UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Barcelona

UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v BarcelonaLiverpool will welcome Barcelona at Anfield Stadium this Tuesday March 6th, 2007 at 2:45 PM. Liverpool is in search of another win after defeating Barca in the first leg at Camp Nou. This second leg match for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage promises to be a duel to the death.

Liverpool FC walked away tall with a historical victory when they defeated UEFA Champions League cup holders FC Barcelona 2-1 at home to end the Catalan side's 13 match unbeaten run on home territory.

John Arne Riise became the hero of the game when he rocketed home the winning goal in the 74th minute on a pass by Craig Bellamy. Craig Bellamy also headed a first half bomb that cancelled out Deco's early opening header goal behind the Reds’ defense.

Both Liverpool players were mixed up in a widely reported episode at Liverpool training camp last week but the negative headlines were forgotten when the 2005 European champions took a major step toward the last eight obligating Barcelona to an uphill battle in the second leg at Anfield.

Liverpool who has yet to lose at Camp Nou threatened first when Riise flashed a dangerous cross ball in front of goal keeper Víctor Valdés' goal in the 6th minute, just out of reach for Bellamy. Not before long though the hosts were imposing their attacking game and only Jamie Carragher's fine interception stopped Deco from capitalizing on Lionel Messi's lay off.
The breach came through for Barcelona in the 14th minute when Deco claimed Barcelona's first goal against Liverpool at Camp Nou in four tries. A master piece of trickery from Ronaldinho set Gianluca Zambrotta free down the left. The tricky and accurate Italian lifted a cross to the far post where Deco came in unmarked behind the unsuspecting defense to guide a header into the bottom corner.
Now in advantage, Frank Rijkaard's club began to press on and found their rhythm in Javier Saviola and Deco who both kept close to goal. As half time approached however Liverpool made their statement. On 39 minutes, Steven Gerrard curved in a fine pass to Bellamy, swinging a free kick to the far post where the unchallenged striker headed into the side netting almost scoring, cursing fortune.

Barçelona not heeding the warning got scored on two minutes before the break, when Liverpool leveled the match. Steve Finnan's cross from the right was perfect to Bellamy who headed straight goalwards and blew Valdés into the back box. Valdés who got both hands on to the ball carried it over the line and although Dirk Kuyt put the loose ball into the net, the goal was Bellamy's already.

Charged by the equalizing goal, Liverpool came stronger after the halftime. Inside the first minute of the second period Steven Gerrard popped an opportunity from a set piece but Valdés made a clean catch. Barcelona still struggled to find their spark, so Rijkaard introduced Andrés Iniesta but it was Bellamy and Kuyt who looked more and more menacing at the other end.

In the 68th minute the visitors were granted a gift by the referee who judged Barcelona substitute Ludovic Giuly to have passed the ball back to his goalkeeper. Valdés’ innocent mistake set up a Gerrard free kick inside the area that required Valdés to save with his feet. Xabi Alonso turned the ball back in when Dirk Kuyt nodded over the crossbar from close range.
Six minutes after the game winner came as Valdés saved from Dirk Kuyt the ball landed on Bellamy who passed the loose ball across goal to Riise whose first-time strike flew into the roof of the net. Barcelona was stunned but still managed to threaten with a late equalizer when Deco drove against the angle of post and bar. Still Liverpool wrote its name in UEFA history alongside Manager Benitez.

Sportbet.com has Liverpool at home +140 with a +230 draw. Barcelona at +165 plays on the road which means the odds are in favor of Liverpool. An important item to remember here is that the draw +230 only applies to the regulation time. If they have to go to aggregates or penalties it means the draw is a winner, regardless of who wins in extra time and penalty kicks. I love the draw at +230.