Sunday 4th January 2004 (4pm)
Huish Park, Yeovil

Murphy tussles with Williams

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MATCH REPORT - Yeovil Town 0-2 Liverpool

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Heskey 70
Murphy 77 pen.

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They played 'We Will Rock You' before the players ran out at Huish Park - and by the time the final whistle went Liverpool at times had been shaken and stirred by lowly Yeovil.

But they had won through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and given manager Gerard Houllier some much-needed breathing space.

Emile Heskey came off the bench to fire home the 69th-minute opener which put them on their way.

And Liverpool required another England star in the shape of Danny Murphy to secure the victory from the penalty spot after Harry Kewell had been brought down.

The fact that Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was one of the busiest players on a tense afternoon also tells of the courage of the Third Division side.

So there was no shock. But there was romance by the bucketful on a mist-shrouded afternoon in front of a record crowd of 9,348 fans, all determined to have a party whatever the result.

At the end the fans gave their Yeovil heroes a standing ovation on a prolonged lap of honour and they deserved every cheer for a display in which at times it was difficult to decide which was the team from the Premiership.

The FA Cup is renowned for its comparisons between the mighty and the minnows but this tie was more extreme than most.

Liverpool have won 18 league championships, six FA Cups, seven League Cups, four European Cups, three UEFA Cups and two European Super Cups. Yeovil have been in the Football league a mere five months.

No contest then. Except that is rarely how it works in the most famous domestic knockout competition, especially when Yeovil boss Gary Johnson had the distinction of being able to boast international experience as the former manager of Latvia.

Still, Yeovil, whose fans had packed the main stand almost two hours before kick-off, required a miracle.

The fact that it threatened to arrive as they taunted the Liverpool fans with chants of 'Who are you?' is a comment on the fragility these days of Liverpool who decided not to risk Michael Owen, still recuperating from a series of injuries which have seen him play only four matches since October.

As it was Liverpool might have gone ahead in the 23rd minute when El Hadji Diouf swung over a left-foot cross which Vladimir Smicer steered towards goal but Yeovil goalkeeper Chris Weale was alert to the danger.

A minute later, however, it was Dudek who was required to perform acrobatics, first diving to his right to turn away a stinging right-foot shot from Gavin Williams and then seconds later getting down swiftly to turn away a close-range effort from Darren Way.

At that stage there was no question the Third Division side were playing most of the fluent football even if their plans were disrupted in the 38th minute when Paul Terry, brother of Chelsea's John, was replaced by Andrew Lindegaard after being injured in a clash with John Arne Riise.

True, Liverpool might have gone in with the lead at half-time as the mist descended, Smicer breaking clear on the right before crossing, only to see Diouf fire wide from 12 yards.

It was the sort of chance Owen would have devoured and there is no doubt this Liverpool side were missing their England striker and the driving presence of midfielder Steven Gerrard.

So much so that the players who caught the eye were almost exclusively the busy and bustling characters from Yeovil.

Way, in particular, was an inspiration, combating the international talents of Murphy and Dietmar Hamann with huge aplomb.

But, in truth, there were heroes in green and white hoops all over Huish Park. Not least the huge presence of Hugo Rodrigues, at 6ft 8in the tallest player in the Football League and who stood as steadfast in defence as the pillars at nearby Stonehenge.

And then there was midfielder Lee Johnson, the 22-year-old son of Yeovil's manager and whose composure suggested he has a bright future at a higher level.

Yeovil came close to going ahead seconds after the interval when a slick move ended with striker Kevin Gall's right-foot volley from eight yards being blocked by a fraught Liverpool defence.

It prompted Houllier to seek more firepower and after 50 minutes he threw on Heskey in place of Florent Sinama-Pongolle.

It almost worked immediately, Heskey racing through only to see his left-foot shot strike the body of goalkeeper Weale. But at last there was urgency and power where before there had been too much hesitancy.

In the 61st minute Yeovil were thankful to the woodwork for keeping their hopes alive. Liverpool worked the ball on the right before it was played inside for Smicer at the edge of the penalty area.

The Czech international controlled the ball before smashing his right-foot shot against the right-hand post with Weale beaten and Yeovil scrambled the rebound clear.

Yeovil forced Dudek into another good save from Williams but their world finally collapsed in the 68th minute when Heskey picked up the ball in the penalty area and swivelled to fire a 15-yard shot past Weale.

It was a moment of Premiership class which brought a deathly silence to Huish Park and the atmosphere was even more morose eight minutes later when Rodrigues brought down Kewell and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

It was less than Yeovil deserved but Murphy was unconcerned with justice as he stepped up to tuck the ball past Weale from the spot to give Liverpool a comfortable cushion.

The dream was dead but the Yeovil party rocked on - and a relieved Houllier eased into the next round.

Press Association

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Yeovil: Weale, Lockwood, Skiverton, Rodrigues, Pluck (Jackson 74), Terry (Lindegaard 38), Way, Johnson, Crittenden, Gall, Williams, Lindegaard (Gosling 77).

Subs Not Used: Stansfield, Collis.

Liverpool: Dudek, Biscan, Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise, Diouf (Le Tallec 87), Murphy, Hamann, Smicer (Cheyrou 82), Kewell, Sinama Pongolle (Heskey 51).

Subs Not Used: Traore, Luzi Bernardi.

Booked: Smicer, Diouf, Le Tallec.

Att: 9,348

Ref: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).

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Match Report filed: 17th January 2003