LIVERPOOL: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has admitted that his side still face a cut-throat fight for Champions League survival despite running up with their biggest European win in 27 years with an 8-0 rout of Besiktas.
The Spaniard was delighted with a display that, as well as setting a new record for the Champions League in its current format, served as the perfect response to the criticism that his side have had to endure of late.
But he also recognised that Portos win over Marseille means his side will almost certainly have to win their last two matches in Group A if they are to progress to the knockout stages of a competition his side ended as winners in 2005 and runners-up last season.
You can see the team have enough power for scoring goals, Benitez said after watching Yossi Benayouns hat-trick almost matched by doubles for Peter Crouch and substitute Ryan Babel, with captain Steven Gerrard also on the score-sheet.
I think this performance was more about team work than about players. I think all the players played well but they always need to score the first goal and open the game up.
Liverpool will be confident they can beat Porto at Anfield in three weeks time but a testing trip to Marseille for their final match in the group awaits and Benitez recognised the scale of the task involved.
We are creating chances, he said. Now we just need a bit of luck. The situation is not so different from what it was before this match. We knew we probably needed to win the last three games, so we have to beat Porto and see what happens in the last one.
Benayoun said on Tuesdays display against a side that had beaten Liverpool in Istanbul only last month could act as the spur to drive the squad through their remaining matches.
It is a special night for everyone. I am happy to score but what was important was the way we won, he said. We just need to continue to improve all the time. We knew we had our backs to the wall because we had to win three games. Im sure this win will give us a lot of confidence.
Crouch, who fully justified being handed only his fourth start of a frustrating season, refused to underline the point he had made to Benitez on the pitch.
Everything just clicked. I have played 90 minutes and weve won 8-0. I couldnt be more happy. Although it is a big win it is only three points. We need to win the other games and make sure we can qualify.
The victory was Liverpools biggest winning margin in Europe since a 10-1 win over Finnish side Oulun Palloseura in 1980: Benitezs 50th European match in charge at the club could scarcely have been marked in more stunning fashion.
But the Spaniard will recognise how much of a role the Turks poor defending played in their downfall.
The visitors only moments of menace came right at the outset of a night that was to take such a disastrous turn, Brazilian striker Bobo spurning two good half-chances inside the first two minutes.
Benitezs men were soon generating openings of their own however. Andriy Voronin, who prodded wide from 12 yards, and Crouch, who was equally wayward with a free header, both missed and goalkeeper Hakan Arikan produced a great stop from Benayoun before Crouch opened the scoring.
Released by a misjudged interception by Besiktas midfielder Edouad Cisse, Crouch saw his first shot saved but tucked in the rebound.
Benayoun doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, bringing down Voronins cross superbly before firing a shot across the goalkeeper.
The contest was ended within minutes of the restart when Voronin cut in from the left and played a pass into the area for John Arne Riise. The Norwegians shot on the turn was saved but Benayoun was left with an easy rebound.
The Israeli completed his hat-trick with another tap-in after a Gerrard free-kick pierced the Besiktas wall and was spilled by the goalkeeper.
Gerrard had time to get on the scoresheet himself before leaving for a well-earned rest. Fed by the outstanding Javier Mascherano, the captain played a one-two with Voronin before unleashing an unstoppable shot from just inside the area.
By this stage, Besiktas appeared to be beyond caring and, after flicking in a Benayoun cross for his first goal, Babel compounded their misery by charging down Toramans attempted clearance to send the ball looping over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Crouch added his second in the final minute of regulation time and the night was summed up when referee Markus Merk did not have the heart to add on any injury time. AFP