An emphatic second-half strike from Steven Gerrard and a close-range header by Peter Crouch ensured Liverpool FC will finish top of UEFA Champions League Group C as they recorded a 2-0 win against fellow qualifiers PSV Eindhoven.
However, victory came at a price for manager Rafael Benítez, who saw three of his midfielders injured at Anfield on a night when English internationals Gerrard and Crouch delivered the goals that Liverpool's overall dominance had deserved.
Liverpool's inspirational skipper Gerrard operated in a central midfield role, with Crouch partnering Dirk Kuyt up front, and the Netherlands striker had the game's first chance in the fourth minute when he flicked a floating lob just wide of the post with the outside of his right boot. PSV's lineup contained only one surprise as captain Phillip Cocu started the match on the bench due to a virus, and the visitors' midfield seemed to miss his presence as Liverpool established an early supremacy.
However, the home team also had to accommodate changes in the middle when Xabi Alonso limped off in the 21st minute to be replaced by Boudewijn Zenden. The Spaniard was later joined in the dressing room by Mark González, the Chilean having torn a hamstring, with Luis García brought on. PSV grew in confidence as the half wore on and restricted Liverpool's space until Gerrard missed a fantastic opportunity to open the scoring, steering his first-time left-footed drive centimetres off target, having been set up intelligently by Crouch.
Zenden then forced PSV keeper Heurelho Gomes into a comfortable save but Liverpool were not as threatening when breaking forward as they might have hoped. Accordingly, a goalless first half drew to a close on a fairly low-key note, though Crouch was desperately unlucky not to hit the target with a fine header from Steve Finnan's cross.
For their part, PSV were relying heavily on sporadic counterattacks, though their best effort in the first hour came from almost as far back as the halfway line when defender Csaba Fehér had a shot deflected narrowly over Pepe Reina's crossbar. Liverpool eventually went ahead in the 65th minute, with Gerrard gratefully slamming the ball past the wrong-footed Gomes to provide the perfect finish to a fine move involving Finnan and Kuyt, who supplied the killer pass. The goal gave the game a much-needed spark and both sets of supporters responded in kind.
Craig Bellamy came on when Jermaine Pennant became the third Liverpool player to pick up a knock and had to be carried off in the 79th minute. Meanwhile, PSV coach Ronald Koeman sent on Diego Tardelli and Roy Beerens to try and find an equaliser, but it was Crouch who had the final say. The England centre-forward nodded home from a metre out after Kuyt's hanging header left him with the simplest of tasks in the 89th minute.