Liverpool 3 Deportivo Saprissa 0: Crouch double as Liverpool demolish Costa Ricans to reach showpiece final

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The Independent Football

The London bus analogy was inevitable once Peter Crouch consigned 17 games of misfortune and misery to history with his first goal for Liverpool, the theory being that an interminable wait would give way to a procession of goals and not simply that he is tall and red. It was a fair comparison, but patently misleading.

Crouch yesterday scored twice for Liverpool as they eased into the Club World Championship final in Yokohama and then completed a most extraordinary hat-trick back at Anfield, a feat that is surely beyond the idiosyncrasies of England's public transport system.

The England international began the day with two confident finishes against Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica and later discovered that the Premier League's Dubious Goals Panel had awarded him Liverpool's opener against Wigan Athletic on 3 December. His low shot had looped into the air off the leg of Leighton Baines and was palmed into his own net by visiting keeper Mike Pollitt. Having toyed mercilessly with the £7m striker for so long, the gods are evidently smiling on him now.

As they are on Liverpool. Requiring one more clean sheet to break the defensive record established by Kenny Dalglish's championship-winning team of 1987-88, Rafael Benitez's side had the good fortune yesterday to confront a Saprissa team who were out of their depth against the champions of Europe. Fifa, the world game's governing body, had justified the expansion of this tournament by arguing that all six federations under its control are of equal stature. However, with Liverpool and Brazil's São Paulo both handed a bye to the semi-final, some federations are more equal than others.

Liverpool were ahead inside three minutes when Djibril Cissé combined with Crouch for the first time in an encouraging outing for their partnership and the towering centre-forward steered a measured volley beyond the static Jose Porras in the Costa Rican goal. In the 32nd minute the outstanding Steven Gerrard produced a marvellous volley to convert John Arne Riise's left-wing cross from 18 yards and thereafter the most pressing concern for Liverpool was not conceding for the 11th game in succession. With the exception of a few minor scares late on, Jose Reina's record was rarely in doubt.

"The whole team have worked very hard," Benitez said. "They deserve to go down in history and the history of a big club is always more important."

However, Benitez also revealed the extent of the mismatch by admitting that the comfort of an early lead and Liverpool's vast superiority should have delivered a cricket score. "After we scored so early, we thought it would be easy and while we had two or three chances, we didn't score the third goal before half-time," said the Spanish coach. "In the second half, Saprissa started again and if they had scored they may have thought that the win was possible.

"I think we will have to play a lot better in the final. São Paulo are a good team and, though we must play better, it can be difficult when you are leading 3-0 and decide to change a few players."

With Saprissa providing a valuable lesson in how not to play Liverpool, granting Xabi Alonso the freedom to display his considerable passing range and Gerrard a licence to roam across their defence unchecked, Benitez could afford to relax. Gerrard's free-kick almost brought a third at the start of the second half, when the post denied Cissé the goal his performance deserved, before his threaded pass to Riise in the 58th minute caused panic in the Deportivo defence and presented Crouch with a simple opportunity to beat Porras from 12 yards. It was a chance he might have missed prior to the release of Wigan but, like Liverpool, who now meet the Brazilians in Sunday's final, the striker is growing in stature.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia (Garcia, 72), Traoré; Gerrard (Pongolle, 64), Sissoko, Alonso (Hamann, 79), Riise; Cissé, Crouch.

Deportivo Saprissa (4-4-2): Porras; Bolanos, Cardero, Gonzalez, Drummond; Centeno, Gomez, Saborio, Badilla; Azofeifa, Bennett.

Referee: C Chianda (Chile).

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