Carragher hails tactician Benitez

As Liverpool's supporters savoured the club's arrival alongside the continental élite in the last eight of the Champions' League, the longest-serving player at Anfield hailed the 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen as "the perfect European performance" and highlighted the part Rafael Benitez's methods played in achieving the 6-2 aggregate success.

As Liverpool's supporters savoured the club's arrival alongside the continental élite in the last eight of the Champions' League, the longest-serving player at Anfield hailed the 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen as "the perfect European performance" and highlighted the part Rafael Benitez's methods played in achieving the 6-2 aggregate success.

Jamie Carragher is eminently qualified to provide context to Liverpool's progress, having served under Graeme Souness, Roy Evans and Gérard Houllier. The England defender, 27, pointed to Benitez's work on the training ground as the decisive factor in avenging a shattering late defeat in Leverkusen's BayArena in the 2002 quarter-finals.

"We work a lot on tactics as a team, on how we're going to play and on our opponents' weaknesses," Carragher said. "We probably do more tactical work now than I've done with any manager at any level in my career. When [Benitez] has time to prepare the side properly, it's reflected in our football. After international matches, when [we] have only the one day to prepare, we haven't done as well.

"To get this kind of win, especially given Leverkusen's group results, was special. They beat Real Madrid and Michael Owen told me they were one of the best sides he had played against."

Benitez had anticipated intense pressure from Leverkusen and set up Liverpool to play on the break. In the event, the German team piled forward too early, too recklessly and with scant regard to the absence of key defenders. Damningly, they had no apparent strategy for dealing with Steven Gerrard's role in the "hole" behind a lone striker.

Too often, they also left Luis Garcia unmarked. The former Barcelona winger, peripheral in some Premiership away games, visibly gained in confidence. His two early goals killed the contest and if Milan Baros, the third scorer, had been less wasteful, Liverpool might have matched Lyon's 10-2 aggregate against another Bundesliga side, Werder Bremen.

Carragher hoped the "feelgood factor" would spill over into the coming run of home games. Since the first brings Everton to Anfield a week on Sunday, there is no danger of European competition overshadowing domestic matters. But the quarter-final draw, to be held a week today, will be awaited with growing excitement.

"I'm sure we'll be considered outsiders, maybe rightly, because there are a lot of teams left in that win trophies and titles in their own countries," Carragher said. "But the best sides don't always win the Champions' League. Every game will be tight and could go either way. Milan and Chelsea will be looked upon as being among the best teams in Europe. We're probably not up there - but we want to go as far as we can."

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