Liverpool wins 5-0 on aggregate
Arbeloa Skrtel Carragher Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
Gerrard 28’ (pen) 47’
So much for sitting back and protecting a lead, huh? The way Liverpool began, you’d have thought they were a goal behind. And so much for the injury worries – both Torres and Arbeloa started, and the striker looked up for it from the opening whistle.
If it wasn’t for Iker Casillas, Torres would have scored within four minutes and Liverpool probably would have won by four more. Liverpool were that good, and yes, Real Madrid didn’t do themselves any favors. But it can’t be coincidence that all these teams suddenly lose their form when they meet Liverpool in the Champions League.
In the 4th minute, Torres wonderfully turned Cannavaro, only to see Casillas do well to stick out a leg. From the resulting corner, Casillas barely blocked a superb left-footed volley from Mascherano that he had to have seen late.
And it was Torres who opened in the scoring in the 16th, after Liverpool kept up that pressure. Cannavaro failed to clear a bouncing ball, and Torres held off Pepe, chesting it to Kuyt and getting into position to slam home the return ball. Yes, there was a bit of fortune, as Torres seemed to pull back Pepe, but the defender went down far too easily.
Real had far more to be aggrieved about with the second, but not before Casillas twice more kept Real in the game, saving Skrtel’s header and Gerrard’s stretching redirect. However, in the 27th, Heinze was adjusted to handle, even though it bounced more off his shoulder, and Gerrard sent Casillas the wrong way. Liverpool fans remember three goals in six crazy minutes, but Real never looked like getting back in the game after the second. Not that the visitors looked like getting anything out of it before that either.
After the early flurry, and more comfortable with a three-goal lead, Liverpool allowed Real more space, but other than a stunning Sneidjer free kick that Reina was equal to, I can’t think of any real threats, with Skrtel and Carragher dominant.
And just like in the first half, Liverpool never gave Real an opening after the restart, and crushed spirits with a goal in the 47th – Aurelio found Babel on the left, who beat his man and put a cross in the perfect area for Gerrard to run onto and sidefoot on the half-volley. Seven minutes after that, Casillas again came to the rescue as Kuyt touched the ball to Gerrard in space at the top of the box, but the keeper made the save.
From there, Liverpool played more cagily, with this match done and dusted, and United on the horizon. But the defense and keeper made sure Real rarely got a sniff, even though they had nearly all of the possession. And every now and then, Liverpool threatened on the break through Torres, Babel, or Kuyt, but Casillas would be there, with the best in the 81st when he saved from Torres on the left.
Lucas came on for Alonso in the 60th, and Spearing (to a loud roar) for Gerrard in the 73rd, and Real finally had the ball in the net in the 83rd, only for Higuain to be rightfully ruled offside. Immediately after, Dossena came on for Torres, and five minutes later the Italian had his first goal for the club. Liverpool finally broke down a stretched Real on the break, with Babel (who was playing through the center) holding up the ball and setting up Mascherano, who centered for Dossena. Lucas nearly added a 5th in the second minute of injury time – only to see a deflection take it just over the bar – but that would have been greedy.
What more can you say after a performance like that? That's the sort of attacking we'd been clamoring for, and so desperately want to see in the league. Yes, Real looked a shadow of themselves, but this isn’t the first time Liverpool’s done that in Europe. The team was truly magnificent; I’m not exaggerating when I say they could have had six in the first half, nor when I say that was the most comprehensive win there’s been this season.
It’s truly difficult to pick a man of the match when the team's this impressive, but I’ve got to go with Torres. Finally given the chance to put the boot to Real, he was masterful in a game where we wondered if he’d start. But, unsurprisingly, I’ve no complaints with any player’s performance.
When the team plays like this, they can truly beat anyone. And it’s a good time to see Liverpool hit this sort of form with a trip to Old Trafford in four days.