Liverpool Defeat Saprissa 3-0 to Advance to Club World Championship Final

YOKOHAMA Japan (AP) - Peter Crouch scored twice as European champion Liverpool marched into the Club World Championship final with a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa on Thursday.

FIFA welcomed champions from all around the globe to take part in its Club World Championship.

But it's Europe vs. South America in the final again.

Although teams from Asia Africa Central and North America and Oceania also were in the six-team competition the final will be against clubs from the traditional regions who have been contesting the competition since it began in 1960.

A 2-meter (6-foot-7) striker who went seven months without scoring before hitting the target in a league game two weeks ago Crouch scored in the third minute in Yokohama and then added the third after Steven Gerrard had driven home a first time shot.

Crouch went 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.

"It would have been nice (to score three) he said. "Obviously it's nice to score a couple of goals. 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' team will meet Brazil's Sao Paulo in Yokohama on Sunday.

A two-time runner up when the competition was called the World Club Championship Liverpool now bids to add a world title to its long list of triumphs. Benitez' team beat AC Milan to win the Champions League in May and then UEFA Cup winner CSKA Moscow to capture 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 Benitez' team 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 of the target 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 the tall striker ran between two defenders and struck the ball firmly past the 'keeper from 15 meters.

The lanky striker whose long scoring drought ended when he hit the target Dec. 3 in a 3-0 Premier League victory over Wigan 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 without conceding a goal was almost ended 15 minutes from the end when Gabriel Badilla's curling free kick found three teammates unmarked in front of goal 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 said Saprissa coach Hernan Medford. 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.

"It was a big moment (Liverpool) scoring so early and it changed the course of the game.

"We still have another goal: win the game for third place said Medford whose team faces Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia on Sunday. "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."