vaunted to be one of Europe’s top marksmen.
There is no doubt which striker holds the current mantle of
the continent’s most in-form forward – and Fernando Torres
showed once again that he can deliver when it matters most.
To crucial Champions League strikes against Porto and
Marseille, Torres can now add a match winner in the San
Siro. But it isn’t just Torres who is benefiting from this
new fluid Reds formation.
Steven Gerrard has rarely looked happier – or performed more
creatively – while the system even seems to have thrown up
an answer to the Dirk Kuyt conundrum.
There’s a precedent for these type of switches at Anfield.
Ray Kennedy's conversion from burly, all-action
centre-forward to a left-sided midfield of craft and vision
was originally conceived as a temporary measure.
An injury crisis in the winter of 1975 saw Kennedy pressed
into emergency midfield duties at Middlesbrough. Such was
his lack of impact the following day's Daily Post actually
declared: "With poor Kennedy looking a most temporary
left-half, the nimble Armstrong, Souness and Mills
outnumbered the loyally-working Callaghan."
The switch was more permanent than the Post could ever have
predicted – 393 games and 72 goals.
The stream of penetrating and damaging crosses Kuyt supplies
from the right flank, allied to his work rate and ability to
ghost unnoticed onto the end of crosses (he came close to
repeating his first leg goal after connecting with Babel’s
first half ball) suggest that this, too, may be an
experiment Rafa Benitez will persist with.
Fabio Aurelio actually supplied the cross from which Torres
added the San Siro’s name to list of great footballing
cathedrals Liverpool have conquered in Europe.
The Reds comfortably held onto the lead.
The last time Liverpool lost a two-goal lead to Inter they
had a bent ref to contend with. That accusation certainly
couldn’t be levelled 43 years later.
After Marco Materazzi’s harsh red card in the Anfield leg,
Nicolas Burdisso followed last night for a challenge on
Lucas that was little more than a fraction high. But
Liverpool were already well in charge.
Ultimately, it was a night for milestones.
Jamie Carragher celebrated his 100th European match with a
clean sheet, skipper Steven Gerrard his 50th Champions
League match with a famous victory, while 4,200 travelling
fans could even savour the sight of Inter supporters
applauding their team.
There’s even a wetting the baby’s head session to look
forward to when the Reds return.
Short of a for sale notice landing in L4 from Texas, the
night couldn’t really have gone much better.
Benitez had tactics spot on
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
Liverpool exposed the Italian way of
in the San Siro.
The Reds effectively won the tie at Anfield by taking the
I expected Inter would put the Reds under far more pressure
in the return leg, but it was obvious long before the finish
that they don’t have the power or the energy when they are
behind, due to the fact that their game plan is a more
With 15 minutes remaining, and with a 3-0 advantage, the
Reds were just rolling the ball about and if the referee had
called a halt there and then I think Inter would probably
have taken it.
They had come to Anfield to do the same type of job the Reds
were looking to achieve last night. Two late goals scuppered
their plan – but the Italians could not do anything about
their plight and their players looked well beaten by the
time Fernando Torres fired home the all important away goal.
Inter are top of their league, supposedly one of the best
sides in Europe, but the Reds were superb, outplayed them,
and manager Rafa Benitez got the tactics just right again.
There is no doubt that Benitez comes into his own in the
Champions League. His eye for detail is astute, his team was
carefully prepared to do an “Italian job” and they
accomplished it perfectly.
There were a few scares – Pepe Reina made two outstanding
saves – but you expect the opposition to threaten sometimes.
I thought they would have been more positive in that first
period, but the Reds defence held firm and that was the
springboard to a relatively straightforward passage to the
The San Siro, as you know, has been at the back of my mind
for many years after we were robbed of victory there in
1965. But I was more than happy with the result. It might
not have eased my pain completely but I was delighted last
night for the team.
In fact, the referee looked as if he was on our side for
some of the decisions, but the Reds, with an excellent show,
did not really need him.
In Torres, the team has a master craftsman when it comes to
scoring. His touch is excellent, his pace always a worry for
defences, and he showed with the way he took his goal that
he only needs a little space to be a special striker.
The side is almost back to where it was at the start of the
season with the Reds dominating the opposition and winning
well. The Newcastle game was another example.
Thankfully, rotation is now being restricted. With
hindsight, the one niggle of recent weeks has been that
Barnsley cup defeat.
Fernando Torres is a true
Fernando Torres is up there with the best Anfield strikers
of the past 50 years.
Roger Hunt was a tremendous player and could score from
anywhere – a bit like Torres, who is one of the best I have
seen in a red shirt.
In the 70s you had Kevin Keegan, a good link player who was
always on hand to accept chances.
Ian Rush had a great time scoring for the Reds in
partnership with Kenny Dalglish. I always said when he was
sold to Juventus that they forgot to take Dalglish, too,
because he made so many of Rushie’s goals.
