By Jonathan Caswell at Anfield
Liverpool FC negotiated a potentially tricky first game in UEFA Champions League Group A against last season's finalists AS Monaco FC, Djibril Cissé and Milan Baroš scoring in each half to secure a solid win for Rafael Benítez’s side.
Despite the brilliance of Luis García, it was a solid team performance which won the game for Liverpool with Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso impressive in central midfield and Baroš looking lively as a second-half substitute. The Czech striker sealed the victory in the 84th minute, adding to Cissé's 22nd-minute opener.
The game started tentatively with both sides feeling their way. But as the first half wore on Liverpool's play started to flow with Alonso and Gerrard linking well with García and Cissé up front. The Spaniard in particular looked dangerous in possession as he proved in the 18th minute when he controlled the ball beautifully 25 metres out, turned and let fly with a shot which dipped just too late as it approached Flavio Roma’s goal.
Four minutes later Gerrard and García passed their way through the Monaco defence to set up Cissé, who hammered in his second goal in a Liverpool shirt. The crowd then rose to a free-flowing Liverpool who were displaying great commitment and a full array of passing, stepping up a gear with García instrumental in everything positive they did.
In the 28th minute the former FC Barcelona player had a fierce shot saved by Monaco goalkeeper Roma from a flick-on by Harry Kewell. Monaco, however, finally began to handle Liverpool's high-energy start and forced a couple of quick corners, although Jerzy Dudek did not have to make a save from either.
Monaco began to find some width in the closing minutes of the half, but Liverpool repelled each threat - and launched their own attacks. Cissé just ran out of space after a brilliant passing move in the 44th minute and a minute later Gerrard's pass found García running behind the defence to deliver a fantastic header which went just wide of the post.
Monaco looked more comfortable in the second half with a change of formation, bringing on the 21-year-old striker Souleymane Camara and reverting to 4-4-2, but it did not stop Liverpool's probing. And the home side continued to clock up the openings and chances without being able to provide the killer blow.
It almost came after thrilling build-up play by Kewell who fed Cissé, only for Roma to save brilliantly after being left one-on-one with the Frenchman. Monaco slowly gained some ascendancy and began to dictate play and Dudek finally had a save to make from an Emmanuel Adebayor header on 71 minutes following a corner.
In the end, however, Baroš decided the game with his goal six minutes from time. The Czech striker confidently controlled Josemi's long pass on the edge of the area before turning Sébastien Squillaci. He first seemed to run out of options as he was forced wide but then turned inside to take on Roma and finish with his left foot from close range.
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