Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres combined to destroy Real Madrid’s Champions League ambitions as Liverpool powered into the quarterfinals with four goals on the night and 5-0 on aggregate at Anfield.
Former Atletico Madrid striker Torres made the breakthrough from close range after 16 minutes of Liverpool pressure when he fired home from close range before Gerrard’s double destroyed any lingering doubts. “The most important thing for me was to win the game and book our place in the last eight and it was a fantastic team performance,” Gerrard told ITV. “You’ve got to give a special mention to Yossi Benayoun who was fantastic in the first leg and unfortunately missed out tonight.” Torres added: “I was working all week to try to be fit. This game was very important for me to play (because of) my past with Atletico. “(My goal) was very important, of course. It was a massive game for the fans.” Skipper Gerrard converted a penalty after 28 minutes when former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze had controversially been judged to have handled by the assistant referee when the ball clearly came off his shoulder. Gerrard, making his 100th European appearance, showed there was no room for sentiment by cooly driving the spot kick into the bottom left-hand corner with goalkeeper Ilker Casillas flying the other way. Sneijder replied with a 30-yard free-kick which Jose Reina dived to tip around the post while Raul headed tamely at the goalkeeper seven minutes before the interval. Real replaced Robben with Marcelo at the break but it made no difference as Gerrard scored his second of the night less than two minutes after the restart. There was still plenty to do when Babel’s cross from the left came into the penalty area but the England midfielder kept the ball down well as he directed it past Casillas to end any hopes of a Madrid comeback. Great link-up play between Torres, Babel and Kuyt almost presented Gerrard with a hat-trick goal but the midfielder’s shot from the edge of the area was palmed away by the keeper.
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With Liverpool cruising, Lucas Leiva replaced Xabi Alonso on the hour, with Rafael van der Vaart coming on for Cannavaro as Madrid changed to a back three moments later. Andrea Dossena’s first goal for Liverpool after 88 minutes wrapped up an emphatic victory. Liverpool must now turn their attention to the weekend clash with Premier League leaders Manchester United. Gerrard said: “Firstly it’s all about enjoying tonight. We need to get some rest then we can concentrate on Man United tomorrow. They’re a fantastic team but we’ll give it our best shot.” Joseba Llorente’s strike sealed a place in the quarterfinals for Real’s fellow Spaniards Villarreal after a battling victory over Panathinaikos in Athens. Manuel Pellegrini’s team, who went into the second leg of the first knockout round tie with the disadvantage of having conceded on home soil in the 1-1 draw two weeks ago, opened the scoring just after half-time through Ariel Ibagaza. Vangelis Mantzios levelled with his fourth goal in six matches before Llorente, who replaced Nihat Kahveci at half-time, drilled home Ibagaza’s dinked pass to clinch a 3-2 aggregate victory.