Thursday’s Back Pages

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Liverpool kept their Champions League hopes alive last night with a 4-1 victory at home to FC Porto. Here’s how this morning’s newspapers are reacting’¦

The Telegraph is full of praise for Rafa Benitez’s side in the way they conducted themselves amongst the tension and speculation around the club in the last few days. It was job done, and a job done well, as Henry Winter writes:

On the night that Liverpool fans showed their passion for Rafael Benitez, Liverpool’s players displayed their passion for the Champions League. In their 150th game in the European Cup, Liverpool turned on the heat late in the game to win comfortably and now need ‘only’ a victory in Marseille to guarantee qualification for the knockout stages.

After the outstanding Fernando Torres and Lisandro Lopez had traded first-half goals, Liverpool really took control in the final 12 minutes. Torres, Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch all struck as a delighted Kop alternated chants for the players with odes to Benitez, who has been in dispute with the club’s American owners.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail claims that Benitez only did just enough last night to keep his job at the club. With the late flourish of goals sealing Porto’s fate, Matt Lawton writes on how Benitez must have been sweating as the game went on.

There must have been times last night when Rafa Benitez wanted someone to hold his hand. When he would have allowed anyone to give him a squeeze if they could then tell him everything was going to be okay.

His American employers, those influential chaps who can put a president in the White House and could just as easily remove a manager from office at Anfield, were not even here to see the Spaniard sweat.

Liverpool remain in the competition, with a win in the final group game in Marseille still enough to see them through to the last 16. Still enough, for the moment anyway, to keep Benitez in his job.

And Kevin McCarra discusses the ‘œugly’ victory in this morning’s Guardian.

It has the air of a handsome victory, yet there were clumsy and even ugly moments. Fernando Torres had struck twice to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead but the match had been tied when there were a mere 12 minutes left. Despite any criticisms the victors have achieved their aim. They will be overjoyed principally that Besiktas beat Marseille in the other Group A match.

Liverpool go to France level on points. A win is essential since a draw would leave the teams tied on eight points and Marseille enjoy a better head-to-head record thanks to a win at Anfield. There will, though, be other matters on Liverpool’s mind. This was an uneven display.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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