Early goals from Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen set the tone for a commanding away performance from Liverpool FC, who advanced to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup at PFC Levski Sofia's expense.
Forced to chase the game to reverse a 2-0 first-leg deficit, Levski coach Georgi Vassilev paired Georgi Chilikov up front with Vladimir Ivanov, but their task was soon made harder. After only seven minutes Gerrard latched on to Ilian Stoianov's underhit back-pass and rounded Dimitar Ivankov to score.
Levski were stretched time and again by a Liverpool side attacking with pace down the flanks, and on eleven minutes Harry Kewell picked out Owen, who beat the offside trap and cut into the box before curling a beautiful right-foot shot beyond Ivankov and into the far corner.
Levski were giving the Liverpool midfield too much time to pick their passes and Kewell was the next player sent clear, but this time Ivankov dived smartly to smother his low strike.
Levski were struggling to make an impression up front, but when Steve Finnan failed to clear with 27 minutes played, Ivanov seized his chance to fire low beyond Chris Kirkland and bring Levski back into the match. Levski had found a cutting edge and, with their tails up, drew level on 40 minutes. Chilikov back-heeled the ball to Sasa Simonovic on the edge of the area and he beat Kirkland with a curling drive.
Having fought their way back into the game, however, Levski's defence crumbled again one minute before the break, Gerrard's corner headed in by an unmarked Dietmar Hamann.
Gerrard was in excellent form, spreading play with a brilliant series of passes as Liverpool remained on top during the second half. Midway through the half, Gerrard's precision passing was made to count - Sami Hyypiä rising high at another corner to head in and restore Liverpool's two-goal cushion.
Levski had tested Liverpool on 63 minutes when Stanislav Angelov shot crisply from the edge of the area, but Kirkland tipped his effort over the bar and was otherwise comfortably in control, like a Liverpool team who will now look forward to the last 16 with confidence.
Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, was particularly delighted with the form of Michael Owen. "I'm very happy that he scored," Houllier said. "He had an outstanding game and worked very hard. He was very sharp." Houllier added: "
It's great to score four goals away from home and that four different players scored for us."
A disappointed Vassilev admitted his side had little chance after conceding a goal so early. "The tie was virtually killed off when Gerrard scored," he said. "
We didn't play well in defence and allowed Liverpool to score two goals from set pieces. Liverpool are a great team, but we did our best."