By Trevor Haylett at The Racecourse
Two late moments of individual brilliance from Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool FC the comfortable victory they were looking for from their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round second leg tie against Welsh champions Total Network Solutions FC in Wrexham.
The Liverpool captain added to his first-leg hat-trick by coming off the bench to score in the 85th and 86th minutes. It was tough on TNS goalkeeper Gerard Doherty who until then had prevented the holders from adding to Djibril Cissé's 26th-minute breakthrough with a collection of fine saves, including a second-half penalty.
Trio of changes
Cissé was one of three Liverpool changes from last week's 3-0 victory at Anfield, and was clearly looking to make his mark. A blistering fourth-minute surge took him clear of the defence but Doherty came out to block him.
The goalkeeper foiled the French striker again minutes later but between the chances TNS enjoyed two promising attacks themselves. Another followed on 16 minutes as Liverpool struggled to make their superiority tell - this time Jamie Wood was unable to get his shot away.
But just as TNS were beginning to impose themselves, John Arne Riise's floated centre found defender Chris King wanting at the far post and Cissé gave Liverpool the lead with a firm left-footed strike. It nearly became two before the interval with Anthony Le Tallec denied by Philip Baker's goalline clearance.
The underdogs could be satisfied with their first-half work but came under severe pressure after the restart. Jamie Carragher's point-blank header was brilliantly stopped by Doherty only for Darren Potter, seizing on the rebound, to be fouled. Dietmar Hamann's spot-kick was weak and Doherty pushed it away.
The goalkeeper again came to the rescue as Steve Finnan fired in a powerful low shot following a free-kick, but new Liverpool No1 José Manuel Reina was also busy at the other end. Indeed, the Spaniard was beaten twice, first in the 67th minute when Steven Beck's drive came back off the post before substitute Marc Lloyd-Williams's 75th-minute effort was ruled offside.
Then Gerrard got a grip on things in thrilling fashion and enabled Liverpool to gain another 3-0 win. The champions visit Lithuania's FBK Kaunus in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie next week.
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