Liverpool FC booked a UEFA Champions League semi-final date with English rivals Chelsea FC for the second time in three years as Peter Crouch's solitary strike wrapped up a comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over PSV Eindhoven in the quarter-final at Anfield.
With Liverpool three goals ahead from the first leg, Rafael Benítez took the opportunity to rest players, and homegrown heroes Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard started on the bench. After being beset by injuries, PSV coach Ronald Koeman gave a UEFA Champions League debut to Dirk Marcellis and it was the visitors who had the first chance in the opening minutes, captain Phillip Cocu crossing for Jefferson Farfán whose flicked header was kept out by Pepe Reina.
Benítez was forced into an early change when Craig Bellamy was carried off with an apparent knee injury in the 17th minute and replaced by Robbie Fowler. The initial exchanges were a disjointed affair as the Liverpool fans amused themselves with songs of premature celebration though passions were finally stirred in the 25th minute when Crouch met Jermaine Pennant's centre with a first-time volley which brought a fine save from Heurelho Gomes.
PSV's ambitions appeared to be primarily focused on containment and with the hosts comfortably in control, the match lacked a cutting edge. Liverpool were more than content to keep the ball and spread it out wide to Pennant, who was impressive on the right flank. Yet it was Boudewijn Zenden, against his former club, who came closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval with a curling left-footed free-kick that whistled past Gomes's left-hand post.
Farfán began the second half as he had the first by troubling Reina, this time with a raking low drive from the edge of the box which the keeper parried away for a corner. At the other end, and from a similar position, Crouch dragged a shot wide. Then Liverpool gained a further advantage. Marcellis would have wanted a night to remember on his arrival in the big time, but unfortunately for the 18-year-old, he was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Zenden on 64 minutes. His departure was quickly followed by the only goal. Although Gomes saved low from a misdirected clearance by Carlos Salcido, Fowler picked up the loose ball and squared to partner Crouch, who turned in his sixth UEFA Champions League goal this season.
Crouch and Pennant could have added a second with late opportunities but a single strike settled matters on the night. The atmosphere, passion and circumstances promise to be infinitely more intense here when Liverpool take on Chelsea in a repeat of the 2005 UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg on 1 May. The Kop will be hoping to roar the Reds into the final of Europe's premier club competition for the seventh time in their history and it will be no place for the faint-hearted.