A blistering start by Liverpool FC ensured they took all three points from their opening UEFA Champions League Group G game away to Real Betis Balompié, goals inside the first quarter-hour from Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Luis García earning the holders a 2-1 win.
Although the Spanish side fought back with a 51st-minute goal from Arzu, they were unable to complete the comeback. Facing the European champions on their tournament debut was a daunting beginning for a team whose starting XI included only one player, Marcos Assunção, with previous Champions League experience, and they could not have got off to a worse start.
By the second minute they were already a goal behind as Sinama-Pongolle struck. Jamie Carragher lofted a high ball towards Peter Crouch and with the tall target man distracting the home defence, Sinama-Pongolle took advantage to lift a delightful lob over Antonio Doblas from the edge of the box.
Eyebrows were raised when Rafael Benítez spent upwards of €10m on Crouch in the summer but in the opening stages of his Champions League bow the 24-year-old gave some indication of his worth. For much of last season Liverpool struggled on their travels yet here Crouch provided an important outlet, holding the ball up while the trio of García, Boudewijn Zenden and Sinama-Pongolle swarmed forward around him.
Three of those players were involved in the Reds' second goal on 14 minutes. Crouch slipped a pass through to Zenden who, breaking down the inside-left channel, crossed low to García. The Spaniard got there ahead of David Rivas and directed a first-time shot inside Doblas's near post. Having made their way through three qualifying rounds, Liverpool had begun the competition proper like the European champions they are - and this with Steven Gerrard on the bench.
Suddenly it was very quiet inside the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera but Betis kept at it. Fernando had already missed one presentable opportunity at 1-0 down - delaying his shot in front of José Manuel Reina, allowing Djimi Traoré time to make a sliding block - and further chances followed. In the 21st minute, the Brazilian Ricardo Oliveira skipped past Sami Hyypiä and tested Reina with a low shot. Then, following a half-cleared corner, Oliveira crossed back into the danger zone where Reina saved bravely at the feet of Juanito Gutiérrez.
On 35 minutes Betis coach Llorenc Serra Ferrer sent on another striker, the talismanic Dani, in place of Fernando and moments later the Andalusians created another opening, Arzu slipping the ball through to Fernando Varela but again Reina was there to make the stop. After a nightmare start to the first period, Betis gave themselves hope six minutes into the second when Arzu struck, flicking the ball through Reina's legs after Dani's pass had put him through.
It was now all Betis and Liverpool had to survive an uncomfortable spell as the hosts pressed for a second. Survive they did, albeit without displaying any of the attacking threat they had shown before the break. Indeed, despite the visitors' introduction of Djibril Cissé, John Arne Riise and Gerrard, one scuffed effort by Riise was all Doblas had to contend with in the second half.
Betis, for their part, were creating only half-chances. Reina tipped one Oliveira header over the bar, then Joaquín Sánchez scuffed a shot wide before the Spain winger weaved his way past three red shirts and crossed to the far post where, with the angle tight, substitute Xisco Muñoz fired into the side-netting. One further scare followed for Liverpool when dead-ball specialist Assunção lined up a free-kick 20 metres from goal but Reina saved comfortably.