The Reds progressed through to meet Celtic in the next round without any major worries on the night. Michael Owen scored a classy goal to take him equal with Ian Rush in the European scoring charts whilst the goal also takes him eight best of all time. The game was well in to the second half though before the Reds really killed the game off.
As the sides ran out to the sound of You'll Never Walk Alone the visiting fans in the Anfield Road end of the ground waved balloons in the air. The balloons, coordinated well by the fans showed a French flag idea of a blue bar, white bar and a red one. Reds target Djibril Cisse lined up for Auxerre in this return leg having missed the first game. Meanwhile the Reds welcomed back Gerrard and Diouf after suspension and Henchoz after injury.
The first half was a very dull affair really which showed how much respect the Reds gave Auxerre but on the other hand sloppy passing from both sides made the game very stop start. The Reds attacked the Anfield Road end in the first half and got the game under way after a short huddle near the centre circle. The crowd started very loud but got a bit quieter as the game went on and failed to keep them going.
Djimi Traore escaped with a booking after just six minutes for a tackle he was so late for he nearly missed his man altogether. Their were precious few goal efforts in the first half although the best chances actually fell to Cisse for Auxerre. One shot on half time was superbly saved and pushed clear by Jerzy Dudek after slack marking allowed the Frenchman too much time to control the ball.
That said the Reds did have the odd effort on goal but that final ball was lacking as it has done so often this season. The best chance fell to Murphy whose shot from outside the box clipped the roof of the net as it dipped just to late. Auxerre were a real threat down left side attacking Carragher where Fadiga had an upper hand on many an occasion but his crosses to the box were all well dealt with by Hyypia and Henchoz.
The Reds made a switch at half time by introducing Smicer for Traore and moving Riise back to defence. The switch was a positive one and the game was tailor made for Smicer. Slow pace and desperate for incision. Smicer gave that extra something to the Reds.
The Reds were grateful for Dudek to make a save from a Mathis shot on fifty minutes. The ball visibly swirled through the air and Dudek beat the ball away with his fist rather than try and catch it. The safer option employed here may have been better employed later by Cool in the opposite goal which finished the game off.
The Reds were starting to enjoy greater possession in the second half without scoring. Smicer went close with one mazy dribble but the threat was still there from Auxerre. One goal is all it could have taken to send the\r\nReds down within the game and that was evident after sixty two minutes when Hamann was introduced for Diouf and Murphy went right side. The sub had only been made five minutes when the Reds took the lead.
A sharp ball played in to Murphy from the left was instantly flicked behind the defence for Owen to run on to as he stayed just onside. Owen ran at the keeper and as the keeper stood tall Owen calmly slotted the ball past him. The crowd went ballistic with relief more than anything and were all aware of Owen equaling Rushie's record. Rush was one of those in the crowd to see the feat.
The game was all over just five minutes later when star man Danny Murphy collected the ball off Gerrard inside the Auxerre half. Unchallenged Murphy moved forward and struck a shot from thirty yards out. The shot did move a little in the air but Auxerre keeper, Cool, was all but cool in collecting the ball as it slipped through his arms and into the Kop net.
The Reds really gained confidence at this point and started to stroke the ball around well and this time to their own men. Stephane Henchoz went off with fourteen minutes left to protect his injury and was replaced by Igor Biscan who slotted in to centre back well. The French side also made a double switch with Cisse one of the players going off. As Cisse neared his bench he stripped his top off and flung it down much to he amusement of the crowd. As he went to sit down he then realised he had thrown his shirt on his seat and proceeded to throw the shirt a second time. Such tantrums won't have gone unnoticed by Houllier on the Reds' bench.
As the game progressed on Auxerre had no way back in to the game and the Reds played possession football. The Reds did go very close to scoring a third late in the game when a superb cross from Smicer tot he back post was just too long for Owen to get a full enough touch on it and it went wide.
Overall it wasn't the greatest game in the world but it was one which the Reds were never really under threat with either and they took their goals well when they arrived. Had the game gone on longer without the goal the French side may have tried more moves but thankfully that never came. One notable mention must also go to the girl in the paddock near the bench who tried to punch the ball back in to play and fell down the stairs for giving one comedy moment in the match.
MotM : Danny Murphy - Showed some decent touches on the ball especially for the first goal and deserved the luck for the second. A notable comment must also go to Vladimir Smicer who helped to turn the game in favour of the Reds and was instrumental in some of the Reds best moves in the second half.