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Bayern Munich meted out the sort of punishment they regularly used to inflict around Europe but it was the single goal Liverpool struck at the Bernabeu that sounded the loudest Champions League note on Wednesday.
While Bayern were hammering Sporting 5-0 in Lisbon to make all but certain of a place in the last eight,Rafael Benitez reminded everyone of his value to Liverpool by overseeing a 1-0 win over Real Madrid.
Yossi Benayoun proved the hero on the field,popping up eight minutes from time to give Liverpool victory on a night when they finally rejoined battle with Real,28 years on from their success against the Spaniards in the 1981 final.
Chelsea also took an important step towards the quarter-finals as a Didier Drogba goal in the first half proved enough to give them a 1-0 win over Juventus at Stamford Bridge. Villarreal came back to draw 1-1 with Panathinaikos. A Giorgos Karagounis shot from 25 metres gave the visitors the lead,with Giuseppe Rossi equalising from a penalty.
Real Madrid and Liverpool have won the European Cup 14 times between them but for most of the first half at the Bernabeu they played with none of the confidence you might expect from clubs with such rich history. Raul managed to squirm through and give Liverpool an early fright but otherwise the home side had few chances.
Liverpool played most of the match with their talismanic captain Steven Gerrard on the bench and a goal looked unlikely from either side before the unmarked Benayoun helped himself to the simplest of headers. The Israeli midfielder nodded in Fabio Aurelios freekick from wide on the right.
Liverpool had the best two efforts in the first half,and it was just when the Spanish champions looked to be applying the pressure towards the end that Liverpool scored. Gerrard,out for three weeks with a hamstring strain,came on as a late substitute.
We came to play on the counter-attack and work hard in defence. Credit goes to the players because they worked very hard to adhere to our tactical plan, Benitez said.
Real had a goal ruled out for offside after 30 minutes but again it was Liverpool who threatened when Xabi Alonsos shot from just over the halfway line forced Casillas to scuttle back and push the ball over the bar.
Real coach Juande Ramos brought on Guti at halftime and Torres,struggling after an ankle knock,gave way for Ryan Babel after an hour.
Rumours had been swirling about the future of Benitez,who has yet to sign a new contract at Liverpool and is frequently the subject of speculation linking him with a return to the Spanish capital. If this was an audition for the job,he certainly passed it.