Golden García illuminates Anfield

The performance of Luis García epitomised the vibrant Liverpool FC display which defeated Juventus FC.

By Simon Hart at Anfield

If the pre-match appearance on the pitch of two Anfield legends, Phil Neal and Ian Rush, alongside Michel Platini offered another poignant reminder of the last time Liverpool FC and Juventus FC met, it also served to recall a time when the Reds were genuine giants on the European stage.

Inconsistent Liverpool
Liverpool, of course, went to Heysel as reigning European champions, but 20 years on they entered this UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie as underdogs, a team with talent but inconsistent, as their manager Rafael Benítez had admitted 24 hours earlier.

Youngsters' chance
For all their rich history, this fledgling Liverpool side are, as one English newspaper dubbed them, the Champions League's "Improbables". And their bid to overcome a Juventus side who had conceded just two goals in eight Champions League games looked even less probable after studying a starting lineup which included a 19-year-old goalkeeper making just his third appearance in Scott Carson, and a 20-year-old forward, Anthony Le Tallec, making his first start under Benítez.

'Extra dimension'
On Saturday, Liverpool stumbled to a 1-0 home victory against Bolton Wanderers FC. Yet once again under the Anfield floodlights here they found the "extra dimension" which Fabio Capello had spoken of, tearing into Juventus from the outset. Full-back Steve Finnan set the tone by winning an early challenge and flashing a shot into the side-netting.

García shines
But it was Luis García who encapsulated all that was good about Liverpool in a terrific opening 25 minutes which brought two goals. The little Spaniard has had a mixed first season in the English Premiership - not unlike Benítez himself - but here he excelled. Twice he delivered cute balls through to Milan Baroš which the Czech just failed to capitalise on. More impressively given his occasional difficulties with English football's physical demands, he snapped into two 50-50s with Gianluca Zambrotta, winning possession both times.

Liverpool goals
Then there were the goals which give Liverpool hope for the second leg. His near-post header from Steven Gerrard's corner set up Sami Hyypiä's finish for Liverpool's opener. García struck the second himself with a superb volley that dipped over Gianluigi Buffon from 25 metres.

Juve retort
It was too good to be true, and it is not meant as a slight to say that it could not be this good for fully 90 minutes, not against a team as strong as Juventus. Once or twice in the remainder of the first half the flicks of Alessandro Del Piero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pavel Nedved almost bore fruit as Capello's men sprung to life. Ibrahimovic fired a shot against a post within a minute of García's goal. Juve went close again as Nedved played in Del Piero and Carson raised a hand to paw away the Italian's shot.

Carson slip
Carson, the England Under-21 goalkeeper, kept a clean sheet on his home debut on Saturday but he will feel he should have done better with the goal which helps Juventus's prospects. The teenager got a hand to Fabio Cannavaro's downward header but could not stop it bouncing over him and into the net shortly after the hour. Not the first goalkeeping error at Anfield this season.

Benítez warning
Liverpool, the inconsistents as well as the improbables, were outplayed in the second period, with Nedved shining on his first appearance in six weeks. Yet still they lead 2-1. And if, as Capello suggests, they are still improving as Benítez's lessons sink in, Europe had definitely better watch out when the Spaniard's team-building really starts to take shape.