Keane off mark for Liverpool

Liverpool 3 PSV Eindhoven 1
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The Independent Online

Liverpool supporters have learned from experience not to rush to judgement. After all, Stan Collymore scored on his debut, a very good goal too, and look what happened after that.

They have therefore waited patiently for Robbie Keane to open his account in red. Last night they were finally rewarded. The strains of "Keano", for so long a chant synonymous with one of Liverpool's most detested opponents, rolled down from the Kop.

The Irishman's first goal, in his 11th appearance for Liverpool, was followed by Steven Gerrard's 100th for the club. With Dirk Kuyt having opened the scoring after four minutes, and PSV a shadow of the teams which have worn their colours in the past, Liverpool were able to cruise to victory. Only Pepe Reina, who did not make a save, and Rafael Benitez, ever the perfectionist, had their night spoiled by Danny Koevermans' late response for the Dutch champions.

"It was not quite the perfect night," said Benitez, "but it was a good one. There were a lot of positive things."

Prime among them was Keane's goal. "It was really important for him, it was important for us," added Benitez. "Everybody was talking about it but the fans knew it was just a matter of time."

Keane himself tried to play down the goal's significance, even if his joyous celebrations had betrayed him. "That's a monkey off my back but I wasn't too worried about it," he claimed. "It is more other people talking about it. I am confident in my ability to score goals and as long as I was working hard for the team I was OK."

Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, who defeated Marseille in the other group match, have now opened up a six-point cushion in Group D. Liverpool go to the Spanish capital next and Gerrard said: "If we put in a good performance in Madrid we will have one foot in the next round. There's a good bond off the pitch and we're all in it together. But we've won nothing. We need to put some silverware on the table, it's been two years without any."

Liverpool certainly look like lifting a trophy of some description this season. With Albert Riera's arrival there is a nice balance about the side and the resources are strong enough for Benitez to last night rest his European specialist, Javier Mascherano.

Huub Stevens marshalled his more limited forces into a back five, who soon betrayed their normal adherence to a four by getting in one another's way. Within four minutes, over-manning in the wrong areas enabled Fernando Torres to force a corner. Gerrard took it and though Andreas Isaksson blocked Torres' near-post shot the goalkeeper was unable to prevent Kuyt driving in the rebound – doubtless delighting his former fans at PSV's Dutch rivals Feyenoord.

That it made it seven goals conceded in his last 36 minutes on English turf for Isaksson, the Swede having conceded six in the last 32 minutes of his final match at Manchester City, the 8-1 defeat to Middlesbrough in May.

A second goal should have followed when Carlos Salcido tripped Keane in the box. The German referee, making his debut in this competition, waved play on. Not that his error was any worse than Keane's poor first touch when receiving the ball from Riera. His lack of confidence in front of goal was obvious.

On 33 minutes Keane at last put his travails behind him. After Torres had headed wide from a corner, and Alonso, trying his party piece, failed to chip Isaksson from inside his own half, the dam finally burst for the Irishman. Torres, on the right wing, whipped over a cross. Keane ran across his marker and turned the ball, first time, inside the far post.

There was an explosion of sound from the Kop as Keane turned a joyous handstand, followed by a forward roll and his gunslinging act before jumping into the arms of Torres. His relief was luminous and it would have taken a hard heart, or an Evertonian one, not to share it. Spurs fans might have had mixed feelings though. Keane's goal came 24 hours after his erstwhile Tottenham strike-partner, Dimitar Berbatov, had scored his first for Manchester United,

Thereafter Liverpool's main danger was complacency. There was some sharp movement from Nordin Amrabat but Reina was untroubled. It seemed the tie would be put to bed for good when Jan Kromkamp, playing a better through ball than he ever managed when playing for Liverpool, delivered a backpass into Torres's path. The Spaniard drew Isaksson but, to general astonishment, slipped the ball wide.

Torres remained a menace and Dirk Marcellis was booked for bringing him down. There was further punishment as Fabio Aurelio tapped the free-kick to Gerrard who drove in from 30 yards, exploiting a gap created by Torres breaking off the wall. It was a fine way to bring up the century, 72 of them scored under Benitez. "It's always a fantastic feeling to score in front of the Kop," Gerrard said. "It was good to say 'thank you' for all the support they have given me over the years."

That should have been that but within a minute Koevermans got ahead of Martin Skrtel to clip in a cross from Balsz Dzsudzsak. A nervousness pervaded Anfield but Liverpool comfortably played out time.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio; Alonso, Gerrard (Babel, 81); Kuyt, Keane (Lucas, 75), Riera (Benayoun, 68); Torres. Substitutes not used: Dossena, Mascherano, Agger, Cavalieri (gk).

PSV Eindhoven (5-3-2): Isaksson; Kromkamp, Marcellis, Simons, Salcido, Bréchet (Pieters, h-t); Méndez (Dzsudzsak, 76), Culina, Wuytens (Koevermans, 60); Amrabat, Bakkal. Substitutes not used: Ramos (gk), Rodriguez, Zonnefveld, Nijland.

Referee: F Brych (Germany).

Group D

Results: PSV Eindhoven 0 Atletico Madrid 3; Marseilles 1 Liverpool 2; Liverpool 3 PSV Eindhoven 0; Atletico Madrid 2 Marseilles 1.

Liverpool's remaining group stage fixtures: 22 Oct: Atletico Madrid (a); 4 Nov: Atletico Madrid (h); 26 Nov: Marseilles (h); 9 Dec: PSV Eindhoven (a).

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