Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

In Pictures: Benitez blast helps fire Liverpool into last eight

Liverpool 3 Lille 0 (Liverpool win 3-1 on aggregate)

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes the dressing-down the players received from boss Rafael Benitez last week played a key role in their run to the Europa League quarter-finals.

Gerrard scored the early penalty that paved the way for his side's 3-0 win over Lille at Anfield and coming after Monday night's Barclays Premier League win over Portsmouth, Gerrard believes a corner has been turned.

Gerrard said: “He (Benitez) is the manager and he's allowed to criticise the team at the right time but I think the reaction over the last two games has been superb and the plan is to maintain it on Sunday against Man United.”

Gerrard knows the importance of maintaining his side's good recent run against United if they are to continue their push for the fourth Champions League place and added: “It was vital this game didn't go to extra-time tonight.

“We know how difficult it (Sunday) is going to be. We'll enjoy tonight and we'll get a warm-down tomorrow and we'll look forward to Sunday.”

Gerrard's ninth-minute penalty gave them the ideal start, after Lucas Leiva had been fouled.

Fernando Torres then struck twice in the second half — his first European goals for more than 11 months — to seal victory.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg an early Liverpool goal was essential to ease the pressure and, watched by Argentina coach Diego Maradona, they produced just that.

The much-maligned Lucas, returning to the side because of Alberto Aquilani's illness, dribbled into the area and produced a tidy piece of skill to go past Adil Rami and draw the foul.

Referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot and Gerrard confidently fired home to level things up on aggregate.

Torres twice came close before Daniel Agger's glancing header from Gerrard's inswinging 31st-minute corner was eventually stopped by keeper Mickael Landreau on the goalline.

The visitors knew a goal would turn the game in their favour and they had a great chance when Eden Hazard burst into the area with only Jose Reina to beat but the goalkeeper stood tall and the shot deflected behind off his head.

Liverpool took control four minutes after the break with an expert piece of finishing from Torres, who made the most of Adil Rami’s error from Ryan Babel’s long clearance to nip in and shoot cleverly past Landreau with the outside of his right foot.

Liverpool's advantage was only a slender one but all the pressure was released when Torres followed up a rebound from Gerrard's shot to score his second a minute before time.

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