Liverpool strikes to the power of eight

Liverpool’s record result attests to the abrupt expressiveness of a side who have usually had too little to say for themselves, writes Kevin McCarra.

It was impossible for Liverpool to do anything more in Group A of the Champions League than hoist themselves into third place but they have raised their confidence level to the very heavens. That self-belief is essential nonetheless because Marseille’s defeat by Porto means that Rafael Benitez’s side are three points short of the second qualifying place with two fixtures to be completed.

Liverpool and Marseille could, in the end, be tied on 10 points in the group. This would happen if both win their next fixture and the English side then complete the programme with victory in France. Were that outcome to be reached by a 1-0 result, reversing exactly the Anfield defeat by Marseille, a different criterion would separate them. The goals scored by each club over the whole group would decide the matter and, in view of this 8-0 rout, Liverpool would surely trump Marseille.

All of that is, for the time being, in the realms of convoluted speculation. Liverpool would be wiser to confine themselves to recognising the immediate benefit of setting the record result in Champions League history. It attests to the abrupt expressiveness of a side who have usually had too little to say for themselves. Besiktas, of course, have to be disparaged as a team of minimal resilience. Their victory against Liverpool in Istanbul must now seem all the more maddening to the Premier League club.

Prior to this fixture the Anfield team had hit a mere two goals in the group. Peter Crouch alone got as many at Anfield and even he seemed sluggish when Yossi Benayoun pocketed one hat-trick and the substitute Ryan Babel almost had another but the ball hit the bar. Oddly the performer who outdid even Benayoun could not himself score. The irrepressible movement of Andriy Voronin was, nonetheless, traumatic for Besiktas.

The Turkish club were brutalised and clemency was nowhere to be found. With two minutes to go, Crouch was gleeful as he nodded in a delivery from Benayoun. The England forward basked in the limelight after months in which he had sometimes been confined to the shadows. The entire line-up made sense, with Javier Mascherano keeping the midfield in balance while team-mates concentrated on knocking Besiktas off their feet. Despite the pyrotechnics this was a mature display, with Liverpool methodically building their dominance prior to the interval.

There had not, admittedly, been all that much reason lately for exuberance over events on this pitch. Apart from being beaten by Marseille at Anfield, Liverpool have won only a single Premier League game in five attempts at home in the current programme. It was, therefore, a breach of the pattern for Liverpool to be leading 2-0 with slightly over half an hour completed.

Besiktas, missing their best defender, the centre-back Gokhan Zan, ultimately surrendered to despair. It was Crouch who initially nudged them towards capitulation. Voronin aimed a pass towards him after 19 minutes and when the holding midfielder Edouard Cisse sought to intercept he simply prodded the ball into the path of Crouch. The first attempt by the striker was saved by the hapless Hakan Arikan but he knocked in the rebound.

With 32 minutes gone the visitors should have been awarded a throw-in after the ball broke from John Arne Riise, but the Norwegian shamelessly took it himself. Voronin crossed deep and Benayoun finished well with a low drive.

Besiktas, disheartened, became ever more fragile and Voronin, in this mood, would have smashed tougher visitors than these. The energy of the Ukrainian was a marvel but that vitality was applied with discernment. His pass set up Riise for the typically bullish shot which Arikan pushed out as far as Benayoun, who snatched his second goal after 52 minutes.

The hat-trick for the Israeli was an inevitability. When Lamine Diatta brought down Voronin, Steven Gerrard’s free-kick came back off the goalkeeper to the waiting Benayoun. Liverpool wishes were coming true at a frenetic rate and the singing welled up in acclaim of Benitez.

Jubilation also gushed out for a beautiful goal by Gerrard, who completed a pair of one-twos with Mascherano and Voronin before smashing home his finish after 69 minutes. Not to be outdone, Babel recorded the sixth by flicking in a Benayoun cut-back with the inside of his heel. After 81 minutes Ibrahim Toraman’s clearance bounced off the Dutchman to float high into the net.

Anfield ignominy assumed a multitude of forms for Besiktas.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007