Europa League: Liverpool FC 4-1 Benfica
09/04/2010 § 2 Comments
And to think, I was a wee bit downcast to see the name ‘Lucas’ on the team sheet.
Armed with an away goal, Rafael Benitez was undoubtedly thinking somewhere on the lines ‘if we score the one goal, we’re through’. And surely with Torres up front it wasn’t much to ask for?
But Benfica started so well that for the first 10 minutes or so, Rafa must’ve been having kittens with his decision threatening to backfire. Benfica had the possession, the tackles, the attacks and a couple of shots as well. Pablo Aimar was at his wily best, the most craftiest Benfica player on the night while David Luiz was getting into some disconcerting enough positions. Agger occupying the left back spot in the absence of Emiliano Insua looked like a babe in the woods early on. Even Torres missed a couple of chances early on.
But that opening goal which Rafa had his keen, bespectacled eye on was not too far away. Liverpool won a corner and Steven Gerrard’s expert delivery meant that it was a simple job of out-muscling the Benfica goalkeeper Julio Cesar for the erstwhile awful Dirk Kuyt by heading the ball into the net. 1-0.
Keeping in mind Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League, perhaps our Reds thought there was a pressing need to score another just to keep the slender away goal advantage safe. So the captain marshaled the troops forward. And it was his through-ball that sent a blond man through, clear of all defenders in his path. A little side step on the poor, unassisted Julio Cesar and the ball was put in expertly with a graceful enough finish. And despite the a little shakiness in the early exchanges, Liverpool were, quite surprisingly 2-0 up.
But not so surprisingly as was the name of the goalscorer. To think, this expert finish did NOT come from Torres, NOT from Kuyt and since Gerrard was the one putting in the through-ball, presumably not from him either. Step up Lucas Leiva.
It’s hard to say which of the parties involved in the game was more surprised at the remarkable intelligence and calmness shown by one who has been regarded as one of the dumbest, and truly one of the crappiest players to hover around Anfield. Benfica were stunned. Their fans were stunned. The Liverpool fans were stunned. The self-confessed Lucas hating bandwagon came to a screeching halt. The wheels were off the damn thing. Well at least for that night. Liverpool’s worst player had suddenly scored a goal.
And what followed was a bloody riot. 2 goals ahead means that Liverpool had the cushion to play freely for the first time since that lovely evening at Anfield against Sunderland.
It was an end to end game really, full credit to Benfica for putting on a great show despite, well, being crappy in some departments. Clearly, I’m not too big on the Portuguese league and I really didn’t see what’s the big deal about that Oscar Cardozo guy is. He was terrible all through the game. A good free kick-taker, I’ll give him that But otherwise really lost against our defense. And Ramires was pretty much on the fringes and his only contribution to the game was theatrically tripping just at the edge of the box and handing Cardozo a free kcik from close range.
And in the end it was only a simple matter of wrapping the thing up. Torres mopped Benfica up with two well taken goals in the end.
Reina: 6. Not much to do for him. Not much he could’ve done about the goal either.
Johnson: 5. Clearly a weak link. With every match I’m more and more convinced that he’s not really too strong in the head. Angel Di Maria wasted no time in exploiting his rather slow thinking.
Carragher: 8. Did a stellar job in containing Aimar who looked like he was just one Carragher away from making a decisive pass. Solid performance.
Kygriakos: 6.5. Again, not the most intelligent fellow around and his only reaction too being in possession and threatened by Benfica was to promptly boink the ball behind the goal for a corner. Perhaps a more craftier player than Ramires or Cardozo could have given him a good test.
Agger: 7. Out of position and clearly a little wary of going forward. But mopped up defensively well.
Mascherano: 7. Understated performance. Tackled well and passed well too.
Lucas: 8. One point more than Mascherano for a well taken goal.
Benayoun: 8. Another player who really troubled the Benfica defense quite a bit and looked terrific going forward. Deserved a goal perhaps, but neither of us are complaining.
Gerrard: 8. Two assists. And a good hard running performance. Coming into his own. But not quite there yet.
Kuyt: 6.5. The goal and the assist masked an otherwise less than average performance.
Torres: 9. Went down a bit too easily and unconvincingly at times which was irritating. But two goals and for the fourth consecutive time at Anfield meant it was another 9/10 performance.