Liverpool, starting with an unchanged XI for the first time in 100 games, eased into the knock-out phase of the Champions' League last night by virtue of a comfortable, if blood-spattered victory - started and finished by Luis Garcia - and PSV Eindhoven's defeat of Galatasaray.
Garcia now has 10 goals in the competition for Liverpool since Rafael Benitez plucked him from Barcelona. In between came Steven Gerrard's first for his club this season, although the Bordeaux coach Raimundo Ricardo Gomes claimed that the dismissal of the midfielder Fernando Menegazzo midway through the second half was a "turning point".
The French runners-up were a goal down but enjoying their best spell when a feisty challenge by Momo Sissoko, who had already been cautioned, caused a hold-up. During the break, John Arne Riise held on to the ball when Menegazzo demanded he return it. The South American promptly gave a sinister twist to the term "Brazil nut" by butting Riise, whose face was streaked with blood as his assailant trudged off.
Liverpool made the most of their numerical advantage, Gerrard and Garcia scoring within nine minutes, and the news from the Netherlands completed a satisfactory evening for Benitez. "We know what we have to do to win the group, which is to beat PSV at Anfield in our next match," the Liverpool manager said.
Benitez was delighted Gerrard was off the mark at last. The captain's shooting endangered the Kop's middle reaches more than the Bordeaux goal prior to his moment of catharsis. "It was really good for him," the Spaniard said. "Sometimes when a player gets 23 goals one season and then can't score the next, it puts him under pressure."
His decision to field the side that beat Aston Villa smacked of making a point to critics of his squad rotation. Ironically, Liverpool's laboured first-half performance made a good case for his policy, pursued relentlessly for 19 months, of introducing fresh ideas, legs and lung power to a team with a punishing schedule.
Bordeaux were quick to mass behind the ball whenever the red shirts threatened. Early on, Gerrard tried to open them up with one of his trademark diagonal passes, only to miss his kick completely. He was undaunted, and his next delivery led to Liverpool seizing a 23rd-minute lead.
Dirk Kuyt laid the ball off to him on the right of the area and Gerrard's cross passed over Peter Crouch and his marker before falling to Garcia. From beyond the back post, the midfielder buried a volley that flashed past Ulrich Rame into the far corner.
Despite their lead, and the guile of Xabi Alonso, Liverpool's football was a far cry from the irresistible force that engulfed Villa. Kuyt's energy had been a vital component in that success, and he strove to lift his colleagues. Before half-time, the Dutchman sent a long-range drive narrowly wide and then headed over from another Gerrard centre.
The memory of Liverpool's previous European home match ought to have seared into their psyche the folly of resting on their laurels. Galatasaray came from 3-0 down to 3-2 in the second half, and there were uncomfortable reminders of that narrow scrape as Bordeaux came out of their shells after the break.
Florian Marange hit a 25-yard shot which Jose Reina tipped over. Jean-Claude Darcheville then ran clear, bringing the goalkeeper hurtling from his line to block with his legs. When Liverpool then struggled to prevent Johan Micoud exploiting a shooting opportunity, the onus was on Benitez to change his unchanged team.
The switch duly came, Bolo Zenden entering the fray. There was a case for delegating a midfielder to pay closer attention to Micoud, for the passing of the former understudy to Zinedine Zidane in the France squad became increasingly influential as Bordeaux began to scent their first goal in the group and a share of the points. Instead, Menegazzo's rush of blood, not to mention Riise's, helped Liverpool to regain control.
With 18 minutes left, Gerrard raced through the middle to score with a low shot from 12 yards after a pass by Zenden. Four minutes later, after wretched control by David Jemmali, Garcia sprinted away to dispatch the third.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Gerrard, Alonso (Zenden, 57), Sissoko, Garcia (Fowler, 78); Crouch (Pennant, 72), Kuyt. Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Agger, Fabio Aurelio, Warnock.
Bordeaux (4-3-1-2): Rame; Faubert, Jemmali, Cid, Marange; Fernando Menegazzo, Ducasse, Wendel; Micoud (Mavuba, 74); Darcheville (Obertan, 59), Chamakh (Perea, 11). Substitutes not used: Valverde (gk), Henrique, Cesar Alonso, Obertan.
Referee: M Merk (Germany).Reuse content