The captain himself celebrates his goal and Reds'victory.
(Photo: Getty Images)
delighted as Reds
to the occasion
Liverpool used Tuesday night’s Champions
League match against Inter Milan to prove they are a better
team than their recent results have suggested, according to
striker Dirk Kuyt.
Having been dumped out of the FA Cup at home to Barnsley on
Saturday, success in Europe presents the only chance of
silverware for Rafael Benitez’s side this season.
The manager and the players have been criticised for
under-performing, dropping out of the Barclays Premier
League’s top four and falling 19 points behind leaders
Inter Milan presented one of the toughest tests in the
Champions League last 16 but were despatched 2-0 in the
first leg at Anfield after Marco Materazzi was sent off
after 30 minutes.
And Kuyt said that performance proved how good the team
“I think that is the magic of football. You lose four days
ago against Barnsley when everybody is expecting you to beat
them easily and you see a whole different team (against
Inter) with a lot of the same players,” said the Holland
“We haven’t played well the last few games but we know how
we have to play in the big games, especially the Champions
League games, and we used that.
“All the players worked really hard as a team and we had
confidence in ourselves because we know we have a lot of
quality in the team and we showed that.
“Everyone I have spoken to, especially the Dutch people at
big clubs in Europe like AC Milan and (Real) Madrid, know
how good Liverpool can be.
“We haven’t shown it the last couple of months but we still
want to be there and we have a game to go [in this tie].
“If we can go really far in the Champions League like last
year (when they were runners-up to AC Milan) it will be
great. We have the quality, we only have to show it on the
“We just want to keep looking forward and not too much in
Having gone two months without a goal, Kuyt has now scored
in successive matches, getting the first against Inter in
the 85th minute before Steven Gerrard added a late second.
“The most important thing is to keep patient and wait for
the one chance and I was really thankful I scored,” added
“I am really happy with that. It was a great moment. I had a
difficult period behind me, now I just want to look forward
Liverpool in different class
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
They say revenge is a dish best served
And after a wait of 43 years since the larceny perpetrated
upon them the last time they faced Inter, Liverpool can
surely wait a further three weeks to finally lay the ghosts
That they have a golden opportunity to do so was down to
another masterful display of tactical acumen from Rafael
Benitez – and a commanding performance from his first team.
How could a side which had lost so embarrassingly to a team
struggling in the Championship produce a performance of such
drive and verve against the unbeaten Serie A leaders?
Simple really. This wasn’t the side which lost to Barnsley.
Compelling evidence for the folly of over-rotating your
first team resources came even before Marco Materazzi’s
With Pepe Reina spreading calm assurance throughout his
penalty area, Javier Mascherano magnificently marshalling
the midfield and Fernando Torres causing consternation in
Serie A’s most miserly rearguard, Liverpool were always the
more ambitious, imaginative side.
And then there was Steven Gerrard.
Fabio Capello had already left his main stand seat to head
for his limousine when the Reds skipper speared a bobbling
drive of laser guided precision beyond Julio Cesar.
But the England coach is already aware of what Gerrard is
He is probably less acquainted with Jermaine Pennant’s
qualities, but he too played a decisive part in a monumental
result for the Reds.
Liverpool had chiselled out crossing opportunities all night
– and not taken full advantage of them. Kuyt, Gerrard and
most wastefully Steve Finnan all found themselves in
excellent positions, and all failed to find a telling pass.
But then Pennant replaced Ryan Babel and instantly started
to find red shirts with his crosses.
Reds fans probably wouldn’t have earmarked Dirk Kuyt as the
likeliest recipient of one of those crosses with only six
minutes remaining, but the much-maligned Dutchman took one
sure touch then drilled a fierce drive, with a decisive
deflection, beyond Julio Cesar.
If that was what Liverpool had dreamed of on Monday night,
what happened next was beyond their wildest dreams.
A 2-0 win against a team unbeaten in the league since March
2007, 11 points clear in Serie A and bristling with
international class and quality was an awesome result.
It was also another spectacular result for Liverpool’s fans.
Inter coach Roberto Mancini later complained that several of
his side’s key men simply hadn't turned up. What he perhaps
meant was that they had gone missing in another vibrant,
Amongst those fans were Ian Callaghan and Tommy Smith, and
it was with gloriously rich irony for those two that a match
official was pivotal to the proceedings.
