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Talk lfc match report

by Anthony Jones at talklfc

As thoughts drifted back towards event 20 years ago, Liverpool possibly put a marker down for a new era at Anfield tonight. With the first fixture between Liverpool and Juventus since that tragic day in Heysel, the opportunity arose for both clubs to draw a line under the past and to also move a step closer to another European success. With Liverpool's injury problems only easing enough to allow Xabi Alonso to return to the bench, though an appearance was unlikely, Benitez once again was limited in his options.

Despite the lack of fit players, Benitez still managed to surprise everyone by recalling Anthony Le Tallec for his first start since returning from St Etienne, a loan spell that ended early with neither club nor player gaining any great benefit. Scott Carson was also selected in goal, with Dudek continuing to struggle with the injury picked up on international duty. With Pellegrino and Morientes cup tied, Hyypia and Baros were both given an opportunity to stake a claim for a future at the club.

Before the kick off, a banner was carried from the Kop to the visiting Juventus supporters as a mark of respect. A moments silence in honour of the Pope who recently passed away followed, though thoughts were probably focused elsewhere - during this the Kop held aloft a Mosaic offering friendship to their Italian guests.

For all the good spirit off the field in the ground, once the whistle blew, Liverpool made it clear they had no intentions of offering their opponents any gifts. Within seconds the first chance arrived as Emerson slipped whilst receiving the ball and Baros, alive as always, surged forward and saw his shot deflect for a corner. Whilst the corner amounted to little, Liverpool were undeterred. Gerrard summing up the mood, launching into a tackle to win the ball allowing the side to continue applying pressure.

During the build up, Fabio Capello had shared his fear that his side might struggle to connect having had their weekend game postponed. His fears were coming true as Liverpool hassled their opponents from Baros all the way back to Carragher and Hyypia at the back. All Liverpool needed now was a goal, and they obliged after winning another corner. Gerrard crossed from the right, a ball which was flicked on at the near post. Hyypia, having drifted clear of his marker, moved to the back of the six yard box and volleyed home.

It was hard to believe the team leading are currently struggling to qualify for next seasons competition such was the dominance Liverpool held in the opening stages. More goals could have come. Le Tallec was linking play well whilst working hard when not in possession. Garcia who had initially gifted the ball back to Juve started to find space and the ability to pick out a red shirt. A free kick from outside of the box was rolled down the left hand channel of the Juventus defence with Baros accepting the ball and turning in one movement only to see his goal bound strike deflected over by Cannavaro. The Italian international and his partner Thuram were being made to look quite ordinary.

Gerrard won the ball just inside the half, surged forward but saw his shot travel over the cross as he lost balance whilst striking. Riise hit a free kick from distance but Buffon claimed easily. Liverpool would not be deterred. Luis Garcia received the ball and chipped it over his marker into the path of Baros who was moving from penalty spot to the six yard box, but his reach failed to connect.

The second finally arrived. Le Tallec looking to play the ball from the wing chipped the ball inside seemingly towards Baros. The ball however was too high for the striker but bounced invitingly for Luis Garcia. Without the need for a touch he hit a dipping left footed volley that flew over Buffon and into the back of the net.

The second goal suddenly stung Juventus into life. Within seconds the lead could have been halved as Nedved picked up the ball, squaring it to Ibrahimovic who struck the ball from distance. Carson was relieved to the see the ball fly back at pace from the base of his left hand post. Whilst Liverpool continued to push forward, Juventus now offered the odd glimpse of their class. Another brilliant moment of play from Nedved created space for Del Piero who moved goalwards unmarked. Facing Carson he shot low and hard but the young keeper responded brilliantly and turned the ball wide. Juventus would be left feeling hard done by as a well timed run by Del Piero allowed him to head the ball home only to see his goal incorrectly disallowed. It was maybe a bit of luck that Liverpool deserved given the misfortune they've seen this season.

Despite the scares, Liverpool went in two goals ahead, a scoreline not even the most optimistic of supporters could have expected. Yet there was a feeling that Juventus surely couldn't be tamed so easily for ninety minutes and so it proved. If Liverpool were far the better side in the first half, then Juventus deserved that title in the second.

Straight from the kick off, Juventus grabbed hold the game. With Pesotto coming on for the ineffective Blassi in midfield, Liverpool struggled to retain possession, whilst Nedved started to enjoy a great deal of freedom. On the second half showing it is easy to understand why Juventus are competing for the Serie A title this season, whilst also confirming the importance of Nedved to their fortunes.

Juventus were creating half chances with Del Piero finding the odd shooting position, though his overall contribution was below par. The Juve skipper would eventually be replaced by David Trezeguet, though the Frenchman fared little better. Camoranesi and Nedved would fire shots in from range, efforts which Carson continually dealt with efficiently. Whilst stretched it seemed Liverpool would hang on, though Liverpool's attacking efforts reduced as time went on. With Thuram and Cannavaro now exerting their undoubted quality on the game, Benitez slowly made changes, first Nunez for Baros and later in the game Smicer for the impressive Le Tallec.

Any feeling that everything was going Liverpool's way suddenly evaporated in one moment that ensures the tie sits finely balanced. With the score at two goals to nil, Liverpool would have certainly backed their chances of progressing, the significance of a clean sheet would surely have been hammered home to the players. Yet, as against Leverkusen, a costly error detracted from the joy of victory. Liverpool reacted slowly to a short corner on their left which allowed the cross to come in unchallenged. The initial ball was cleared as Traore headed the ball out of the box, but it was quickly recovered and sent back into the area. Cannavaro rose and headed down, a lack of power making a save seem inevitable. Sadly for young Scott Carson he appeared to dive to his left too early and as the ball bounced up off the surface he was poorly placed to make the stop and the goal was conceded.

As the game moved on, both teams increasingly seemed happy to settle with the scoreline as it was. Liverpool gained a very important win, a result that reinforces the view that Liverpool remain a force to be taken seriously. It's also a result that stands out amongst Liverpool's Champions League run this season, the quality of opposition far greater than anything faced elsewhere. However, Juventus will feel that the away goal gives them the greater edge, a view backed up by the history of the competition in recent seasons. Liverpool will be hoping that they can be the exception to the rule.
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