Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Champions League Round of 16

Inter Milan 0-1 Liverpool (0-3 agg)
So, job done.

Liverpool have usually been very good at strangling the life out of their opponents in European games. But now they've combined that with the threat of Fernando Torres up front, they're practically lethal.

This was a strong, disciplined performance, as they withstood all of Inter's pressure in the first half -- and for all their effort, Inter didn't produce all that many shots on target. Pepe Reina did have to make two very good saves -- diving to stop a snap shot from the edge of the box by Julio Cruz in the opening period, and a reflexive save from Cruz's backheel just before halftime -- but other than that they were wasteful in front of goal. Cruz had a couple of near misses, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also guilty, although he had an excellent game otherwise in terms of creating chances for his teammates.

Liverpool were creating a few chances of their own, but just like in the first leg, it was a refereeing decision that determined the course of the game, as Nicolas Burdisso was sent off for a second yellow card just after half-time. The second booking, for a lunge on Lucas Leiva may have been a bit harsh, but I thought it was certainly a foul, and there was no question about the first one, when he twisted his leg around Dirk Kuyt to bring him down. In any case, maybe it was a bit of karma in return for that 1965 semi-final that Liverpool lost.

They took advantage of their extra man and cranked up the pressure, with Torres eventually striking in the 63rd minute. Fabio Aurelio won the ball on the left wing and crossed it to Torres, who took one touch, spun and hit a beautiful shot past the keeper at the near post. That left Inter needing to score four goals to survive -- an almost impossible task, and you could see it in their players' defeated body language as Liverpool passed the ball around easily to run down the clock.

And now we've got four English teams in the quarter-finals, along with Barcelona, Roma, Schalke and Fenerbahce. I don't care much about all the hype about this proving that the Premiership is the best league in the world. But I think the draw on Friday will be very very interesting.

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