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Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool

Yossi Benanyoun scored Liverpool's winner against Real Madrid
Benayoun rose unmarked to head home Aurelio's free-kick in the 82nd minute

By Mandeep Sanghera

Liverpool put themselves in a strong position to overcome Real Madrid in the Champions League by beating the Spaniards with a professional display.

Yossi Benayoun scored the Reds' winner when he headed in a Fabio Aurelio free-kick from eight yards.

Real had been poor and Arjen Robben had their best chance when his shot was steered over by keeper Jose Reina.

Liverpool had barely given Real a sight of their goal and comfortably closed out the first leg last-16 tie.

The Champions League has always brought out the best of Liverpool under manager Rafael Benitez, whose tactical expertise has flourished in the competition, and this fixture was no different.

Benitez has made an exact science out of defensive durability, frustrating the opposition and punishing teams on the counter-attack. The formula worked to perfection once again.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

Real struggled to break through the discipline of Liverpool and, despite Raul's early swivel and shot being saved, the Reds were comfortable from the start.

They held the home side at arm's length and could then have taken the lead when they twice caught out Real's defence with two long balls forward.

Fernando Torres was the first to race through on goal but his angled shot from the right was excellently palmed wide by Iker Casillas.

A similar ball almost let Benayoun in but the Spain keeper was more alert than his defence and came to the edge of the area to block as the Reds midfielder attempted to chip him.

Liverpool were given a scare when Reina saved a Sergio Ramos header and Gonzalo Higuain put in the rebound.

But the effort was disallowed for offside and, that chance aside, Real were limited to speculative long-range shots.

However, it was Alonso who came closest to finding the net from distance when his audacious strike from his own half was tipped over by Casillas.

The home side were being nullified by Liverpool and Juande Ramos brought on Guti after the break to add some guile to their sloppy play.

It did little to help the Spanish club and it was Liverpool who looked the more likely to score and take the crucial away goal back to Anfield for the second leg.

The threat was not materialising into clear-cut chances and the visitors were not helped when Torres went off with a niggling ankle injury.

Real finally showed a glimpse of the danger they pose when a swift counter-attack ended with Robben's shot being tipped over.

But the Reds finally breached the Real defence when the unmarked Benayoun nodded past the helpless Casillas after former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze had needlessly hauled down Dirk Kuyt.

Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro, Heinze, Robben, Gago, Lassana Diarra, Marcelo (Guti 46), Higuain, Raul.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Saviola, Sneijder, Metzelder, Miguel Torres, Van der Vaart.

Booked: Cannavaro, Gago.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera (Gerrard 88), Torres (Babel 61), Kuyt (Lucas 90).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Ngog.

Booked: Torres, Mascherano, Riera.

Goals: Benayoun 82.

Att: 85,000

Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Xabi Alonso on 7.53 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Benitez calms Anfield exit talk
26 Feb 09 |  Europe
Champions League photos
25 Feb 09 |  Football
Benitez hangs on to title hopes
23 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Ramos replaces Schuster at Real
09 Dec 08 |  Europe

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