ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
WEST HAM 1-2 LIVERPOOL
FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
Wednesday 26th April 2006 7.45pm @ Upton Park
Hayden Mullins and Luis Garcia could miss the FA Cup final after both players were sent off nine minutes from time in Liverpool's Barclays Premiership victory over West Ham.
Semi-final winner Garcia had only been on the field for two minutes when he tangled with Mullins in a tackle. Mullins pushed the Spaniard to the floor and referee Howard Webb showed both players a straight red card.
It is a more serious blow for West Ham than Liverpool. Mullins has been an unsung hero alongside Nigel Reo-Coker at the heart of the Hammers midfield this season.
Liverpool won the game, a dress rehearsal for next month's Cardiff final, with two expertly-taken goals from Djibril Cisse either side of Reo-Coker's equaliser.
The double sending off brought the evening to a sour end. Before kick-off players, fans and former West Ham stars had paid a rousing tribute to John Lyall, the Hammers' manager for 15 years who died suddenly last week aged 66.
Lyall is the only West Ham manager to have won the FA Cup twice and so it was a fitting evening for the club to pay its tributes.
But after the exertions of the weekend and their respective semi-final victories over Chelsea and Middlesbrough, West Ham and Liverpool sent out shadow sides.
Steven Gerrard was rested for Liverpool as Rafael Benitez made eight changes while Alan Pardew made five, reshuffling both his defence and his strikeforce.
Perhaps as a result, West Ham lacked their usual snap and bite and in the opening exchanges Liverpool were able to force the pace.
The Reds won three early corners and Cisse stung the hands of West Ham keeper Jimmy Walker with a viscous strike from 25 yards.
But there was nothing Walker could do after 17 minutes when Cisse, having been picked out by Momo Sissoko, unleashed a low drive from the angle of the West Ham box that flew in at the near post.
West Ham almost snatched an immediate reply through Yossi Benayoun - Jerzy Dudek did well to block the Israeli's close-range volley - but Liverpool were dominant.
Cisse sparked another attack with a well-timed run to escape the offside trap. West Ham were ponderous at the back and Fernando Morientes thought he had put Liverpool 2-0 ahead, only to see his strike from an acute angle ruled out for offside.
Liverpool were looking to exploit Ferdinand down the right flank and Cisse teed up Robbie Fowler, back in the side after being cup-tied for the semi-final, but his audacious attempt to chip Walker from 30 yards drifted just wide.
Elliot Ward had to react quickly as Fowler tried to turn in the box and, when Ferdinand was caught upfield, Cisse broke clear and tried his luck from distance again. This time Walker was up to the test.
West Ham finished the half strongly. Dudek was equal to Bobby Zamora's angled strike.
A slick move allowed Benayoun space to break down the right but Teddy Sheringham headed his near-post cross into the side-netting.
West Ham came forward again after Reo-Coker caught Steve Finnan in possession but Benayoun's diving header from Zamora's cross flew over the bar.
It took just over a minute of the second half for West Ham to find their breakthrough, and it was created in a manner which would have made Lyall proud.
Zamora exchanged passes with Sheringham to create space in the area before squaring the ball for Reo-Coker to apply the simple finish.
West Ham were denied the chance of a second when Zamora strayed offside after Matthew Etherington's had sliced through the heart of Liverpool's midfield.
Reo-Coker then burst into the Liverpool box and it seemed as if the Hammers would snatch the lead. Instead, Liverpool cleared their lines and exacted the perfect sucker-punch.
Fowler sent a superb 30-yard ball over the top of West Ham's defence, Cisse latched onto it and slotted his shot under the advancing Walker.
Dudek was then forced into two superb stops from Etherington, the first from a curling free-kick and the second from an angled drive.
Zamora and Sheringham combined again on another slick West Ham move and Reo-Coker thought he had levelled the scores with a neat chip only for his strike to be ruled out for offside.
Benayoun was replaced with 13 minutes remaining by Marlon Harewood to a rapturous reception from the West Ham fans for the strike that booked West Ham a first FA Cup final appearance in 26 years.
Harewood almost made an immediate impact after Sheringham had picked him out with a wonderful pass.
Liverpool broke downfield and Fowler, unmarked in the West Ham box and eight yards out, directed his header wide.
He was replaced immediately by Garcia, who lasted only two minutes before both he and Mullins were given their marching orders.
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|Match Report filed: 26 April 2006|