Robbed by a corrupt Spanish referee in the semi-final of
1965, Belgian Frank de Bleeckere changed the dynamics of
last night’s last 16 knockout stage with an unexpected red
But Marco Materazzi’s harsh dismissal – his fourth here on
Merseyside after an unwanted hat-trick during a turbulent 12
months at Goodison a decade ago – should not detract from
Lynchpin Materazzi was booked after 11 minutes for nothing
more serious than allowing himself to be outpaced by
The harshness of that decision was exacerbated when
Materazzi tugged at Torres 18 minutes later and was sent
But even before that moment Liverpool had looked the
likelier side to break through.
And Mr de Bleeckere also proved spectacularly unsighted when
Gerrard tried to juggle the ball past the awful Patrick
Vieira, and straight into his outstretched arms.
Vieira’s first touch after arriving as a substitute was to
cannon the ball straight into Torres’ path, but this time
Cesar made a stunning save.
There was little he could so about the strikes which beat
Liverpool once again celebrated a famous European night.
The only worry for Reds fans is that they now face crucial
home games against West Ham and Newcastle in the build-up to
the San Siro return.
Liverpool’s first team have shown what they are capable of.
No more rotating Rafa . . . por favor!
Reds will need
By Tom Kell - Setanta Sports
Former Liverpool defender Alan Kennedy has
told Setanta Sports News that The Reds’ Champions League tie
with Inter is not done and dusted yet, despite the 2-0
first-leg win on Tuesday.
The victory alleviated a modicum of the mounting pressure
surrounding Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Anfield, but looked to
be out of their grasp until late goals from Dirk Kuyt and
Two-time European Cup winner Kennedy knows that with a trip
to the San Siro to come, Liverpool still have work to do if
they are to secure their path to the last eight.
“Even with a 2-0 lead and a good performance like that,
going to Milan will be very, very difficult,” he said on
Setanta Sports News.
“I think Liverpool will have to score to get through the
tie, it isn’t over yet.”
The win against the Serie A runaway leaders was
characteristic of Benitez’s time at Anfield, his side so
often making strides in Europe even when toiling in The
Kennedy, expressing the sentiments of many Liverpool
supporters, is crossing his fingers that the club can now
transfer their European form onto the domestic stage and
secure the fourth spot they need to ensure their place in
next season’s Champions League.
“We can turn it on in Europe but not in the league,” he
continued. “The players are up for it in Europe, they seem
to have a mentality.
“We’re fighting for fourth place at the moment. Now we have
got to look forward to Middlesbrough [on Saturday] and start
picking up points to ensure we don’t end up outside the top
by mob rule
By Chris Beesley - Liverpool Daily Post
It would be an overreaction to suggest the
writing was on the wall for Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez
going into this game but the graffiti daubed around Melwood
yesterday showed just how frustrated many of the club’s
supporters have become.
Esteemed coaches like the Spaniard should not be judged by
mob rule and such obscenities do not portray much
intelligence or tactical acumen but the message to the man
in the Anfield hot seat was a blunt and simple one – a plea
to play his best team.
Although gambling somewhat by preferring Brazilian rookie
Lucas to the experienced Xabi Alonso in midfield, Benitez,
as expected, brought back the big guns for this heavyweight
clash and was rewarded handsomely with a potentially
historic win after his patient side saw off 10-man
Internazionale with a two-goal salvo in the final five
Following the FA Cup humiliation to Barnsley on Saturday,
Benitez was given a chance to restore some pride at Anfield
by keeping beleaguered Liverpool’s season alive with a tie
in his security blanket competition.
As the Spaniard pointed out to his detractors after the
last-gasp defeat to Championship opposition at the weekend,
few managers have a European Cup success on their curriculum
vitae but it’s success in this season’s Champions League
final in Moscow that will ultimately help him to retain his
position, not his past glories in Istanbul.
Since arriving on these shores, Benitez has shown the kind
of consistency in club football’s elite tournament not
enjoyed by Liverpool sides for a generation.
