CL Qualifier: Liverpool 4 Toulouse 0

UEFA Champions League Qualifier, 2nd Leg – August 28th 2007

Liverpool 4 Toulouse 0 (Agg: 5-0)

Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League proper with a stroll past a Toulouse side who started brightly but seemed to give up after Crouch had opened the scoring on the night to make it 2-0 on aggregate. A goal from Sami Hyypia just after half-time turned the game into little more than a training exercise, rounded off with two goals in the last few minutes from Dirk Kuyt.

The evening had started on a highly-emotional note. The parents of murdered eleven-year-old Rhys Jones stood in their Everton shirts, with Rhys’s older brother, as the theme from Z-Cars was played over the Anfield sound system. This was followed by You’ll Never Walk Alone and then a minute’s applause for the young Everton fan so tragically killed. Rafael Benítez embraced the parents who were so brave to stand there in this way in what was a very moving occasion.

Although Toulouse held onto a 2-0 deficit on the night until so near the end, the final score hardly flattered Liverpool. The Reds had been creating chances all night and thoroughly deserved their win. Rafa Benítez had already chosen to give Sebastian Leto his debut from the start of tonight’s game, and after 68 minutes felt confident to give a debut also to Lucas Leiva. Yossi Benayoun was determined to show Rafa how much he wanted to play, a much better way of getting his feelings across than the recent comments made by his agent. He played well throughout, and it was his corner that Sami Hyypia scored from, as well as his pass that Dirk Kuyt scored his second from.

By the end of the game John Arne Riise was playing centre-half, with Steve Finnan brought on to play left-back as Rafa took the opportunity for a little experimentation.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 4 Hyypia, 5 Agger (3 Finnan, 81), 6 Riise, 11 Benayoun, 22 Sissoko (21 Lucas, 68), 20 Mascherano, 33 Leto (19 Babel, 75), 15 Crouch, 18 Kuyt
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 9 Torres, 14 Alonso, 16 Pennant
Bookings: None
Goals: Crouch 19, Hyypia 49, Kuyt 87, 90

Toulouse: 16 Douchez, 28 Cetto, 24 Ilunga, 15 Paulo Cesar, 5 Mathieu (22 Sissoko, 81), 25 Dieuze, 2 Fofana, 14 Sirieix, 9 Elmander, 20 Emana (17 Fabinho, 76), 21 Gignac (10 Bergougnoux, 54)
Unused subs: 1 Riou, 6 Jonsson, 7 Mansare, 8 Batlles
Bookings: None
Goals: None

Half-time: 1-0

Stats: (Liverpool – Toulouse)
Possession: 66% – 34%
Shots on target: 10 – 3
Shots off target: 17 – 2
Corners: 8 – 2
Fouls: 4 – 9

Referee: Wolfgang Stark

Attendance: 43,118


Reds boss Rafael Benítez was mindful of two tragedies when talking after tonight’s game. As well as the sad and unnecessary loss of Rhys Jones, Rafa was thinking about the loss of Antonio Puerta, the Sevilla wing-back who died today following his collapse in a Spanish league game at the weekend. Rafa said: “Football must take a back seat when such tragedies happen. It was very emotional for me and all you can do at this point is offer your respect and support.”

In terms of the game tonight Rafa was happy that despite making so many changes his newly-strengthened squad performed so well: “I was very pleased with the performance, we played well and you can see the competition now for places with players working to impress right to the end. I know Peter Crouch has been out of the last two games and he has now scored eight in his last 10 games in Europe. But if the team keeps winning and everyone else scores goals as well, I will be happy. We scored four good goals and could have scored a lot more.”

He went on: “I was able to bring in Benayoun, Leto and Lucas for this game and they all did well. You can see the quality in every position. I have two players to choose from now for every place and the players know that.  I now do not need to talk a lot about one or two star players all the time; I have players everywhere who want to play and have the ability to play.”

Liverpool forward and opening goalscorer Peter Crouch: “It was important to get through to the next round but it was nice for me to get my first goal of the season. It was important we started the season well. If we progress the way we’ve started, we’re looking good.”

Toulouse manager Elie Baup changed tactics tonight, and was unhappy with the final scoreline: “For an hour, our plans went reasonably well with three at the back, and for our general play we deserved more. But with all that effort we still lost 4-0, it is very disappointing. We ran a lot but with Liverpool’s technical quality and movement they made the ball run a lot. Their ability was hard to handle at times.

“There is a difference between the French league and the English league. Liverpool were fresh, fit and strong and it showed at the end of the match. We struggled once they got their second; they play in a far stronger league. Five years ago we were playing in the third division, now we are in the backyard of one of the greatest sides in Europe. We must learn the lessons and not concentrate on the defeat.”