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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liverpool heroic win over Madrid in Spain


The not-so-famous Yossi Benayoun netted with a late header Wednesday to give Liverpool a valuable 1-0 away win at Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 knockout match.

In a clash of few opportunities, Benayoun powered Fabio Aurelio's curling free kick past the Merengues' goalkeeper Iker Casillas in the 82nd minute to give the English team an all-important away goal.

Casillas denied first-half scoring opportunitys from Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso, while Arjen Robben created the Spanish champion's most amazing effort with a rising shot that went through the fingertips of goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 71st but over the crossbar.

Indeed, both squads were largely restricted to long-range efforts. Alonso nearly caught Casillas off his line from inside his own half in the 45th but the Madrid goalkeeper backpedalled before tipping the ball over the crossbar.

Nine-time champion Madrid has underperformed in the tournament in recent seasons and hasn't reached the quarter-finals since 2004. Nevertheless, president Vicente Boluda had predicted a 3-0 victory.

Madrid, which came into the gameon a nine-clash league winning streak, started the better of the two sides. Robben found Raul Gonzalez inside the area as early as the fifth minute, but Madrid's all-time leading scorer failed to beat Pepe Reina with his angled effort.

An amazing Reina again denied Madrid in the 16th minute, parrying Marcelo's hard drive.

Casillas dove to his right in the 21st to keep Torres' shot out, and the Spain forward appeared to hurt his right ankle soon after.

Robben was Madrid's biggest attacking threat, darting free into the middle in the 39th only to send his shot wide. A minute later, the Netherlands forward duplicated the play with exactly the same result.

Madrid coach Juande Ramos brought on Guti for Marcelo to start the second half but Liverpool pushed up with Alonso volleying wide in the 50th. Two minutes later, Robben dribbled through two defenders into the area but hit the ball into the side netting.

Torres didn't manage to snap his scoring drought at the Bernabeu as the former Atletico Madrid forward came off to jeers from the 80,000-plus in the 62nd, replaced by Ryan Babel.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard came on in the 87th for his first appearance after a three-week layoff due to a hamstring injury.

Liverpool will be without Riera for the return leg after the Spanish midfielder was booked in the 84th.

PD: It seems like Madrid is having a hard time to get victories at home, if we recall the defeat against Juventus.

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