|Wednesday 15th September 2004
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool
LIVERPOOL 2-0 AS MONACO
|Tell us your view of this game in the Forum|
|Benitez competitive matches record: Played 7 Won 4 Drawn 1 Lost 2|
Liverpool 2-0 AS Monaco
Liverpool lived on their nerves but in the end deservedly grabbed a confidence-boosting group A victory on their return to the Champions League.
Monaco, last season's runners-up, were outplayed for long spells but - for all Liverpool's clever, inventive football - were not finished off until six minutes from time.
Djibril Cisse put Liverpool ahead as their slick movement and passing threatened to over-run Didier Deschamps' side.
But it was not until substitute Milan Baros broke away to grab a second goal with six minutes left that boss Rafael Benitez was able to breathe easier.
Former boss Gerard Houllier was watching in the directors' box - and he saw his successor leave out Dietmar Hamann to allow £11million Spaniard Xabi Alonso to take over a central midfield role.
Otherwise it was the same team which beat West Brom on Saturday in the Barclays Premiership, with Chris Kirkland over his back problem and returning to the bench alongside Hamann and Baros.
Injuries and suspensions hit Monaco - with Javier Saviola banned and Ernesto Chevanton and Shabani Nonda injured it meant Mohamed Kallon was up front.
Monaco had only five of the side which played against Porto in last season's final in their starting line-up.
But even though they looked defensive, with three centre-backs, they broke quickly and had pace and awareness up front - particularly Kallon.
The former Inter Milan man, only just back from a UEFA ban for failing a drugs test, almost caught out Jerzy Dudek in the opening minutes when he spotted the Pole off his line - and tried a 40-yard effort which did not miss the target by much.
But Liverpool started to grow in confidence with some crisp passing and neat and tidy movement, particularly on the right, where Steve Finnan had held his place.
Alonso's ability to switch play with long, raking passes kept a good supply coming Finnan's way with Josemi up in support and the lively Luis Garcia linking well.
There had been barely a chance until what looked a lazy Monaco build-up ended with a neat ball from Kallon to Pontus Farnerud, but the Swede wasted the opportunity with a shot pulled wide of the far post.
That sparked Liverpool, and the growing menace of Garcia cost Andreas Zikos a booking when he cut down the quick-thinking midfielder.
But Garcia continued to find plenty of space to work in and almost scored with a dipping 25-yard effort just over the far angle.
Liverpool's breakthrough came in the 22nd minute, following a foul on Garcia.
Alonso's free-kick was moved sweetly to Steven Gerrard, who played a one-two with Garcia before playing the ball into the path of Cisse.
The striker cruised into space in the box before lashing a 12-yard effort past Flavio Roma for his first Anfield goal.
Liverpool continued to improve with Alonso having an increasing input, while Finnan was a constant menace - timing his runs into space on the right to collect a string of excellent cross-field passes.
But Garcia caused Monaco most problems and when Harry Kewell put him clear on the left only Roma's legs prevented a second goal.
Garcia could have scored twice more before the break with headers, with Monaco looking an increasingly worried outfit.
The typically-busy Gerrard was booked in the 51st minute for a foul on Sebastien Squillaci - before Liverpool got wasteful.
Cisse was put clear by Garcia but saw Roma block his shot while both Kewell and Gerrard saw efforts clear the bar.
Monaco found a second wind and started to put moves of their own together, with Dudek saving an unchallenged Adebayor header at the foot of a post, before Jamie Carragher headed clear when the goalkeeper failed to come for a cross.
Baros came on to replace Cisse but Monaco could now sense their chance and were pinning Liverpool back.
Benitez moved to restore some substance to Liverpool's defending by taking off Kewell and bringing on young midfielder Stephen Warnock.
But still Monaco came forward and what had been a comfortable performance was becoming a nervy display.
Dudek again failed to challenge for a right wing cross - but the ball evaded Carragher and, more significantly for the Anfield faithful, Adebayor.
Roma needed to be smart to save at Garcia's feet, but it did not swing the game back Liverpool's way.
However, for all his invention and clever play, Garcia is prone to panic in front of goal - and he wasted a glorious chance to settle things in the 81st minute when he blasted wide from 10 yards after Finnan's nod-down had left him in the clear.
But the clincher arrived three minutes later after Josemi lifted a high clearance straight down the middle.
Baros gained possession just outside the penalty box, moved into the area and slipped round Julien Rodriguez before firing past Roma from an acute angle.
Liverpool Dudek, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Finnan, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Warnock 76), Luis Garcia (Biscan 87), Cisse (Baros 69).
Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Diao, Hamann, Traore.
Monaco Roma, Givet (El Fakiri 80), Squillaci, Rodriguez, Anjreas Zikos, Maicon, Perez (Juan 89), Farnerud, Evra (Camara 45), Kallon, Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Audard, Modesto, Lacombe, Lescure.
Booked: Anjreas Zikos, Givet.
Ref: Terje Hauge (Norway).
All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.
BBC Sport report
|Match Report filed: 16th September 2004|