A fantastic performance by all in red last night, and I include the 42000+ fans in that. Liverpool overcame a slender deficit, having lost 2-1 in Lisbon last week, to progress into the last four of the Europa League where we will face Atletico Madrid. Almost three years after his departure, Fernando Torres will face his former club. This will be another stern test for our men in red.
While it may not have the glamour of the Champions’ League, the Europa League is still a European trophy. Our opponents, so far, do not have the same history or appeal as say Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan etc but they have been far from push-overs.
Unirea were well organized and performed quite well in the debut season in the Champions’ League and were closer to remaining in that competition than Liverpool were. But for a 3-1 defeat in their final group game against Stuttgart, Unirea would have faced Barcelona and not the Germans.
Lille came through a tough Europa league group containing the likes of Valencia, Genoa, and Slavia Prague. They finished second in the scoring charts to Werder Bremen after the group stages, yet our much maligned defence only conceded 1 goal over 180 minutes against them.
In Benfica, we came up against a team with real European pedigree, 2 Euopean Cups and runners-up a further 5 times. Admittedly, it is 20 years since their last appearance in a major European Final, but that pedigree is there and our men disposed of them with relative ease over the 2 legs. Benfica only breached our rearguard from the penalty spot twice and a direct free kick.
Next up in the semi finals are el Nino’s former club, Atletico Madrid. Having also dropped out of Europe’s premier competition, Atletico have progessed on away goals in their last 2 Europa League ties. Having the second leg at home is always an advantage. One that we have taken advantage of so many times before. Let’s hope this is another of those occasions, when a red hot European Anfield atmosphere will see us through to the final in Hamburg in this the 25th anniversary of Heysel.