What Liverpool FC have missed is
a fully fit Gerrard and Torres
Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Liverpool's trials and tribulations
throughout this seismic season have been put down to a
Sure, Xabi Alonso has been missed.
But in reality the biggest misses have been a fully fit and
functioning Gerrard and Torres.
The driving force behind last season’s title push have both
been sorely missed at times this season.
But now the Reds have got their G and T tonic back.
And it was Lille who suffered the hangover.
Gerrard marked his 300th appearance as Liverpool skipper
with a goal of captain’s responsibility, slotting the
seventh minute penalty kick that settled Anfield’s nerves.
Then Torres went through his full striking repertoire.
Pacy, sinewy runs, dramatic changes of direction, shots,
headers and intelligent running.
And that was before he scored the decisive second goal.
It was a performance predicted by his skipper.
In his programme notes Gerrard wrote: “Another reason for
being optimistic is Fernando Torres. Understandably he’s
needed time to regain his match sharpness and judging by
Monday’s evidence he’s doing that. He scored two, was
involved in two more and hit the post. When he’s 100 per
cent he’s unstoppable, and he’s very close to that now.”
Lille certainly couldn’t stop him, although they invited the
deft finish from the Spaniard with some daft defending in
But there was no doubting Liverpool deserved their victory –
despite an unnecessarily nervy final 15 minutes.
They started with a brisk tempo, passed the ball well and
crucially got numbers in and around the Lille penalty area.
And at the heart of the attacking impetus was one Lucas
The world’s greatest footballer would not have approved.
Diego Armando Maradona turned up to watch a couple of
Argentinians in action, causing quite a stir in the Anfield
directors’ box. Instead a Brazilian stole the first half
Fans had to look twice to make sure that it was really Lucas
who jinked and checked past two Lille defenders before being
tripped for the early penalty kick.
Then the much maligned midfielder went on another mazy
dribble capped by a shot to prove he doesn’t have a
restraining order on leaving his own half of a football
His performance showed that the presence of Lucas and
Mascherano on the same teamsheet doesn’t have to mean a
Of course their defensive qualities will be required the day
But it’s worth pointing out that Liverpool walloped
Manchester United at Old Trafford this time last year,
without the metronomic presence of Xabi Alonso.
It was the G and T who put the fizz into the performance
that day, too.
Rather neatly it was Gerrard and Torres who finally settled
last night’s tie.
Gerrard did the approach work with a superb shimmy and shot
which Lille’s exposed keeper could only parry, and Torres
pounced to clip in his sweet 16th strike of the season.
Rafael Benitez even indulged his top scorer a little,
bringing on David Ngog in time added on to allow the
Spaniard a standing ovation.
Maradona joined in that ovation as the week got better and
better for Liverpool.
Genius recognises genius . . . and Liverpool are all the
better for having their’s back.
Torres after double
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez praised
the "fantastic job" of Fernando Torres after the striker
scored twice in the 3-0 victory over Lille.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg of their Europa League last
16 tie, captain Steven Gerrard's ninth-minute penalty drew
the Reds level on aggregate and then Fernando Torres' 16th
and 17th goals of the season - and his first in Europe since
last April - put his side into the last eight.
Benitez said his star striker was not yet 100% fit but after
four goals in his last two matches - he scored twice in
Monday's 4-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Portsmouth
- he is approaching it.
"Torres was working very hard and I am really pleased
because he did a fantastic job," said the Spaniard.
"Match fitness is something you can only get by playing
games. I'd like to say he's 50% [fit] but he is close, it is
a question of playing games.
"But I still believe he can improve. You can see there is a
big difference when he plays well and it is the same with
"It helps the rest of the team to play better."
Benitez was happy with the display after they restricted a
potentially dangerous Lille side to very few chances.
"It was a really good performance. We could see the players
working really hard together and it was a good night," he
"It was difficult because Lille are a good team, but it was
a fantastic atmosphere tonight and everybody is happy now.
"The early goal was important because we knew we had to push
forward from the beginning - and that goal gave us more time
"At 2-0 they were still dangerous so we needed the third
goal just in case and, when it went in, it was a bit of
Benitez woke this morning to stories about winger Albert
Riera criticising his management technique and saying
Liverpool were a sinking ship.
The Reds boss' response was to suspend the Spain
international until Monday, when he will report back to the
club's Melwood training ground to discover if he will be
punished further but a fine is the very least he can expect.
"The timing was not the best for the team and we will deal
with this internally," was all Benitez would say on the
Liverpool to victory
Liverpool kept alive their hopes of
silverware this season with a 3-0 victory over Lille at
Anfield to win their Europa League last-16 tie 3-1 on
Captain Steven Gerrard’s ninth-minute penalty gave them the
ideal start, after Lucas Leiva had been fouled.
Fernando Torres then struck twice in the second half – his
first European goals for more than 11 months – to put his
side into the quarter-finals.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg an early Liverpool goal was
essential to ease the pressure and, watched by Argentina
coach Diego Maradona, they produced just that.
The much-maligned Lucas, returning to the side because of
Alberto Aquilani’s illness, dribbled into the area and
produced a tidy piece of skill to go past Adil Rami and draw
Referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot and Gerrard
confidently fired home to level things up on aggregate.
Torres had two half-chances to double the lead in the next
five minutes as first he cut in from the right at pace only
to see his near-post shot deflected wide before then lofting
a shot over from Javier Mascherano’s free-kick.
Despite going behind Lille still looked like they could be a
danger on the counter-attack with Eden Hazard, goalscorer a
week ago, and Ludovic Obraniak posing a threat from the
But right-back Glen Johnson was getting forward at every
opportunity and when he found himself in the penalty area he
hit a left-foot volley straight at goalkeeper Mickael
Daniel Agger’s glancing header from Gerrard’s inswinging
31st-minute corner was eventually stopped by Landreau on the
goalline after the ball got stuck between Dirk Kuyt and
Lucas, having his best spell for some time, then shot
straight at the goalkeeper from 20 yards.
A minute later Hazard burst past Agger and Johnson into the
area and had only Jose Reina to beat but the goalkeeper
stood tall and the shot deflected behind off his head.
Five minutes before half-time Torres headed Kuyt’s hanging
cross back across goal but wide of the post.
Lille came out after the break with more purpose and Jamie
Carragher produced a perfectly-timed tackle to deny Rio
Mavuba three minutes into the second half.
But a minute later Liverpool seized control of the tie with
an expert piece of finishing from Torres.
Ryan Babel hooked a ball out of defence with his right foot
which looked more like a clearance than a pass but Rami, who
had been given a torrid time by Torres, misjudged the bounce
of the ball and it ballooned over him.
The Spain striker did not need a second invitation and he
sped towards goal before dinking a shot past Landreau with
the outside of his right foot.
It was the first time he had scored in European competition
since his goal at Anfield in the 3-1 Champions League
quarter-final defeat to Chelsea on April 8.
Torres then drilled a shot just wide of the goalkeeper’s
Liverpool’s advantage was only a slender one and that
fragility was almost exposed in the 73rd minute when
Obraniak’s free-kick picked out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at
the far post only for the substitute to bundle his shot into
the ground and over the crossbar.
As the tie entered its final throes the anxiety began to
grow as Liverpool were unsure whether to try to hold their
lead or finish Lille off with a third goal.
It almost came when Kuyt’s long-range strike was batted
behind by Landreau.
But all the pressure was released when Torres followed up a
rebound from Gerrard’s shot to score his second a minute
before time and his fourth in his last two .
It secured a second victory in an important week, with
Manchester United to come at Old Trafford on Sunday.