By Mark Bennett at BayArena
Two goals from Luis García helped Liverpool FC reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Milan Baroš also finding the net as the English side progressed in style.
Spanish midfield player García struck twice in five minutes midway through the first half as Rafael Benítez's team built on their 3-1 first-leg win with a fine display of counterattacking football in Germany. Czech international Baroš completed a fine win seven minutes past the hour and, although Jacek Krzynówek scored a consolation goal in the closing minutes, the Premiership side had long since booked their place in the draw on 18 March.
After a minute's silence in memory of Rinus Michels, a former Leverkusen coach who died last Thursday, the match got under way with Klaus Augenthaler forced to reshuffle due to injuries and suspension. Diego Placente partnered Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker in central defence with Bernd Schneider and Marko Babic the full-backs, while Landon Donovan and Daniel Bierofka replaced Robson Ponté and Paul Freier in midfield and Andriy Voronin made way for França up front.
Freedom to roam
Benítez fielded the side most people expected, with Baroš the lone striker and captain Steven Gerrard, back after suspension, given the freedom to roam in midfield. Despite the home side seeing more of the ball in the opening minutes it was Liverpool who looked the more threatening, Baroš making several promising runs to rattle the Leverkusen defence.
Just as the home side seemed to be working their way into the match, the visitors struck in the 28th minute. Gerrard's corner was not properly cleared and the ball was played back out to the English international on the right. From his cross, Luis García – who had also opened the scoring at Anfield - got ahead of his marker at the near post to steer the ball beyond Jörg Butt.
The strike cancelled out França's away goal from the first leg, and Leverkusen were still attempting to regroup when they suffered a further double blow four minutes later. Dimitar Berbatov was forced to leave the field through injury, Voronin replacing the Bulgarian striker, but just seconds later it was 2-0. Again a Gerrard corner was the catalyst, Igor Bišcan meeting the cross with a powerful downward header which García cleverly touched over the line.
The goal left Leverkusen needing to score five to progress, and Liverpool, and García, almost rounded off a fine first-half display with a third goal seven minutes before the interval. Baroš's clever pass freed the Spanish midfield player, who turned inside and forced Butt to tip his left-foot shot over the crossbar.
Despite the aggregate deficit, Leverkusen kept throwing players forward early in the second half in a desperate attempt to restore some pride but the Liverpool defence coped adequately, although the Bundesliga side might have scored twice in five minutes. First, Bierofka escaped the attentions of the Liverpool defence on the right and picked out França only for the Brazilian to fire over the bar, before the same two players combined again, but this time Jerzy Dudek denied França.
Liverpool, however, stuck to their game plan and created more chances. After Butt had denied Gerrard, Baroš made no mistake in the 67th minute, latching on to a deflection off Clemens Fritz and rifling a low shot beyond the Leverkusen goalkeeper to emphasise the English side's superiority over the two matches. Krzynówek's late reply had no bearing on that, or the result.