Liverpool FC are on course to reach the last four of the UEFA Champions League for the second time in three years after a commanding victory against PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their quarter-final at the PSV Stadium.
The 2005 UEFA Champions League winners needed little more than an hour to put the tie seemingly beyond doubt as Steven Gerrard's 27th-minute header was followed up by goals early in the second half from John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch. The result was Liverpool's biggest away win in the UEFA Champions League.
These sides knew each other well having met in the group stage, and they cagily renewed acquaintances here during a cautious opening spell. In the absence of PSV's talismanic defender Alex, midfielder Timmy Simons started in central defence for the first time this season and was given time to acclimatise to his new role as Liverpool began tentatively.
PSV's defensive troubles, however, were soon to be exposed. Neither team had managed a shot on goal when out of the blue, Liverpool almost took the lead on 16 minutes. Gerrard's corner found Jamie Carragher, making his 50th UEFA Champions League appearance, who crashed a header goalwards that Heurelho Gomes brilliantly tipped away diving to his left. When the in-form Crouch fizzed a shot wide soon after, it appeared Liverpool were finding their stride.
PSV responded and Mika Väyrynen was unlucky to see his flashing strike deflected over by Carragher on 22 minutes. Five minutes later, though, Liverpool were ahead. Steve Finnan whipped in a cross from the right and there was Gerrard to send a diving header into the bottom right corner, leaving Gomes rooted to his goalline. Gerrard was playing ostensibly on the right but with a licence to roam, he drifted in unmarked from the centre to give Liverpool the edge.
It was to prove a telling blow. PSV had scored just eight goals in the competition to date and their hopes of getting back into the contest diminished further when top scorer Jefferson Farfán picked up an injury and was substituted at half-time. Indeed, it was Liverpool who came out firing and they added to their advantage just four minutes after the restart. Simons's rushed clearance fell to the feet of Riise who drove home spectacularly past Gomes from 25 metres.
PSV coach Ronald Koeman reacted by bringing on veteran striker Patrick Kluivert, yet it was hard to see a way back for the home team as Liverpool turned the screw. On 63 minutes Rafael Benítez's side grabbed a third, Finnan again the provider down the right as Crouch rose high above Manuel Da Costa to head in. A brilliant night for Liverpool was soured late on when Fabio Aurelio was carried off with a suspected achilles injury. It was the only negative from a seamless display that will leave Liverpool fans watching tomorrow's quarter-final between potential semi-finalists Chelsea FC and Valencia CF with renewed interest.