It’s thanks to his remarkable achievement of leading his new
team to victory in his first season in 2005 that the former
Valencia coach enjoys such cult status among the majority of
the club’s support. But having achieved such a benchmark of
excellence so soon, Benitez has ensured that expectation
levels remain so high – as if they ever seriously dip at a
club that has collected so much silverware both at home and
But for many years now, Liverpool have relished these big
European nights which often bring the best out of their team
and supporters and with Benitez’s in-depth knowledge and
understanding of the continental game, the alliance in this
competition has so far been a fruitful one with two finals
reached in three seasons.
This time a year ago, Liverpool, in similar fashion to now,
were already well out of the Premier League title race so
nobody gave them a chance against the superstars of
Yet, on the back of a bizarre training camp spat, Benitez’s
side produced their performance of the season to stun the
In contrast, it has been a lack of consistency in the
domestic game that has raised serious question marks for the
first time over the Spaniard’s stewardship.
The Champions League trophy was lifted using a team
generally comprised of Gerard Houllier’s players – indeed
the Frenchman entered the jubilant Liverpool dressing room
after the final to congratulate the team in an awkward
fashion akin to that of an estranged father.
Now, almost three years on, with the squad supposedly
strengthened with his own signings, including a genuinely
world-class centre-forward in Fernando Torres, at home
Liverpool seemingly remain no closer to challenging for
their first title of the Premier League era.
In fairness, if you’re going to appoint an overseas manager
then he should expect to be given time to adjust to his new
league but in this respect Benitez is still playing catch up
to the likes of Jose Mourinho (first season) and Arsene
Wenger (second season) who fashioned table-topping sides at
Chelsea and Arsenal respectively.
Ironically, Liverpool’s opposition last night,
Internazionale, are a club who are currently dominating
their national league but still crave the European success
that tantalisingly eludes them.
After a similar lean patch to Liverpool’s – their last title
before success by default due to Juventus’ match-fixing
scandal in 2006 came in 1989 as opposed to Liverpool’s in
1990, Inter have re-emerged as Serie A’s dominant force over
the past couple of seasons.
Yet they have not conquered Europe since 1965 – when Helenio
Herrera’s side controversially eliminated Bill Shankly’s
Liverpool, playing in the competition for the first time, en
route to the final – and in the subsequent years they have
seen city rivals Milan add a further six successes to their
The architect of one of those victories, new England coach
Fabio Capello was in the stands at Anfield to view this
‘Anglo-Italian’ encounter but there were only two Englishmen
in Liverpool’s starting line-up and only Steven Gerrard is
available for his team following Jamie Carragher’s
While Capello bemoans the lack of English players in the
Premier League compared to the number of Spaniards in La
Liga where he coached Real Madrid this season, Inter, the
outstanding club side in his native country who are current
world champions, fielded just a single Italian – Marco
Materazzi – in their XI and he only lasted half an hour
before bowing out in similar fashion to his last appearance
on Merseyside with a red card.
Following several weeks of disappointment domestically,
Liverpool knew that victory last night was imperative to
keep their season alive but following this latest European
conquest who’s to say that Benitez’s won’t be leading his
troops into Moscow come May for another crack at the big
Rafa's critics must hold fire
By Tom Adams - Setanta Sports
Liverpool produced the result that Rafa
Benitez required against Inter on Tuesday night, but little
can be gleaned regarding his long-term future from a game
that proved hard to analyse.
Just as a defeat to Inter would not have spelt the end of
Rafa’s reign as some in the national press were suggesting,
a victory in these circumstances will not fully dispel the
doubts surrounding the Spaniard who has failed so badly on
the domestic front this season.
Whilst beating a side that have lost just once in their
previous 62 Serie A games is clearly a great feat for the
Spaniard, Liverpool were handed the game on a plate after
just 30 minutes when Marco Materazzi was dismissed in
The Italy international is not adverse to the odd dismissal
– he received three in his only season with Everton and was
memorably left crying by the advertising hoardings after the
red that came in his final game against Coventry – and
referee Frank de Bleeckere must have had his previous charge
sheet in mind when making a decision that was extremely
harsh on the Inter defender.
Two bookings in the first half hour for fouls on Fernando
Torres, the first doubtful at best given the ease at which
the Spaniard went to ground, handed Liverpool the initiative
but for all of 85 minutes they dominated possession whilst
rarely threatening Julio Cesar in the Inter goal.
