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It is too early to hail the European resurgence of Liverpool, of course, and there were enough false dawns under Gerard Houllier to make fans at Anfield more cynical than most, but there was more than enough evidence on Wednesday night to suggest Rafa Benitez's reign may be a prosperous one.

This Monaco, admittedly, are not the side that reached the final of the Champions League last season, and they were missing three front-line forwards, but the unfussy way in which Liverpool dispatched them was still mightily impressive. "This is a small step," Benitez said. "Saturday's win [over West Brom] was a small step, and this is another."

The great shame is how few were there to see it. A paltry 33,517 turned out, a strange way for fans to express the optimism that is supposed to envelope the club after the early weeks under Benitez.

Wednesday night's performance, though, should do much to convince the doubters that the green shoots of recovery are poking through at Anfield. Certainly the Monaco coach Didier Deschamps was admiring. "We were outclassed all over the pitch," he said. "We got what we deserved."

The only concern for Liverpool must be that they did not have the game wrapped up earlier than they did, and for that Djibril Cisse must be held responsible. He scored his first goal at Anfield, thundering home in the 22nd minute after a slick build-up involving Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard, but the over-riding memory of his performance will be of how often he was caught offside. When Cisse did finally time a run properly, chasing on to a Harry Kewell flick just before the hour, he drove wastefully into the chest of Flavio Roma, and it was no surprise when he was withdrawn for Milan Baros shortly after.

The substitute seized on Josemi's long forward pass, wandered through two challenges, and, after seemingly taking an eternity, beat Roma from a tight angle to make the game safe six minutes from time.

It may be harsh on Cisse, but it was hard not to think of how Michael Owen would have relished playing in front of a support forward of the quality of Luis Garcia. The 25-year-old was magnificent, shimmering in the hole between midfield and attack.

Benitez could also draw encouragement from the way the central midfield axis of Gerrard and Xabi Alonso - together without the encumbrance of Dietmar Hamann for the first time - imposed themselves on the game.

"You are always satisfied if you win," Benitez said, "but if you see the team playing well and have lots of opportunities then you are more satisfied. Perhaps we should have scored more goals, but this is enough."

* The match between Roma and Dynamo Kiev in Italy was abandoned at half-time after a missile thrown from the crowd struck Swedish referee Anders Frisk and forced him to leave the field. Kiev were leading 1-0 and Frisk had just sent off the home side's Philippe Mexes when the object was thrown. A Uefa disciplinary body will investigate the incident.

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