Liverpool’s historic 2-1 win over Barcelona came about thanks to some very good performances from across the team, but the headlines went to the two players who’ve been in the headlines since the weekend. This time though the headlines were for better reasons than those we’d seen in recent days, because Craig Bellamy scored and also set up the winner for his fellow headline subject, John Arne Riise.
Now the Reds go into the second leg at Anfield knowing that Barcelona must score twice to progress. Manager Rafael Benítez was asked how he felt about the goalscorers in the context of the storm that had blown up before the game: “I am really pleased for both Bellamy and Riise for scoring the winning goals,” he said. Rafa won’t give details of the “problems”, and last night proves the club made the right decision in limiting their comments on the incidents. He says that the Portuguese trip wasn’t a mistake: “The training camp in Portugal was helpful; the commitment of the players was good before and after the problems. The atmosphere in the team is very good.”
Liverpool fans will remember 1989’s title chase when Liverpool had to prevent Arsenal from scoring two unanswered goals to win the league. Instead of playing their normal game, the Reds chose to defend that night but still conceded those two goals, and the title, to the Gunners. Maybe Rafa remembers this, because he isn’t going to allow complacency: “The job is not done. We have a good chance now of going through but as I said before we need to be careful. Barca are good on the counter-attack and have good attacking players.”
Liverpool’s fans clearly out-sung the home fans for much of the game, and Rafa saluted them as he often does: “It's always important to win away because you have a lot of supporters who have come here. I could hear the supporters during the game and it was a real positive for us. I have to thank them.”
His opposite number, Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, sounded very downbeat after seeing his troubled side beaten: “We must always be positive, but we have to be realistic. It will be difficult to make a comeback. There are still 90 minutes left, but Liverpool can go out knowing they just have to keep the ball. We have to be confident. We have to have trust in ourselves.”