PARIS: Liverpool and Fulham combined on Thursday to rescue England’s European pride which was so badly bruised by the Champions League exits of Manchester United and Arsenal by reaching the semi-finals of the Europa Cup.
Fernando Torres scored twice as Liverpool registered a 4-1 win over Benfica - 5-3 on aggregate - and set up a last-four clash with Atletico Madrid, the Spanish striker’s former club.
Unfashionable Fulham, who have already knocked out mighty Juventus, were indebted to a 19-second goal from in-form striker Bobby Zamora to see off German champions Wolfsburg 1-0 and a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Roy Hodgson’s Cottagers will face another German side Hamburg in the semi-finals as the prospects of an all-English final on May 12 were kept alive.
Benitez’s worries eased
Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool, trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Lisbon, were on their way at Anfield thanks to two goals in seven first-half minutes from Dirk Kuyt and Lucas.
Torres added a third in the second half before Oscar Cardozo’s free-kick put Benfica within one goal of going through on away goals. But Torres struck again in the closing stages as Liverpool continued their bid for a first major European trophy since the 2005 Champions League.
“It was a good game and because four goals is a fantastic performance, but I think we have played better this season,” said Benitez.
Zamora, who scored in the 2-1 first-leg win in London, bolstered his hopes of an England World Cup call with his quick goal as Fulham reached the last-four of a European competition for the first time.
His goal was out of the top drawer as he neatly turned inside Jan Simunek to find the target with a sweet left-foot drive. Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was delighted by Zamora’s 19th goal of the season. “You get your goals when you get them and Bob did ever so well,” said Hodgson.
The Germans… again
Hamburg, who will also host the Europa Cup final, saw off Standard Liege in their quarterfinal, winning 3-1 in Belgium for a 5-2 aggregate victory. Paolo Guerrero who earlier had been banned for five Bundesliga matches added the third goal in injury-time. Quique Sanchez Flores guided Atletico Madrid to their first European semi-final in 11 years after a 0-0 draw against fellow Spaniards Valencia put them through on the away goals rule. Their first game had ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP
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