Torres takes Reds into Atletico semi

Torres struck twice as the Reds produced a devastating attacking

performance to power past their Portuguese opponents and reach the

last four. Dirk Kuyt and Lucas were also on target on a pulsating

night at Anfield as the Reds overturned a 2-1 deficit from the

first leg of their quarter-final tie. Their first-leg nemesis Oscar

Cardozo threatened to make life difficult with a goal that made it

3-1 on the night but Torres’ second delightful finish ended the

contest. It was a performance that came in marked contrast to

Liverpool’s struggles in the Premier League and their increasingly

forlorn attempts to finish fourth. They left the field frustrated

after being held at Birmingham on Saturday but, after a slow start,

their determination to progress in this competition soon became

obvious. They made two changes from the weekend, the key one being

the deployment of first-leg goalscorer Daniel Agger in the

unfamiliar role of left-back due to Emiliano Insua’s suspension.

Jamie Carragher and Sotirios Kyrgiakos started in central defence

while Javier Mascherano replaced the ineligible Maxi Rodriguez.

Torres, who was controversially substituted at Birmingham to rest a

knee injury, showed worrying signs of discomfort in the early

stages. His mobility was not helped by a crude early challenge from

Sidnei and that set the tone for a night of rough treatment for the

Spaniard, who had clearly been identified as the dangerman. Benfica

actually started the stronger and had an early opportunity after

Carragher pushed the charging Pablo Aimar over on the edge of the

box. Angel di Maria’s free-kick went straight into the wall and was

put behind for a corner. Liverpool took time to find their stride

and it was not until the 15th minute that they worried Benfica as

Steven Gerrard’s whipped free-kick was headed behind by Amorim.

Gerrard then fired in a cross for Torres but the striker, who

headed straight at Julio Cesar anyway, was offside. Torres had

another chance from a Glen Johnson cross but his glancing header

went wide. The Reds were taking charge and although Benfica

continued to look dangerous on the break, they carried the greater

threat. They levelled the tie in the 27th minute after Yossi

Benayoun won a corner on the left. Gerrard delivered a perfect

cross for Dirk Kuyt from the resulting set-piece and the Dutchman

firmly headed home from six yards. A moment of confusion followed

as the goal initially appeared to have been disallowed as the

assistant referee on the far side flagged for offside. Liverpool

protested and the referee and additional assistant behind the goal

agreed the goal should stand. With an away goal in the bank, that

gave the Reds the edge overall but they had the momentum and wanted

more. They followed up with a second goal six minutes later as

Gerrard slipped the often-maligned Lucas in on goal with a superb

ball. The Brazilian showed great composure to swerve around Cesar

and tap in his first goal in 11 months. The job was far from done,

however, and Liverpool survived a couple of scares before the break

as Cardozo fired a free-kick at Jose Reina and Sidnei had a shot

deflected for a corner. But Benfica captain Luisao almost handed

Liverpool another goal early in the second half. Kuyt won

possession on the right and fed Gerrard, who delivered a low ball

across the box. Luisao slid in to make the interception but lost

control and needed Cesar to palm it away. Liverpool’s deserved

third arrived just before the hour from a swift counter-attack.

Lucas was struck between the legs as the Reds defended a free-kick

inside their own half and left their colleague in pain as they

charged downfield. Benayoun raced into the Benfica half and spread

the ball wide for Kuyt, whose first-time cross was swept in by the

onrushing Torres. The atmosphere at this point was raucous, but

anxiety soon set in as Benfica pulled one back on 70 minutes after

Kuyt fouled Ramires on the edge of the area. Cardozo, who scored

two penalties in the first leg, blasted in a low shot through a gap

in the wall. Benayoun conceded another free-kick in a similar

position for tripping the same player four minutes later but this

time Cardozo’s curling effort flew narrowly wide. The Reds battled

on and showed the resolve to kill off the tie eight minutes from

time. Lucas won the ball in midfield with a powerful challenge and

Mascherano sent Torres clear with a brilliant pass. Torres made no

mistake as he raced into the area and clipped the ball over

substitute goalkeeper Moreira – a replacement for the injured Cesar

just moments earlier – with delicate poise. Liverpool could at last

breathe easily and took off Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun in the

closing minutes.