With one former Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker having taken English football by storm last season, Andriy Voronin showed he has the talent to follow Dimitar Berbatov's lead by scoring the only goal as Liverpool FC triumphed at Toulouse FC on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian international produced the one moment of class amid searing temperatures in south-west France, collecting Peter Crouch's header before dispatching a fierce drive into the top left-hand corner in the 43rd minute. "It was a fantastic goal and Andriy showed the quality he has," enthused Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez. "He is different from the strikers we have as he has game intelligence, he links up play well and he can score goals." His first-leg strike makes Liverpool strong favourites to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Voronin, 28, began his career with FC Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland, but once told uefa.com he owed his "football education" to Germany having arrived at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach as a 16-year-old. He then played for 1. FSV Mainz 05 and 1. FC Köln before linking up with Berbatov at Leverkusen; the partnership yielded 35 Bundesliga goals in 2004/05, and 28 the following season, before the Bulgarian's successful switch to Tottenham Hotspur FC.
Like Voronin, who made way for Fernando Torres late in the third qualifying round encounter, Ryan Babel also had a promising European debut for last term's runners-up. Despite the away goal and the fact Liverpool have never lost a tie at this stage, Benítez urged caution though, saying: "We will need to work hard in the second game at Anfield because they showed they can be dangerous on the counterattack. It will be a difficult match and we need to finish off the job."
Defender Jamie Carragher agreed with his manager's assessment of Voronin's performance – and with his view of the contest so far – saying: "Andriy scored a great goal and full credit to him because he's been as good as anyone so far for us. I was right behind it when he hit the shot and could see it was going in. The tie's not over yet, though. We didn't play particularly well and in the past at Anfield we haven't played too well in the qualifiers so we'll be looking for a different story this time."
Toulouse had gone into the game brimming with confidence following their weekend defeat of French champions Olympique Lyonnais, yet they struggled to cope with the visitors' organisation and professionalism. "We'd do well to be inspired by Liverpool: technically they were superior to us and always stuck to their 4-4-2," said coach Elie Baup. "It felt like we were hitting a brick wall." Midfielder Achille Emana added: "When you see them play, you understand why they reached the Champions League final last season. I don't think it's over for us but we need to give a lot more." Even that might not be enough.
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