Thursday, August 16, 2007

CL Report: Liverpool Ease To Victory In Stifling Toulouse

Toulouse 0-1 Liverpool

A fairly forgettable game played in stifling heat in Toulouse was settled by a memorable goal two minutes before half-time from Ukaine striker Andriy Voronin. His goal puts Liverpool in a strong position, ahead of the second leg of this qualifier on Merseyside, to progress through to the lucrative group stage of the Champions League.

The decisive strike came almost out of nowhere towards the end of a fairly languid and uneventful first half. But it was a goal of rare quality. Peter Crouch flicked on a long ball from Steve Finnan for Voronin to control with his back to goal before swivelling and spearing an unstoppable shot into the top corner from outside the penalty area.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez recalled Peter Crouch and Javier Mascherano, while John Arne Riise, Daniel Agger and Fernando Torres were named on the bench.

Benitez denied that his selection was influenced by Sunday's Premier League clash against Chelsea, saying: "Toulouse could be dangerous and we need to be really focused."

Nevertheless it certainly seemed that Chelsea - and the conditions - were a factor in a quiet, slow-paced opening.

Following the furore over insufficient tickets for Liverpool fans at the Athens final, only an estimated 640 dedicated core of Reds supporters made the trip to France, and the first action they had to cheer came when Steven Gerrard, fresh from that marvellous free-kick against Aston Villa on Saturday, sent another set-piece just past the post.

Gerrard was playing just ahead of Mascherano in midfield, while Voronin was playing off Peter Crouch's shoulder with two wingers supporting on the flanks.

Liverpool, looking comfortable, enjoyed plenty of possession, but chances were in short supply as the players paced themselves. Crouch nipped in to exploit a sloppy back pass to release Yossi Benayoun, but Toulouse's defence snuffed out the danger.

The hosts eventually produced their first attempt on target when Johan Elmander shot low but Jamie Carragher took the sting out of it, leaving Pepe Reina with a routine save to make.

Carragher then produced a sliding clearance as Paulo Cesar forced his way through , and Reina blocked an angled drive from Elmander to concede the game's firt corner. But Liverpool dealt with it, and at the other end Gerrard pinged a free-kick into the area for Crouch, but the tall striker was adjudged to have fouled Mauro Cetto.

Two minutes before the beak, Finnan and Crouch combined to set up Voronin's wonder strike for the crucial breakthrough.

Toulouse responded with Achille Emana's overhead kick, which flew wide before the same player shot over the bar from distance. Elmander tried his luck too from outside the area, but it was also well wide.

Keeper Nicolas Douchez took the ball off of Crouch's head as the striker threatened to make it two, having blocked Mohamed Fofana's attempted clearance from Voronin's flick-on.

Elmander collected a booking for a late tackle from behind on Mascherano, before Gerrard had a shot deflected over the bar.

Elmander then reached the ball ahead of Sami Hyypia at the near post to meet a Pantxi Sirieix cross, but Reina gathered it easily as the game dribbled to a conclusion with Liverpool well pleased with their afternoon's work.

Toulouse: Douchez, Ebondo, Mathieu, Cetto, Fofana, Paulo Cesar, Sirieix, Emana, Dieuze, Elmander, Bergougnoux. Subs: Riou, Jonsson, Mansare, Batlles, Fabinho, Gignac, Sissoko.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel, Voronin, Crouch. Subs: Itandje, Agger, Riise, Torres, Alonso, Kuyt, Sissoko.

taken from


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