Sun 6th January 2008
FA Cup 3rd Round
Kenilworth Road, Luton
Liverpool stumble out of Kenilworth Road with a replay
Report by RedKenny
Once again another Sunday morning was greeted with headlines of a possible Rafael Benitez departure from Anfield ahead of the FA Cup away clash against Luton. As tiresome as these headlines get, there was fresh hope that there would be some classic FA Cup magic to put these rumours out of the way. Instead we were met by a tiresome performance by the reds against a solid Luton side, who are literally playing for their futures. It was Luton who got their most favoured result.
Liverpool, who were without injured captain Steven Gerrard and a rested Fernando Torres, started off very brightly with an early effort from Ryan Babel which tested Luton goalkeeper Brill. It seemed like this could be the pattern of the game. But Luton started to fight back and gain a lot of possession as Liverpool gradually started to fade. The warning signs were there when Steve Finnan played David Edwards on side to challenge Charles Itandje in the Liverpool box, but the Liverpool stand in for Pepe Reina was equal to it and made an impressive parry away from danger. The first half didn’t get much better for Liverpool. Dirk Kuyt was limited to a shot over the bar and both he and Peter Crouch were found wanting in the Liverpool attack. Although their service was very limited from an inspired Luton side.
Second half started off very similar to the first for the reds. Again the attack was bright which seen Benayoun go agonisingly close sliding in from a Kuyt drilled cross. Then Riise tested the Luton Goalkeeper with a deflected shot but Brill just got a hand to it. But Luton got back into their stride again and began to show a bit more desire than the reds. Talbot, probably Lutons best player on the day headered a glorious chance over the bar. He should have scored and it should have been a warning for Liverpool to get into their stride. But the game carried on as it was.
Against the run of play, Lutons experienced defender Perry gifted a clumsy header to Liverpool substitute Voronin. With the Liverpool forward trying to put the ball past Brill, who just got a touch to put it wide, the ball fell to Crouch and he made no mistake of putting his chance away. Still scoring after not so many chances.
But Liverpool were pegged back level moments later after some sleepy defending and an ugly own goal by Riise. Riise tryed to make up for it later on with an effort just going wide. But Luton kept on fighting and trying to cause another FA Cup upset until the final whistle where it ended 1-1.
Liverpool, granted so many changes for this game, should have been able to unlock Luton and come away with a win. But an inspired performance from an under pressure Luton side made it their game. It’s a lesson for most of the under performing players in a red shirt that played. Don’t take the FA Cup lightly and when you are given a chance in a red shirt, make the most of it.
Back to Anfield for the replay. We could do without another fixture, but we could certainly do with proving we are a better side than we showed today.
The day ended very much as it started. Questions of Rafael Benitez’s future. Thankfully, it was a positive to take home to Anfield after a tiresome day. Benitez himself dismissed rumours that he might leave at the end of the season. And said once again of his love for the club, the fans and how he wants to be here for a long time.
Post Match Comment
“In the first half we had some chances and they had some chances,” he said.
“After we scored the goal, we conceded a goal three minutes later.
“I am happy because we will have another game at Anfield. That is positive.
“We are in the Cup and we will continue trying to win. I am confident it will be different at Anfield.”
“What is my strongest team? Do you think our goalkeeper was troubled too much today?
“When you play Crouch, who is the centre-forward for England, Benayoun, Kuyt and Voronin, who are international players, you give the other team the message that you have a very strong side. The other players were injured.
“I think the team scored a goal and needed to use their experience to control the game.
“But it’s the FA Cup. Look at what happened to Everton, Blackburn and Bolton – that’s the FA Cup.”
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun (El Zhar 86), Alonso, (Mascherano 74), Lucas, Babel (Voronin 70), Crouch, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Martin, Hobbs.
Booked: Alonso, Riise, Hyypia
Goals: Crouch 74
Luton: Brill, Keane, Perry, Coyne, Goodall, Bell, Currie, Edwards, Spring, Talbot, Andrew.
Subs Not Used: Hutchison, Jackson, Robinson, O’Leary, Furlong.
Goals: Riise 77 og.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).