Liverpool FC 2-0 AS Roma
The return of Gérard Houllier to Anfield provided the launch pad for a comfortable 2-0 victory as Liverpool FC finished as the runners-up in UEFA Champions League Group B and march on to the quarter-finals at the expense of a deflated AS Roma side.
Litmanen keeps cool
The home side started brightly and the early pressure paid off with only seven minutes on the clock. Danny Murphy lined up a shot in the penalty area but was put off his stride by Marcos Assunção. Jari Litmanen stepped up and wrong-footed Francesco Antonioli to slot home the resulting penalty with aplomb.
Dominating the flanks
Roma were very quiet as the home side continued to press forward using the full width of the Anfield turf to good effect, Vladimír Šmicer and John Arne Riise seeing plenty of the ball. Liverpool did begin to concede some reckless free-kicks, Gabriel Batistuta's effort on the half-hour was well blocked by the wall.
Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and Abel Xavier collided on 35 minutes and from the ensuing corner there was an almighty scramble in the box as the Polish international failed to meet the cross. A minute later and a fluent Roma move spearheaded by captain Francesco Totti found Emerson whose cross was masterfully intercepted by Stéphane Henchoz.
Fabio Capello introduced the attacking duo of Vincenzo Montella and Marco Delvecchio at the start of the second period in an effort to change his side’s fortunes and the tactics almost paid off after an exquisite three-man move, but the normally deadly Totti could not apply the finishing touch.
Liverpool always looked comfortable and they doubled their lead on 64 minutes thanks to a bullet header from Emile Heskey. The burly striker rose majestically to meet a Murphy cross from the left and steer his header past the despairing dive of Antonioli.
Roma could only mount sporadic attacks and whenever they fashioned any kind of chance the home defence would repel the danger with demoralising consistency. The best chance of the half did, however, fall to Emerson, but the Brazilian could not find the target from five metres out after coolly bringing the ball down.
It was the home side that continued to press forward in the dying minutes and the Merseysiders held out for that all-important two-goal victory. Liverpool go through to the quarter-finals and, if they continue to show the same spirit and team ethos, are going to take some beating. Roma, Italy's last remaining representative in this season's Champions League, must now head home to regroup and lick their collective wounds.
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