Crouch nets two to lead the way
YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Peter Crouch scored twice as European champion Liverpool marched into the Club World Championship final with a 3-0 victory Thursday over Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica.
The 6-foot-7 striker, who went seven months without scoring before hitting the target in a league game two weeks ago, scored after three minutes in Yokohama. He also had the final goal after Steven Gerrard had made it 2-0.
Crouch got close to scoring three times against a Saprissa team that had chances to end Liverpool's 10-game shutout streak but couldn't stop the Reds from making it a club record 11.
"Obviously it's nice to score a couple of goals," he said. "It's just important that we got through. "I was doing the job before, but obviously not scoring enough. I was pleased with the two goals today and with my performance as well."
John Arne Riise set up all three goals and Rafa Benitez's team will meet Sao Paulo of Brazil in Yokohama on Sunday.
A two-time runner-up when the tournament was known as the World Club Championship, Liverpool will now try to add this title to its long list of accomplishments. Liverpool beat AC Milan to win the Champions League in May and UEFA Cup winner CSKA Moscow to take the European Super Cup in August.
"I think it will be more difficult against Sao Paulo for sure," Benitez said. "It is a good team with experience and good players. We need to play much better."
Liverpool's first appearance in this six-team tournament was less than three minutes old when it went ahead with a well-worked move.
Riise's cross from the left found Djibril Cisse and the Frenchman stabbed a short inside pass to Crouch, who aimed a first-time shot inside the far post.
Alvaro Saborio should have leveled in the 28th minute when he ran between Liverpool defenders Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher but shot wide from close to the penalty spot.
The miss looked even worse four minutes later when another Riise cross from the left found Gerrard unmarked on the right and the England midfielder powered a low shot past goalkeeper Jose Porras from just inside the area.
Crouch's second goal came in the 58th minute when Riise pushed the ball in from the left and Crouch ran between two defenders and struck the ball firmly past the Porras from 15 yards.
Crouch almost added a third when he lobbed the ball over a defender. But he shot over the top with just Porras to beat.
Liverpool's record for consecutive shutouts nearly ended with 15 minutes to go when Gabriel Badilla's curling free kick found three teammates unmarked in front. But goalkeeper Pepe Reina rescued his team with a punched clearance.
Saprissa threatened again in the last few minutes and, after two shots had been blocked by defenders, Reina punched away a powerful shot from Walter Centeno.
"Unfortunately we lost, but I don't want to make any excuses," Saprissa coach Hernan Medford said. "We have learned a lot and I realize that there is a lot to work on. But it was a good game and a good experience.
"Of course we are not happy about the loss but we are not embarrassed because we played against a really big team and we did our best."
Saprissa plays Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia on Sunday for third place.