Liverpool FC match-winner John Arne Riise paid tribute to the tactical acumen of his manager Rafael Benítez as the 2005 European champions stunned holders FC Barcelona with a 2-1 win in the first leg of their first knockout tie at Camp Nou.
Riise scored the winning goal 16 minutes from time as Liverpool came from behind to win. Benítez's selection raised eyebrows in the stadium, featuring as it did Riise on the left of midfield and new right-footed signing Álvaro Arbeloa at left-back, but the Norwegian international was full of praise for Benítez as the selection paid off. He said: "In Europe we always seem to get a result. For me we have the best manager tactically - no one expected us to play that way today with the players we did and that shows how special he is. He gets the best out of every player. The whole team tonight played very well and, yes, we had some difficulties before this game but we put them behind us and worked hard."
Those difficulties included an incident between Riise and fellow scorer Craig Bellamy. After the match Riise was asked whether it was fate that the duo scored. He replied: "I don't know if it was fate but we both just put everything that happened behind us and worked hard for the team. We are both team players and we both scored. It could be destiny but we just did what we had to do for the team. We put [the incident] behind us the next day so we're finished with it."
Right foot forward
The 26-year-old is renowned for his superb shooting ability with his left foot but he told uefa.com that he could not remember ever having scored with his right foot before his winning goal in the Camp Nou. "I don't think I ever have," he said. "I just played on instinct. Afterwards I realised I could have taken a touch and played it with my left but when I got the ball from Bellamy I just thought 'smash it' and I hit it as well as I ever hit it before and it went in. Obviously I was pleased with my own performance and pleased for the team."
Liverpool won the competition two seasons ago but Riise is not getting carried away just yet with thoughts of a repeat. "We have one more game to play against Barcelona so we can't really start thinking about later on," he said. "But this puts us on schedule and people know what we can do. But I think they knew before. There are only 16 teams left that can win it so whoever we play is going to be difficult but we hope we can go all the way."
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