Gerard takes centre stage to revive Liverpool again

LIVERPOOL 2 - FBK KAUNAS O (Liverpool win 5-1 on aggregate)
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The Independent Football

Gerrard was rested from last night's second qualifying round second leg against FBK Kaunas though not from the task of confirming Liverpool's superiority over the champions of Lithuania. After an arduous night's work for his team the England international emerged from the bench in the 75th minute and took just 120 seconds to provide the breakthrough his manager, Rafael Benitez, had demanded.

Eight changes ensured disruption was inevitable, but after seven games in less than a month Benitez had every right to expect more fluidity from his side. Instead, Liverpool's laboured performance was of more comfort to the 70 supporters from the Baltics.

A committed performance from Kaunas admittedly made matters difficult for those Liverpool players desperate to seize the opportunity to impress. Of those only Mohamed Sissoko can be satisfied with his first appearance at Anfield since a £5.6m arrival from Valencia. Sissoko showed just why the Everton manager, David Moyes, was so keen to bring the Mali international to Goodison Park with an industrious display, one that he could have capped with a fine goal when his low 25-yard drive flew inches wide a minute before the break.

Fernando Morientes did test the Kaunas goalkeeper, Sarunas Kilijonas, with a header but it was only after Djibril Cissé replaced the Spanish international at the interval that Liverpool began to show any penetration or imagination.

Cissé's partnership with Peter Crouch had shown plenty of promise in Lithuania and it offered further encouragement as their understanding troubled Kaunas. Garcia had a strong penalty claim dismissed when the left-back Dainius Kunevicius blatantly handled inside the area before Crouch, inches away from connecting with Cissé's right-wing cross, returned the compliment by sending the French international clear with an incisive pass.

Cissé's angled drive flew just wide, yet before the strikers could work on their double act once again Crouch was forced out of the contest, apparently with a hamstring strain. Cissé completed the victory four minutes from time when he side-footed Garcia's deep cross into the Kop goal.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Carson; Finnan, Hyypia, Whitbread, Warnock; Garcia, Hamann (Gerrard, 75), Sissoko, Zenden; Crouch (Potter, 55), Morientes (Cissé, 46). Substitutes not used: Reina (gk), Riise, Alonso, Carragher.

FBK Kaunas (4-4-2): Kilijonas; Kancelskis, Baguzis, Zelmikas, Kunevicius; Pehlic (Barevicius, 66), Kvaratskhelia, Petrenko (Klimek, 46 mins), Manchkhava; Rimkevicius, Poderis (Maciulis, 87). Substitutes not used: Kurskis (gk), Beniusis, Kijanskas, Papeckys.

Referee: G Paparesta (Italy).