Liverpool, Fulham rescue English pride

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.

Fernando Torres scored twice as Liverpool reached the Europa League semi-finals with a 4-1 win over Benfica, 5-3 on aggregate, and a last-four clash with Atletico Madrid, the Spanish striker’s former club.

Unfashionable Fulham, which has already knocked out mighty Juventus, was 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.

Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool, trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Lisbon, was on its 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 continue its bid for a first major European trophy since the 2005 Champions League.

“It was a great night,” said Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.

“The first 20 minutes they played well, it was important not to concede and to get the first goal was massive.

“In the Europa League we’ve beaten a very good side, a top team, and it’s a very good result.”

Zamora, who scored in the 2-1 first leg win in London, bolstered his hopes of an England World Cup call with a goal after just 19 seconds at Wolfsburg 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 goal, the striker’s 19th of the season.

“You get your goals when you get them and Bob did ever so well, his combination with (Zoltan) Gera was magnificent and meant they had to get three to win the tie,” said Hodgson.

Hamburg, which will also host the final, saw off Standard Liege in their quarter-final, winning 3-1 in Belgium for a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Croatian international Mladen Petric scored twice while Paolo Guerrero added a third in injury-time.

It was a rare bright spot for the Peruvian striker who earlier had been banned for five Bundesliga matches for hurling a bottle at a heckling Hamburg fan last weekend.

Quique Sanchez Flores guided Atletico Madrid to its first European semi-final in 11 years after a 0-0 draw against fellow Spaniards Valencia put them through on the away goals rule.

The first game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Fulham, Liverpool into Euro quarters

Unfashionable Fulham stunned mighty Juventus to reach the Europa League quarter-finals on Friday morning (AEDT) where it was joined by seasoned campaigner Liverpool.

Fulham, 3-1 down from the first leg in Turin, staged a stunning fightback to clinch a 4-1 victory on the night against nine-man Juventus for a 5-4 aggregate triumph.

Roy Hodgson’s Premier League side’s European adventure looked over when David Trezeguet gave Juventus an early lead at Craven Cottage.

But Bobby Zamora’s strike gave the hosts hope and, after Juve’s World Cup winning defender Fabio Cannavaro was sent off, Zoltan Gera struck twice to draw Fulham level on aggregate.

Juventus, twice European champion, gave a dismal display and American forward Clint Dempsey came off the bench to score a superb late winner before Jonathan Zebina was dismissed for kicking Damien Duff.

“I’m on top of the world,” said 62-year-old Hodgson. “I don’t know if it is the biggest night in the club’s history but it must come close.”

Fernando Torres struck twice as Liverpool stormed back to overturn a first leg deficit against Lille to book its place in the last eight at Anfield.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Steven Gerrard marked his 300th appearance as captain by levelling the scores on aggregate from the penalty spot.

Torres’s first goal in European competition this season doubled his side’s lead early in the second half before the Spanish striker made it 3-0 in the last minute.

The 3-1 aggregate success keeps Liverpool’s season alive as Rafael Benitez’s stuttering side battle to avoid a fourth successive season without winning silverware.

The win also came on the day that Spanish international Albert Riera had described the Merseyside club as a “sinking ship” and claimed that compatriot Benitez did not talk to him.

David Villa hit a hat-trick as Benitez’s former club Valencia drew 4-4 at Werder Bremen that ensured the Spaniards a quarter-final place on the away-goals rule after the tie finished 5-5 on aggregate.

Villa and Juan Mata gave Valencia a 2-0 lead by the 15th minute before Hugo Almeida pulled one back for the hosts.

Villa hit his second, and his team’s third, on the stroke of half-time only for Bremen captain Torsten Frings to convert a 57th-minute penalty and Marko Marin to hit the Germans’ third.

However, Villa was on target again in the 65th minute which meant Claudio Pizarro’s 84th-minute equaliser was not enough to save Bremen.

Benfica won the battle of former Eurpean champions with a 2-1 victory at Marseille for a 3-1 aggregate victory with Alan Kardec hitting a 90th-minute winner on the night to ensure the Portuguese a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Belgium’s Standard Liege also went through with Dieudonne Mbokani scoring in first-half injury time for a 1-0 win over Panathinakos for a 4-1 aggregate win.

Anderlecht was unable to make it two Belgian sides in the last eight despite beating Hamburg 4-3. The German side went through 6-5 on aggregate.

Torres’s former team Atletico Madrid also qualified when a 2-2 draw at Sporting Lisbon gave them victory an the away goals rule.