Match Report, player analysis and aftermath report by Robbie Amins at talklfc
It was by no means a classic thriller. In fact, it reminded you of Gerard Houllier's Liverpool, the one with doggedness determination. Liverpool produced a superb rearguard display to clinch a crucial away victory which now gives them a great chance of reaching the second stage of the Champions League.
Milan Baros could and should have put Liverpool ahead inside the first 30 seconds as he raced clear, but Deportivo goalkeeper Molina plunged bravely at his feet. It was in fact probably the wrong option that the striker took. A seasoned finisher would perhaps tried to chip the keeper but the Czech Republic international tried to go around the experience Molina and failed.
The Reds took the lead from a move started by Igor Biscan. The Croatian midfielder went on a galloping run which reminded you of the out-of-action Steven Gerrard to set up Riise, whose cross was turned into his own net by Jorge Andrade under pressure from Baros.
And four minutes before the interval, Liverpool were twice within a whisker of doubling their advantage. Harry Kewell set up Riise, whose first effort went straight to the chest of Molina, before Andrade swept another effort from the Norwegian off the line from the rebound.
Rafa Benitez heard his name being sung by the delighted travelling fans who in reality could have seen their team wrap up the game by half-time. Deportivo manager Javier Irureta responded with a change at the break. Pablo Amo coming on for Cesar, who was tormented by the pace of Milan Baros and looked like he could get a second yellow card anytime soon.
Liverpool aimed to hit on the break and produced movement and passing of their own which threatened to upset the Galician side with Harry Kewell dropping deep to link-up with the remarkably astute Biscan who was only playing because Xabi Alonso was carrying a slight injury.
Pablo Amo then hurled himself at a free-kick on the far post which left Chris Kirkland flattened in the back of the net. Although the damage was as much done by Biscan who caught the keeper in the face. It was one of those "double-closelines" you see in World Wrestling Entertainment and Kirkland was hurt. His recovery took a while which probably explained the 4 minutes of extra-time at the end of the match.
Eight minutes from time Liverpool wasted a glorious chance to settle things when Baros did very well to put Luis Garcia through but he was looking too much at the keeper and failed to control the ball which went straight to Molina.
Deportivo enjoyed plenty of possession in the second forty-five, but Liverpool defended magnificently and were well worthy of the win. The La Liga side was kept at arm’s length by Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia, whose defensive partnership has been breached just once in four Champions League matches. Deportivo soon ran out of ideas even with the introduction of Diego Tristan, leaving Liverpool to take a big step towards the knockout stages.
Chris looked like the England No.1 last night. He had nothing much to do in the first half but when called into action, he was confident and never panicked. He was superb in the second half when Deportivo tried to come back into the game. Even when he mishandled the ball, he swooped like lightning to grab the ball a second time.
Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey
Like in the first leg of the tie, Josemi had Alberto Luque in his pocket all the time. There was once when he played a Deportivo player onside when the rest of the defence had already pushed up. Thank goodness the player wasn't able to take advantage of the situation. Luque did go past him once or twice but unlike in recent games when he struggled against pacy wideman, he did have a decent game.
Carra was solid in the tackle and his partnership with Sami Hyypia in the centre of defence is now proving to be a very good one. Carra was unfairly booked in the second half by the German referee when he was judged to be time-wasting by kicking the ball away.
Sami conceded many freekicks and was frustrated by the simulation of some of the Deportivo players but other than that the stand-in captain had a good game. Even the introduction of Diego Tristan failed to faze him and Sami and Carra has now been breached just once in 4 Champions League games.
Maybe the majority of the fans did not understand Rafa Benitez's decision to block his move to Everton but surely now they know that the gaffer has done the right thing.
Victor was frustrated after failing to get the better of his direct opponent for most of the match and Djimi did very well to get in a last-ditch tackle on Victor in the closing stages of the match when putting a wrong foot in would surely have meant a penalty.
