Rafa Benitez put it to Liverpool from the moment the Reds stepped into the dressing room at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille today: treat the game like a cup final.
Having been in their share during Benitez's run at Liverpool, the Reds knew the necessary attitude and applied it early and often, securing a 4-0 win on the road as well as a spot in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
"When the manager says it's a cup final situation you know you have got to give everything you've got. From the goalkeeper to the front men, every one of us has done our job. We made it difficult for ourselves in this group. We are disappointed it came down to the last game. We needed to perform tonight. It was a performance full of character and hard work. We knew we'd got the quality so we're very happy with the performance."Steven Gerrard uttered those words to the Sun following the match. Gerrard set the tone with a fourth minute penalty, which he missed but smacked home the rebound. Fernando Torres, Dirk Huyt and Ryan Babel also scored for Liverpool, which finished second in its group behind F.C. Porto, which blanked Besiktas, 2-0. Liverpool, 2005 winners, will face a group winner in the round of 16.
Reportedly, Liverpool's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were in France for the match and are expected to meet with Benitez regarding the January transfer window and Benitez's future with the club. Will they offer him a new deal? Will they spend according to Rafa's wishes? The Guardian has an analysis from this angle.