One smart effort from Fernando Torres drew a good save from
the Brazilian but a resolute performance from the Inter
backline meant he was largely comfortable until the
much-maligned Dirk Kuyt and captain Steven Gerrard struck
late on to give Liverpool a huge advantage that must not be
squandered in Milan.
If it is, then the knives will be out again for a manager
who benefitted from a slice of luck to subdue Inter as they
withdrew into their shell after Materazzi’s dismissal and
offered just three shots, none of which were on target.
After a build-up that had some on Merseyside dragging up the
ghost of a controversial meeting between the two sides back
in 1965, the red card put any suggestions of favouritism to
rest, even if the referee did mystifyingly decide against
giving a penalty when Patrick Vieira handled in the box.
It gave Benitez’s side no margin for error and no excuses,
and thankfully for the former Valencia boss a late rally
gave him some much needed breathing space.
For now the Rafa bandwagon rolls on and who would bet
against another appearance in the final given that Lady Luck
is clearly on their side?
However, the critics will still be circling and it will take
more than a fortuitous win over Inter, excellent as the
final result was, to convince me that Benitez is still the
right man to take Liverpool forward and make them a real
force in the domestic game.
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez admitted his
side's 2-0 Champions League win over 10-man Inter Milan was
crucial after another turbulent week for him.
The Spaniard has come under intense pressure this season and
none more so than this week following Liverpool's FA Cup
exit to Barnsley at the weekend.
And he said: "I think everyone knew we needed this. It was
really important for the club and fans that we won.
"I have always had confidence in this team and we will win a
lot of games."
Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard got the goals in the last five
minutes what had at one point looked like being a
frustrating match to ensure Liverpool are well placed to
make the quarter-finals of the competition.
That came after Marco Materazzi had seen red on the half
hour and Benitez said: "We needed to be patient.
"Against a good team like Inter, who are a very well
organised outfit, you have to be patient and wait for the
chances to come, because they will.
"It will be difficult for them to come back now, but they
have a lot of good players and while we are confident, we
will not be complacent."
It was a particularly pleasing night for Kuyt, who has also
come under criticism after a lean season in front of goal,
but Benitez played down suggestions he and the team wanted
to hit back at the critics at Anfield.
"The determination to prove people wrong was no different to
any other game," he said.
"We've not had much luck of late and the confidence is low
but we must keep keeping working and that's what we did.
"I'm also pleased for Kuyt. I have a lot of confidence in
him because his commitment is always 100% and every team
needs a player like that."
Mancini rues Materazzi red
By Tom Adams - Setanta Sports
Roberto Mancini remains convinced that
Inter can overturn their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the
second leg in Italy, despite a game at Anfield that the
coach believes should have had a completely different
Mancini felt that the first-half dismissal of Marco
Materazzi, which came after two fouls on Fernando Torres,
transformed the tie and that Inter ‘paid dearly’ as a
His team are not unbeaten in Serie A for nothing this season
though, and Mancini is remaining hopeful ahead of the return
leg in three weeks’ time.
"They put us under pressure from the start and didn't let us
play much,” Mancini told the club’s official website. “They
closed down every space and pressed us very hard.
"It's normal to meet a few difficulties when you're playing
away from home against a great opponent in a stadium like
this. Unfortunately we paid dearly for Materazzi's
“Everything was much harder with 10 men. With 11 against 11
it would have been a completely different match.
"Everything went well up to the 85th minute, and we held up
without conceding too much. We should have been a bit more
"We'll have to score three goals in the return leg and it
won't be easy, but I'm convinced that it's possible.”
Inter suffered a further blow when seeing Ivan Cordoba
stretchered off after 76 minutes and Mancini fears for the
"Unfortunately it looks serious,” Mancini added. “Ivan told
me his knee turned. It's difficult to assess the entity of
the damage right now."
puts Reds in firm control
By Tom Adams - Setanta Sports
Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard rode to Rafa
Benitez’s rescue at Anfield as two goals in the last five
minutes gave The Reds a 2-0 win over 10-man Inter and one
foot in the Champions League quarter finals.
