Gerrard masterclass as Reds advance in style

Anfield, Liverpool – 10/03/2009 – Round of 16
Liverpool
Liverpool
Torres 16 Gerrard 28 (P), 47 Dossena 88
4 - 0
Real Madrid
Real Madrid
Tactical masterclass

"Liverpool were excellent and deserved to go through. They were too good." Juande Ramos

2008/09

• Joseba Llorente scored the second fastest hat-trick (17 minutes) in UEFA Champions League history as Spain's Villarreal CF won 6-3 against Danish champions Aalborg BK on Matchday 3.

• FC Bayern München's 12-1 aggregate defeat of Sporting Clube de Portugal in the first knockout round marked the highest aggregate score across a two-legged tie in the competition.

Liverpool FC enhanced their European reputation under Rafael Benítez when they ended Real Madrid CF's UEFA Champions League ambitions with a 4-0 win on a memorable night at Anfield.

Benítez's cunning in UEFA competition had been on show a fortnight previously as the Reds stole a 1-0 win at their manager's old stamping ground of the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of their round of 16 tie. The return was something else.

"Why does Benítez play with two defensive midfielders? Because he doesn't have three." The joke doing the rounds during the Spaniard's tenure may have held some truth but, against the Merengues, there was only one thing on his team's mind. The Reds started like a train, Iker Casillas preventing Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano from giving them an early lead.

Liverpool were taking the bull by the horns and, for former Club Atlético de Madrid captain Torres, the Merengues' white might as well have been a red rag. He got his reward after 16 minutes, flicking on Jamie Carragher's hopeful punt, shrugging off Pepe and applying the finishing touch to Dirk Kuyt's return pass.

Though Steven Gerrard was denied by Casillas after more tormenting from Torres, the England midfielder soon had cause for celebration on his 100th European appearance for the club. Gabriel Heinze's handball gave him a straightforward opener from the spot, but his second, two minutes after half-time, required peerless technique.

Ryan Babel crossed from the left and Gerrard opened up his body to side-foot the ball as sweetly as he could have wished. Casillas was well beaten on that occasion and Madrid, Wesley Sneijder and Gonzalo Higuaín's attempts aside, were too.

Liverpool, though, were not done. Their frantic harrying paid off again with two minutes left. Kuyt won back the ball before Babel and Mascherano set up Andrea Dossena to add a touch of gloss to the scoreline. Liverpool's date with destiny in Rome, where they had held aloft the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1977 and 1984, was on. Chelsea, awaiting in the quarter-finals, had not read the script, however.

Star players

  • Torres

    A pivotal figure wherever he has been, major club honours have eluded Torres. He earned hero status at Club Atlético de Madrid having helped them secure Liga promotion and assumed the captaincy aged 19. Torres joined Liverpool FC in summer 2007 and scored 65 goals in 102 league games before moving to Chelsea FC for nearly €60m. He has enjoyed greater success with Spain as an integral part of the UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup-winning sides.

  • Gerrard

    The Liverpool FC captain is a one-club man for whom rescuing his side is all part of the day job. The catalyst for the Reds' remarkable UEFA Champions League triumph in 2005, and subsequently UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, the England stalwart also has two FA Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and a UEFA Cup to his name. The Premier League crown, though, continues to prove elusive.

  • Casillas

    Casillas has been a near ever-present in the Real Madrid CF goal since making his debut as an 18-year-old in September 1999. Twice a UEFA Champions League winner and four times a Liga titleholder, Casillas has also made the Spain No1 shirt his own since making his international bow in 2000. He captained the Roja to UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup glory, becoming the third Spanish player to reach 100 caps in the process.

What happened next?

• Rafael Benítez signed a five-year contract at Liverpool FC nine days after victory against Real Madrid CF. He left in June 2010, with successor Roy Hodgson lasting only six months before Kenny Dalglish's return.

• Liverpool came unstuck against Chelsea FC for the second successive UEFA Champions League campaign, losing 3-1 at Anfield in the first leg of their quarter-final tie before drawing 4-4 in west London.

• The Reds finished second in the Premier League, four points behind rivals Manchester United FC, who equalled Liverpool's record of 18 league titles with their third straight top-flight crown.

• Juande Ramos left Madrid after only six months at the helm following a run of five consecutive defeats which meant the Merengues finished nine points adrift of Liga champions FC Barcelona.

• Madrid – for the sixth successive season – were eliminated from the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League round of 16. Liverpool finished third in their group before reaching the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

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