Luis did very well to chip the ball through to create the first goalscoring opportunity of the evening. He also almost caught Molina off his line with a long shot which was probably meant to be a cross. He did fail to retain possession of the ball though on many occassions which could have been costly for Liverpool.
Igor Biscan stepped into the breach to replace Xabi Alonso in the starting line-up and it was a very good decision. Big Igor was one of the men of the match and went on a few galloping runs which was reminiscent of those by absent captain Stevie Gerrard.
Didi seemed to have butterflies in his stomach in the fist ten minutes of the game. He gave away the ball needlessly and panicked when put under pressure. Other than that, he had a decent game but he was definitely overshadowed by the performance of Igor Biscan.
John Arne Riise
The Norwegian could have increased Liverpool's lead in the first half but could not find the net despite being given the time and space for two efforts on goal. He worked hard and went back to cover and help out Djimi Traore especially in the second half when Depor were having the large slice of the possession.
Harry played as the second striker but did not see much of the ball. He dropped deep in midfield to try to get into the game and did well enough. He himself probably knew that he can do much more damage than that but that was his first start in recent weeks and that should be encouraging.
Milan flourished as a lone striker in the absence of Cissé. He could and should have scored in the 1st minute of the match. But he was the Reds' biggest threat all night. He was vital to Liverpool's counter-attacking game and Benitez took him out in the last ten minutes of the game for a well-deserved rest.
The Ireland international was brought on in place of Harry Kewell to inject more defensive stability into Liverpool's midfield. Steve did not contribute much in an attacking sense but he had a decent 32 minutes on the pitch.
Flo Po came on in the last few minutes in place of Baros. The young French stiker showed his menacing pace and he enabled Liverpool to retain the ball better in the closing moments of the match.
The Spanish midfield maestro was deemed not fit enough to start the game or Rafa Benitez probably did not want to risk him aggravating his calf injury. The gaffer brought him on because he sensed that Liverpool were starting to waste possession easily. He did not do much but he would certainly be delighted that his team has put one over Depor.
Man of the Match: Igor Biscan
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez on the match: "We played well and won. For a manager that is very satisfying," said the Anfield boss afterwards. It is not important for me to win in Spain. Just winning games is what is important, especially away from home in the Champions League."
"Depor are a great team and had bad luck tonight. We knew we had to come out and attack, and it worked well for us. We started with a high tempo and we had many chances to score before we got our goal. We then we played well on the counter attack which was important. If you only defend you make it difficult for 90 minutes."
"So it was good that we got the ball back quickly and moved forward with it to set up chances. After an early goal we had more opportunities to score more goals and we could have won by a bigger score. Our destiny is now in our own hands and that is very important for us."
Deportivo manager Javier Irureta on the match: "It's fair to say we didn't make many chances for ourselves after Liverpool went 1-0 up. If you don't score, you don't win games. I went with Pandiani (instead of Tristan) because I thought it would give us more options in the midfield."
"The own goal affected us psychologically and players who usually have good control of the ball lost it far too often as we just kept making too many mistakes. Of course it’s going to be very difficult to qualify now, but while there’s a slim chance we have to hang on to it."
Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland on the match: "This was a great result for us. They're a good team but we competed with them and beat them. It was a hard match but we did really well and the lads turned in a good performance. We know if we go and win in Monaco then we're probably through."
"We're not taking anything for granted but the lads are on a high after this result and we really believe we can win our final two matches. We feel there's a momentum building inside the squad now and we're starting to show what we're all about. This result is a brilliant one for us and we have to use it as a stepping stone to take us forward further."
Chris Kirkland on Igor Biscan: "Igor was everywhere tonight wasn't he? It was just one of those things but he caught me and knocked me out. It took a while for me to come round again but I was okay. I thought Igor was excellent tonight. He's done really well this season and his performance was top class."
Rafa Benitez on Igor Biscan: "Our defence was magnificent, especially Igor Biscan. He played very well. I said that is was important to have all the players ready. If you have a good squad then you have a better chance of going further in the competition."