Liverpool FC's hopes of applying a silver lining to their troubled season are alive after a 3-0 win against LOSC Lille Métropole carried them into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
Steven Gerrard cancelled out Lille's first-leg advantage with an early penalty before Fernando Torres sealed their progress with two second-half strikes.
Liverpool skipper Gerrard said the first goal would be crucial and he delivered it after only eight minutes. Lucas is not known for his dribbling skills but perhaps inspired by the presence at Anfield of Diego Maradona, the Brazilian jinked between two white shirts before going down under a challenge by Adil Rami.
Torres then embarked on a mesmerising run along the byline that ended with a shot deflected behind. With Liverpool on top, more chances followed. Dirk Kuyt failed to squeeze the ball home after Daniel Agger had headed on Gerrard's corner. Kuyt then turned provider, releasing Lucas who shot at Mickaël Landreau, before dinking a cross to Torres who headed wide.
Lille are nicknamed Les Dogues (The Mastiffs) but they were being hounded by Liverpool – typified when Gerrard dispossessed the dawdling Rio Mavuba and found Torres clean through but offside. Still, Lille could have reached half-time level through Eden Hazard, the first-leg match-winner, who saw his shot bounce off Pepe Reina's head after breaking clear via a one-two with Ludovic Obraniak.
Torres, making his first home European start since September, scored Liverpool's second four minutes after the restart. The Spaniard capitalised on Rami's failure to deal with Ryan Babel's long ball, sprinted away from Aurélien Chedjou and finished coolly past Landreau.
Lille coach Rudi García sent on two big strikers, Larsen Touré and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the latter gave Liverpool a scare on 73 minutes when he met a free-kick at the far post only to find the roof of the net. Liverpool conceded costly late goals twice in the UEFA Champions League group stage but after a long ball had fallen just behind Aubameyang, Torres dispelled any nerves by sweeping home the rebound after Landreau had foiled Gerrard.