Out of nowhere and off the back of a dismal performance against Middlesbrough, and a standard victory over Sunderland, Liverpool produced their best performance of the season last night, demolishing Spanish giants Real Madrid 4-0 (5-0 on aggregate).
The performance was quality from the word go and Liverpool looked untouchable as a shell-shocked Real Madrid found themselves two goals down within half an hour. ‘˜Steven Gerrard the red destroyer leads rout of mighty Real Madrid’ says The Times, ‘˜Benitez buries his critics under an avalanche of goals’ says The Guardian, ‘˜Torres lights up Anfield with his sheer brilliance’ says The Independent, ‘˜Rafa Benitez gets his respect’ says The Telegraph, ‘˜Madrid are pulverised by Gerrard and Torres’ says the Daily Mail, and ‘˜Reeling Madrid’ shouts the Daily Express.
This morning’s back pages are littered with praise for the Reds’ performance last night. It was, simply, a stroke of genius as they strolled in the quarter-finals of the competition and made Real Madrid, riding high in La Liga, look like boys.
Richard Williams of The Guardian compares the heroics of last night’s epic encounter to greats of the past.
“It would be an insult to observe that Liverpool’s first-half display of attacking skills was worthy of Real Madrid at their historic best, although it would be intended only as a compliment. In fact Liverpool were living up to the best of their own history, with the speed of the 21st century player and the subtle touches of the imports from continental Europe added to a directness evoking the days of St John and Callaghan, of Keegan and McDermott, of Dalglish and Whelan.”
The crowd played it’s part too, and exactly the right moment. Gone were the boos of recent games, and Anfield was lit up for a very special European night well before kick-off. It was great to see the fans getting behind every player and the manager last night. Look, see what happens when we start supporting instead of criticising?
And the introduction of Jay Spearing for his competitive Anfield debut, coming on towards the end of the second half for Steven Gerrard was a brilliant substitution. What a big moment for the youngster to enter the scene properly. And he was involved in the action well too, really not looking out of place whilst up against the likes of Gago, Guti, Sergio Ramos and co.
James Lawton of The Independent was thoroughly impressed and sang the praises of the genius of Fernando Torres, who looked as if he could go forever last night despite only just returning from injury.
“Torres, of course, was the superstar who played for Madrid’s wrong team. Here last night he looked perfectly at home in his environment. He was the centrepiece of a force which, who knows, might once again find a way of conquering Europe.”
Similarly, The Mirror’s Oliver Holt was captivated by Torres’ performance.
“Torres was so good it was breathtaking. So good that in the first half, his power, his pace and his skill left Madrid helpless.”
And the tough games don’t stop there. Next up, it’s the visit to Old Trafford and arguably a title showdown with Manchester United. But if Liverpool can produce a performance like last night on Saturday, United will be rattled. Writes James Ducker of The Times:
“It was the perfect fillip before the crucial visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. Trailing Manchester United, the leaders, by seven points and having played a game more, Liverpool must win if they are to have any realistic chance of ending their 19-year wait for the title.”
So it’s all eyes on Old Trafford. Well, on Saturday anyway. They’ve got the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan to deal with tonight first. Hopefully the Italians can shake them up a bit, cause a few injury problems, force extra time, before delivering the confidence hammerblow of defeat. But on last night’s performance at Anfield, the Reds are capable of damage on Saturday whatever Manchester United team shows up.