The scoreline that reads like a threat: eight goals says Liverpool are defiantly back in business in the Champions League. They are not yet in the knockout round, but as the goals rained in on a record-breaking night at Anfield you would not bet against a third European miracle from Rafa Benitez.
Take your pick from the heroes. Cometh the hour, cometh the Crouch: it was the Englishman Peter who scored the first and the last of the biggest winning margin in Champions League history. A hat-trick for Yossi Benayoun, whose form comes bang on time for the Kop and 11 days too early for Steve McClaren, who will hope the Israeli shows similar potency in that crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia later this month. And they were not the only stars on show in Liverpool's biggest European win in 27 years. Ryan Babel scored two as a substitute in less than half an hour and Steven Gerrard added the pick of the bunch. After weeks of indifferent football, Benitez left out Dirk Kuyt, left Fernando Torres on the bench and saw his team come alive in front of goal. Even Andriy Voronin left the pitch to a standing ovation
As the Kop demanded nine and the Besiktas manager stared embarrassed at his shoes, there was one other colder, less palatable truth taking shape. In Portugal, Porto beat Marseilles to go top of Group A, four points ahead of Liverpool in third. Benitez's side must win their last two games against those two teams to be sure of qualifying although, for the time being, they have gone one better than Arsenal's savaging of Slavia Prague last month.
Last night was a time for celebration, however, as Benitez's team played in the most un-Benitez manner possible. Attacking relentlessly, they went at a Besiktas team who had to come out of their shell once Crouch had opened the scoring in the 19th minute. The Turks were, to put it lightly, dreadful in defence and for long periods it was a job to remind yourself that this was a team who had beaten Liverpool 13 days earlier.
"Before we have created chances but we couldn't score," Benitez said. "Once you start scoring goals it gets easier." A simple philosophy, but one the Liverpool manager seems to have taken some time to grasp. He was not about to bury his players in praise, either. "Ryan, Yossi and Crouch – it was good for them," he said. And then he went on to praise Voronin, whose industry was what seemed to have caught Benitez's eye on a night when goals were flying in.
First blood went to Crouch who was given only his seventh start of the season – of which only four have been in the Premier League and Champions League proper. Out of the reckoning for England and cast aside by Benitez for reasons only the Spanish manager can explain, Crouch has always lurched from the triumphant to the despairing in his career – and it was once again leaning towards the latter before he was given his chance again last night.
The big man did not look in the mood to pass this one up. He dominated the Besiktas centre-half Lamine Diatta in the air and his flicks and passes on the deck were not too shabby either. On 19 minutes, Voronin played a ball through to Crouch and, with the aid of a mistimed tackle, the striker found himself through on goal. His first effort was brilliantly saved, but he tucked the rebound under Hakan Arikan.
You could forgive Crouch the demonstrative celebration – a full 6ft 7in long dive on to the Anfield turf. How much does one man have to do to stay in the team? He will not be taking anything for granted when the squad list is pinned up for the Fulham game on Sunday, because the surest way for any striker to get himself dropped by Benitez is to start scoring goals. Kuyt has been more or less a fixture in the team with five all season.
Liverpool smelt blood as Besiktas showed the first signs of a cave-in. The incorrigibly greedy Voronin was in a generous mood, playing a crucial role in the first five goals. The second arrived on 32 minutes, a simplistic affair. John Arne Riise's throw-in was chased down the left by Voronin, who crossed for an unmarked Benayoun to volley the ball in.
The records will read that Benayoun notched three but he barely had to move more than five yards for his second and third. The first arrived plated and ready to gobble up on 53 minutes when Voronin played in Riise, whose shot smashed off Arikan's hands and to the grateful feet of Benayoun, who tucked it away. For the fourth, and Benayoun's third, Voronin won the free-kick that Gerrard smashed goalwards, Arikan saved and the Israeli did the rest.
Two exchanges made the fifth for Gerrard, who swapped passes with Javier Mascherano, then Voronin, who gave his captain the ball with a flick with the inside of his heel – and Gerrard was through to score. The substitute Babel scored his first with a cute flick with the inside of his heel from Benayoun's cross. His second was pure luck, defender Toraman cleared the ball against him and it looped up and over Arikan.
Crouch added the eighth, a flicked header from Benayoun's cross. "I'm sorry," said the Besiktas coach, Ertugrul Saglam. "That was unacceptable." Anfield, on the other hand, looked like it could get used to this kind of football – although it will probably be all change on Saturday.
Liverpool (4-1-3-2): Reina; Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Aurelio (Babel, 63); Mascherano; Benayoun, Gerrard (Leiva, 73), Riise; Voronin (Kewell, 72), Crouch. Substitutes not used: Martin (gk), Finnan, Torres, Kuyt.
Besiktas (4-4-2): Arikan; Kurtulus (Higuain, 61), Diatta, Toraman, Uzlulmez; Ozkan (Tandogan, h-t), Avci, Cissé, Sedef (Ricardinho, 77); Delgado, Bobo. Substitutes not used: Rustu (gk), Yozgatli, Kas, Karadeniz.
Referee: M Merk (Germany).
Results: Marseilles 2 Besiktas 0; Porto 1 Liverpool 1; Besiktas 0 Porto 1; Liverpool 0 Marseilles 1; Besiktas 2 Liverpool 1; Marseilles 1 Porto 1; Liverpool 8 Besiktas 0; Porto 2 Marseilles 1.
Remaining fixtures 28 November: Besiktas v Marseilles; Liverpool v Porto. 11 December: Marseilles v Liverpool; Porto v Besiktas.
What happens next Despite last night's rousing victory, Liverpool still need to win both remaining games and even then are not certain to qualify. It could still depend on the actual result against Marseilles, who were 1-0 winners at Anfield last month.Reuse content