Reds Blitz OM To Squeeze Through Into Knockout Round
UEFA Champions League
O. Marseille 0 - 4 LIVERPOOL
LIV - Gerrard (4), Torres (11), Kuyt (48), Babel (90);
"When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high".
And indeed, as the Liverpool anthem rung within the Stade Velodrome, the scouse never-say-die attitude was epitomised in an inspiring way as Liverpool cruise to a comfrotable 4-0 win.
The first three games in the group stages were potential banana skin and despite being favourites to go clear off the group, Liverpool slipped and only till last night did they book a place in the last 16.
Pressure was mounting on the players as well as on manager, Rafa Benitez, prior to the game as the very result of this game will surely affect the mood of the impending meeting with club director, Tom Hicks. Only fresh from their first defeat of their campaign at Reading, Liverpool knew much was at stake.
The hostile crowd in Marseille was all but ready to welcome Liverpool and extinguish that little glimmer of hope that is still with the visitors. But the Reds treated this game as if they were ready for a cup final, just as Rafa said in his pre-game interview.
Even Harry Kewell turned up!
Nevertheless, the tension and breathlessness were eased as early as the 4th minute, and the rest as said, were history. Liverpool dominated Marseille from start to end and gave them absolutely nothing to scrap for.
The Marseille defence were battered and bruised by the powerful run of Steven Gerrard and turned inside out by the wonderful Fernando Torres. This is the sort of performance that underlines the mental strength and quality of this team that Rafa had built over his 3 year reign.
Liverpool could've bottled it big time, cower under fear and probably lose it under intense pressure. But they were cool and composed, though nerves were only rested when Gerrard tucked in the rebound after missing the penalty.
The early goal gave Liverpool a much needed boost of confidence, a spring in their step. Looking a little intimidated right from the first whistle, conceding possession 3 seconds into the match, they then went on a romp and secure a place in where they really belong.
It was a typical 'European' performance from the Reds all in all. Professional, clincal and no-nonsense. It was like an exorcism for that spectre of the improbable lost to the same in at Anfield, same as they did to Besiktas. It was a test of mental strength and character.
Liverpool surely did pass it with flying colours.
The signing of Torres was a signal of intent that the Reds are ready to mount a serious challenge in whichever competition they're in and he, once again, showed why he's worth ever penny that Tom Hicks and George Gillett had invested in.
His pace, his guile, his body balance and that sudden burst of speed. He looked class above all the strikers that we had for years. Coming nearest would probably be Saint Michael Owen. Though still too early to compare him to Kenny Dalglish, 12 goals in 19 games speaks volume.
He was graceful yet powerful at the same time. To be honest, most of us would've run out of speculative for the Spanish striker if he keeps his red hot form for the rest of the season.
The industrious Dirk Kuyt then added a third with a deserved goal before super-sub, Ryan Babel, puts the icing on the cake. It was a goal of high calibre and one that should have had the public gushing over if only it was the winning goal rather than just one of the four.
Mascherano was prominent in every part of the field whenever a Blue and Orange was on the ball. Harry Kewell looked lively and we certainly missed some of his creativity and ball control down the left flank. Yossi Benayoun pulls defender all over the place while diligently helping out Alvaro Arbeloa in defence.
Ryan Babel too, had a field day and his pace and power was too much for the tired legs of Marseille.
Much strength of character was needed for this game and it was evident that this Liverpool team really isn't any sort of pushovers. We all love the underdogs and this time round, the Reds have yet again did a turnaround when things doesn't go their way.
How did they ended up in such a dire strait at first is a mystery but now we know what to expect from this lot. Man Utd up next and they know they need to deliver once again.