Liverpool FC assistant manager Phil Thompson gave much of the credit for his side's 2-0 triumph over AS Roma to the returning Gérard Houllier, whose presence alone provided all the motivation needed by the players.
Liverpool were handed the perfect opportunity to take an early lead and the experienced Jari Litmanen made no mistake from the penalty spot, the former AFC Ajax man wrong-footing keeper Francesco Antonioli. The home side had the better of things in the first period with Jerzy Dudek not having to make a telling save.
Thompson revealed that Houllier had given a pep talk to the players prior to the game and rated this as "one of the greatest nights" in the club's history and that the belief among the players never wavered.
Francesco Totti had an excellent chance soon after the restart but his finishing was not up to the required standard. The home side then doubled their tally thanks to a textbook header from Emile Heskey, which left Antonioli clasping at thin air.
While admitting that his charges had been outplayed, Fabio Capello felt that his side should have done better in front of goal. Emerson was one of the guilty men, missing a great chance late in the second half. "I have never seen Liverpool play like this and if they continue they have a good chance of winning it," Capello said.
The Roma coach also singled out Emile Heskey for praise, as did team-mate Danny Murphy. "They couldn't cope with him and our set-plays were a big factor. In the end we held out comfortably," he said.
Many of the post-match questions did veer towards Liverpool's chances of going all the way in the tournament and this was perhaps best summed up Litmanen, the Finnish international, who said the Merseysiders have "as good a chance as anybody". The fact remains that Liverpool are four games away from a place in the showpiece final in Glasgow.
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