Despite all the pre-match focus on Benitez and his future,
referee Frank de Bleeckere initially became the central
figure at Anfield before Kuyt and Gerrard’s late
interventions as he made two puzzling decisions that could
have exercised a huge influence on the course of the game.
After harshly dismissing Inter defender Marco Materazzi
after just 30 minutes, De Bleeckere then missed a blatant
handball by Patrick Vieira after half time which should have
given The Reds the penalty that could have eased so much of
the pressure on their under-fire manager.
With 85 minutes on the clock it seemed as though Liverpool’s
chance to secure a first leg advantage was slipping through
their fingers, but Kuyt and Gerrard summoned on their
reserves to give Benitez a shot in the arm and Liverpool
real hope of another European adventure.
Inter set up with a sadly-predictable defensive approach – a
midfield of Maxwell, Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and
Dejan Stankovic crying out for creativity – and sprung no
surprises in looking comfortable in soaking up pressure and
playing on the counter-attack.
Whilst Liverpool started brightly, with Sami Hyypia having a
header tipped over the bar by Julio Cesar from a Steven
Gerrard corner, Ryan Babel looked like the only player on
the pitch actively willing to make something happen in what
rapidly became a tepid first half hour.
All that changed though when Materazzi was shown his
marching orders in a desperately harsh decision. After being
unfortunately booked for a trip on Fernando Torres after 12
minutes, a tug on the same player 18 minutes later
precipitated his removal as referee De Bleeckere ruthlessly
brandished the red card.
With Materazzi gone there were no excuses for Benitez or his
men, but despite their tempo intensifying, a dearth of
quality in the final third prevented a breakthrough before
the break with the disappointing Dirk Kuyt particularly
When Gerrard did burst emphatically into the box after
collecting a through-ball from Babel and fire in a wicked
low cross, neither Kuyt or Torres were able to tap the ball
home and Inter breathed a huge sigh of relief when clearing
A vocal Anfield sought to urge their heroes on after the
break but Liverpool appeared to be lacking urgency despite
their numerical advantage, even if a wonderful ball from the
excellent Javier Mascherano allowed Steve Finnan to fire in
a cross that Cristian Chivu did well to clear.
Nerazzurri manager Mancini sought to tighten things in
midfield on 55 minutes when readying former Arsenal hero
Patrick Vieira on the sidelines, and it was Julio Cruz who
was withdrawn after attempting a hopeful long-range effort.
Continuing to dominate possession, Liverpool then began to
find a cutting edge and a fortunate deflection off Kuyt
allowed Torres to race clear on goal and fire in an angled
effort that Julio Cesar did superbly to tip just round the
post in the best chance of the game up until that point.
The excellent opening seemed to invigorate The Reds, who saw
Hyypia head narrowly over from a drawn-out corner routine
and Torres fire just wide on the turn, but referee De
Bleeckere curbed their enthusiasm when making another
Gerrard looked to lift the ball over Vieira’s head in the
box on 60 minutes, but when the France international knocked
the ball out of play with his raised arm, the official
merely signalled a corner despite the vehement protestations
of those in red.
Looking to capitalise on the growing pressure on Inter,
Benitez threw on Peter Crouch for Lucas Leiva and brought on
Jermaine Pennant for the fading Babel, and the tall striker
was gifted a chance on 74 minutes when Cordoba headed
straight into his path in the box. Crouch, though, pinged
his volley well wide of the post.
Having successfully unsettled the Inter defence with his
arrival, Crouch was unable to add finesse though and when
presented with the ball in the box again, saw a drilled
effort blocked by the Brazilian Maxwell.
Despite failing to impress for much of the game, Kuyt then
struck a crucial goal for his manager on 85 minutes for his
third in six Champions League games this season.
Inter failed to clear from a Pennant cross and when Kuyt
collected the ball at the back post, his shot appeared to
take a deflection off Maicon that wrong-footed Cesar and
allowed the ball to evade the clutches of the Inter keeper.
Five minutes later, Pennant was again involved as he cut
back for his captain and Gerrard drove a low effort past two
Inter defenders and across the front of Cesar to see the
ball nestle in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead that
looked distinctly unlikely for much of the game.
As ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ serenaded Liverpool’s players
once more, the referee brought a conclusion to one of the
most satisfying results of Benitez’s time on Merseyside.