Liverpool 4 – 1 Benfica (agg 5 – 3)
By Chris Bevan
Fernando Torres scored twice to help Liverpool overcome Benfica at Anfield and set up an Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid.
The Reds levelled the tie on aggregate when Dirk Kuyt met Steven Gerrard’s corner and his header was allowed to stand after initially being ruled out.
Lucas ran clear to make it 2-0 before Torres added a third on the break.
Oscar Cardozo’s drilled free-kick gave Benfica hope but Torres made sure of victory late on with a cool finish.
The Spanish striker can look forward to returning to his former club Atletico in the last four but, in the meantime, Liverpool will resume their bid to secure fourth place in the Premier League with added confidence after an impressive display.
Torres’ eventual contribution more than justified Rafael Benitez’s decision to replace him during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham to rest a knee injury, but initially he appeared to be struggling against the Portuguese champions and was in some discomfort.
At that stage, Benfica were well on top and caused the Reds plenty of problems in the first 20 minutes with their sharp passing without forcing Pepe Reina into a save.
But Liverpool gradually imposed themselves on the game and had enjoyed a decent spell of pressure themselves by the time Kuyt opened the scoring on 28 minutes.
There was confusion when his header was initially – and wrongly – ruled out for offside before referee Bjorn Kuipers allowed the goal to stand.
Things got even better for the home side when Gerrard slid Lucas clear and he rounded Benfica keeper Julio Cesar before slotting home.
Benfica were still creating chances but Cardoza’s skidding free-kick was comfortably saved by Reina and Sidnei’s shot across the face of goal was deflected wide.
And Torres gave his side more breathing space with his first goal of the night just before the hour mark, rounding off a swift breakaway move by sweeping home Kuyt’s superb first-time cross from the right.
Liverpool were cruising but Cardoza’s low free-kick, which fizzed through a gap in the wall, quickly changed the mood at Anfield and left the visitors needing just one more goal to progress on away goals.
Cardoza came within a few inches of doing just that when another free-kick from an identical position hit Torres and flew narrowly wide.
But Torres settled Liverpool’s nerves with eight minutes left when he raced into the area and lifted the ball over substitute keeper Moreira, who had replaced the injured Cesar moments earlier.