After The Match 


Liverpool-Lille 3-0 (1-0)              18.3.10                            EL
Goals: Gerrard (9 pen), Torres (49,90)
Team: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Agger, Johnson, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Babel, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Babel 80), Kyrgiakos(Agger 90),
Ngog (Torres 90)
Not used: Cavalieri, Degen, El Zhar, Kelly
Yellow: Insua (42), Torres (73)           Cabaye (81)
Red: None
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
Attendance: 38,139
Shots on target: 9-2
Shots off target: 9-5
Blocked shots: 2-0
Fouls conceded: 13-11
Corners: 5-6
Offsides: 4-6
Possession: 49.1-50.9
Yellow: 2-1

HEADLINES "We could see the players working really hard together and it was
a good night."

Rafael Benitez
1903: What Liverpool FC have missed is
          a fully fit Gerrard and Torres

1903: Benitez hails Torres after double
1803: Deadly duo drive Liverpool to victory 


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 missing

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 the build-up.

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 Leiva.

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 show.

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 pitch.

His performance showed that the presence of Lucas and Mascherano on the same teamsheet doesn’t have to mean a defensive shield.

Of course their defensive qualities will be required the day after tomorrow.

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.

Benitez hails 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 Gerrard too.

"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 added.

"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 and confidence.

"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 relief."

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 matter."

Deadly duo drive
Liverpool to victory

Evening Echo

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 aggregate.

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 the foul.

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 flanks.

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 Landreau.

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 Franck Beria.

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 right-hand post.

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.

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Thor Zakariassen ©