By Adrian Harte at Anfield
Steven Gerrard's stunning late strike completed a dramatic Liverpool comeback and took them through to the last 16 at Olympiacos CFP's expense on head-to-head record.
England midfield player Gerrard scored with a thumping 25-metre drive with just four minutes left to play to send Anfield into raptures. It was a far cry from when Rivaldo had put the visitors into an early lead but, after goals from second-half substitutes Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Neil Mellor, Liverpool knew they had a chance.
Liverpool had lined up without the suspended Dietmar Hamann but welcomed back Milan Baroš from injury, while Antonio Núñez earned a first Champions League start for Liverpool on the right of midfield. Olympiacos lined up as expected with the Brazilian duo of Giovanni and Rivaldo in attack.
Moment of confusion
The home side signalled their intent straight away as they forced two corners in the opening 44 seconds. A third followed after a further 20 seconds and, from it, Baroš's header was cleared off the line by Anastasios Pantos but there were a few seconds of confusion after it appeared initially that Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto González had awarded a goal.
Liverpool should have had a goal from the next set-piece as Sami Hyypiä met Gerrard's corner at the near post but he sent his header the wrong side of the upright. The pace inevitably slackened after that frenetic opening although Rivaldo twice threatened the Liverpool goal with free-kicks as Olympiacos began to feel their way into the game.
The Greek side had another narrow escape on 21 minutes when Gerrard met Alonso's corner with a deft flick but the ball rebounded to safety off the bottom of the post. Rivaldo again supplied the Olympiacos response with a sublime slaloming run half the length of the pitch before Hyypiä brought him down. The Brazilian was not to be denied and he fired in from the resultant free-kick after 27 minutes as the Liverpool wall parted like the Red Sea.
Given the news of AS Monaco FC's convincing lead in La Coruna, Liverpool knew they now needed to score at three times without reply and they should have eased their task with an immediate equaliser when Baroš played in John Arne Riise, but the Norwegian sliced his shot wide.
Rafael Benítez introduced Sinama-Pongolle in place of Djimi Traore at half-time and the move paid immediate dividend. Within a minute of the restart, Harry Kewell raced to the byline and crossed for the young French forward to equalise from close range.
Suddenly the tie was alive and the renewed hope of the home fans was palpable. Passions were raised on the pitch too and one ill-advised lunge from Gerrard earned the Liverpool captain a booking and a one-match ban.
The odds were that that ban would be served in the UEFA Cup and Liverpool might have sensed that it was not going to be their night when Gerrard had an effort disallowed after 62 minutes after an infringement earlier in the move.
Just as in the first half, the early Liverpool momentum faded until Mellor's arrival for Baroš 13 minutes from time. Again the move proved inspired as the homegrown forward pounced within minutes, following up after Núñez's header was saved.
That signalled another wave of Liverpool pressure. Mellor went down to large penalty appeals and then Kewell failed to capitalise on an Antonios Nikopolidis error. Finally, the third goal came as Jamie Carragher's ball was headed down by Mellor and Gerrard beat Nikopolidis with that thunderous shot.