Torres has a special ingredient we have not seen for some
time. He has the ability to glide past defenders with
effortless pace and often places the ball home rather than
use power. What a talent!
shown English standard
By Joseph Caron Dawe - Setanta Sports
Rafa Benitez hailed his Liverpool side’s
Champions League victory over Italian champions Inter as an
example that The Premier League is the best domestic
competition in the world, and the Spaniard says he would
relish facing another English club in the final.
Following a historic 1-0 win at Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday
evening – a result which completed a 3-0 aggregate triumph –
Benitez was in fearless mood as he answered many critics by
masterminding a stylish Italian job in the fashion capital.
"This shows The Premier League is the best in the world and
the top four clubs are maybe the top four in Europe," beamed
Benitez after watching Fernando Torres secure progression.
"That is the power of The Premier League. It is a very
special league at the moment - it's clear we have got good
"I would be really pleased to play the final against any
club, but perhaps if it is an English club then it would be
"But for now I am just going to enjoy tonight and not worry
about who we get in the next round."
Benitez went on to hail the impact Torres has had in his
debut season at the club, and he expects even more from El
Nino this campaign.
"We have a lot of confidence in Fernando," Benitez added.
"He has got 26 goals now, but we are looking for even more!
"He's got a great mentality and is trying to improve every
Inter groove in San Siro
Liverpool marched into the Champions
League quarter-finals after Fernando Torres' second-half
goal gave them a 1-0 win over 10-man Inter Milan.
The Reds ended Inter's hopes thanks to Fernando Torres' 26th
goal of the season to join the Gunners, Manchester United
and Chelsea in Friday's quarter-final draw.
Liverpool needed to defend magnificently in the first half
but when Nicolas Burdisso was sent off after 50 minutes the
visitors took control and got the goal they needed to make
the Italians' task of recovering from a 2-0 first-leg
deficit an impossible task.
But Rafael Benitez's side have been the better team in both
legs and received an ovation not only from their own fans
but the home supporters too.
Jamie Carragher played his 100th European match - a new
Liverpool record - at right-back to allow Sami Hyypia to
return in the centre alongside Martin Skrtel.
Lucas Leiva played in central midfield in place of Xabi
Alonso, who stayed on Merseyside to be with his pregnant
girlfriend who had gone into labour, with Javier Mascherano
also back after a groin problem and the pair turned in an
outstanding defensive display.
For a while the gratitude Inter fans feel towards Liverpool
shone through this vibrant, passionate occasion as a huge
banner was hung above the 5,000 visiting contingent saying
"Whatever happens, Istanbul 2005, thank you Liverpool", in
reference to that famous victory over hated rivals AC.
But once the banner was taken down the real battle began in
an electric atmosphere amid deafening noise.
Inter were desperate for an early breakthrough and it almost
came after eight minutes when Jose Reina made a fine save at
full-stretch from Julio Cruz's drive from just outside the
Crosses flew in, while a string of free-kicks were conceded
too close to the box making Liverpool's task even more
Javier Zanetti was a constant threat down the left while
Esteban Cambiasso followed Gerrard everywhere and still had
time to keep Inter's play moving relentlessly forward.
Liverpool had their moments, though. One outstanding ball
from deep by Fabio Aurelio sent Ryan Babel away behind
Inter's defence and keeper Julio Cesar needed to rush out of
his box to intervene.
Then a mistake by Cambiasso in his own box let in Torres,
who side-stepped one defender and forced Cesar into a
crucial block at his near post.
But Cruz should have scored after 30 minutes, racing on to
an Ibrahimovic pass only to fire an angled shot just wide of
the far post.
Maicon's error from a poor crossfield ball let in Kuyt but
his low drive bounced back to him off Nelson Rivas and
It was left to Reina to end the first half with another fine
save, diving backwards to hold a Cruz flick from Maicon's
Gerrard was booked for a foul on Cambiasso but after 50
minutes Inter were reduced to 10 men when Burdisso received
a second booking for a high tackle on Lucas.
Inter, who had Materazzi dismissed at Anfield, had to move
Cristian Chivu into a central defensive role and push
The tension was racked up and Aurelio was next into the book
as Inter urged referee Tom Ovrebo to produce cards for
seemingly every Liverpool tackle.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have scored after an Aurelio error
before Rivas was cautioned for body-checking Babel, who was
soon to be replaced by Yossi Benayoun.
Inter were being stretched and after 64 minutes Liverpool
scored the goal which effectively ended the contest.
Aurelio won possession on the left and surged forward,
feeding Torres on the edge of the box. The Spaniard turned
to fire a stunning shot inches inside Cesar's right-hand
post to send the Red hordes behind the goal wild.
Dejan Stankovic and then Benayoun found themselves in the
referee's book with former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira
taken off after 76 minutes and replaced by Pele, the
John Arne Riise and Jermaine Pennant took over from Kuyt and
Mascherano as Liverpool saw out time to claim the 12th
European Cup quarter-final place in their history.