Arrivederci Inter: The Morning After

Liverpool became the second English team to win at the fortress of the San Siro in less than a week last night, defeating Inter Milan 1-0 on the night and knocking the Serie A leaders out of the Champions League comfortably 3-0 on aggregate. The Reds must wait until Friday lunchtime to hear of the fate they await in the quarter-finals of the competition, with fellow English sides Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United also remaining in the final eight.

It was a moment of genius midway through the second half from Liverpool’s top scorer Fernando Torres that separated the two teams in Milan on Tuesday. The Spaniard swivelled on the edge of the Inter penalty area to set himself up for a perfect, low, well placed shot past the helpless Julio Cesar in the Inter goal. Torres has now scored 26 goals this campaign since his big money summer move from Athletico Madrid.

This was not your typical BenÍtez tactical masterclass in Europe; it was too frenzied, too open, for that. But, with a 2-0 lead from the first leg, BenÍtez had decided not to play into Inter’s hands by sitting back and trying to soak up pressure. He picked a team equipped to counter-attack, which they did to such devastating effect in the 64th minute, when Fernando Torres ‘“ a forward whom Sir Alex Ferguson, after much consideration, deciding against battling Liverpool for last summer ‘“ scored yet another truly wonderful goal to add to his collection.

Oliver Kay, The Telegraph

Is Rafael Benitez leading Liverpool to their third European Cup Final in his four year reign at the club? The recent upsurge in form, style, confidence and play would point to all the positives. There’s something about the Reds in Europe, under Benitez. A sort of invincible mentality that makes it hard to see where this run will end. Oliver Kay continues:

Benitez has sailed remarkably close to the wind, entering a dangerous political game that almost cost him his job in November and may yet in the long term, but it is on nights such as this, faced with a tactical conundrum against high-class European opponents, that he has built his reputation, not only among Liverpool supporters but throughout Europe. He might struggle on the domestic front, but more than a few clubs ‘“ even Inter, on course for a third successive league title in Serie A but without a European Cup since 1965 ‘“ would settle for that in exchange for the kind of Champions League success BenÍtez has enjoyed.

Benitez was pleased with his side’s performances in the tie against the Italians, and impressed that they held off immense pressure to go on and win at the San Siro.

He said, “We were controlling the game at times but had some problems and they had two or three chances. But we had one or two on the counter attack too,” he said.

“We knew the first game would be important. Today the idea was to compete, counter attack and we knew we couldn’t make mistakes. So I am really pleased with the performance of the side in both games.”

Steven Gerrard was equally upbeat as Liverpool sailed through the last eight of Europe’s elite. “In the league we are a bit inconsistent but we’re a real force in Europe and no-one will want to face us,” he said.

“We deserve to go through because we have come to a top side and beaten them. We knew they would want to get control of the game and it was up to all of us to help out. We’ve done that and then with Fernando we’ve got someone who only needs one chance to score.

“We were always confident we could nick the goal and that’s what happened.”