FA Cup Third Round Replay
Babel 45, Gerrard 52, Hyypia 57, Gerrard 64, 72.
Back to the normality of a game, although other issues were never far away. There was no major wave of protest, be in support of Rafa and anti the owners, but the odd banner “Thanks Yanks, More Friendly Fire” summed up the underlying mood.
When it all comes down to it the priority for most is the performance of the team on the pitch. We needed one last night if only to give everyone a boost. For now finances, stadiums and Germans, were other people’s problems.
Perhaps mindful of the fact that we should not fall short, Benitez fielded a stronger side when, under normal circumstances, he might have been tempted to make some changes. The financial problems at Luton had meant that they had to sell two of the players who lined up against us the first tie. This, plus injury problems, meant that they were forced to play Don Hutchinson of all people as a make shift centre half. Jamie Carragher joined an exclusive club by making his 500th appearance as a red.
The game was all one way traffic. The first chance came to Crouch who headed wide from Pennant’s cross. Then Babel, after picking up Gerrards pass, curled a superb, considered effort around the keeper and on to the post. Crouch then volleyed one from 18 yards out down Brill’s throat. Although most of the play was in the Luton half, the visitors acquitted themselves ably and visibly grew in confidence as the half progressed. However after nearly and 130 minutes of football, and just as Luton were contemplating going into the dressing room for half time oranges all square, we finally stirred ourselves.
Rather than sit back and see out the remaining minute of the half, Luton’s back line pushed up. Torres found a gap and put Babel through who finished easily with Luton desperately trying to recover the ground. A decent strike and at a psychologically damaging time for Luton. Nonetheless it was a sign of their performance, and our inability to make the most of our advantages, that rather than being relieved to be going in at only 1-0 down, they had good cause to be annoyed.
The second half saw “normality” restored. Six minutes in Pennant found Crouch at the back post who knocked the ball back into the middle for Gerrard, arriving late, to head home. The third followed soon after and Luton were undone. Sami Hyypia, after a few near misses on Saturday against Middlesbrough, managed to head home from Gerrard’s corner. The fourth saw Riise find Torres whose shot was blocked by a Luton defender only for the ball to fall into the path of Gerrard who placed a shot past Brill.
Gerrard’s hat trick was completed in trademark style with long range effort which bent late to deceive Brill. Three goals and his work was done, time to make way for Lucas as Torres did for Aurelio. It was refreshing to see us in this position fielding a strong side, getting the advantage and then being able to rest players. Compare and contrast to situation we have all too often found ourselves in where, having fielded a weaken side from the start, we end up bringing on the “big guns” to chase the result.
After the game Rafa played the spoilsport by insisting that he only wanted to comment on the game.
“I was not thinking too much about this, I was thinking about the game. I’m really happy because we won 5-0 and progressed in the competition. It wasn’t a bad week because we were training normally. We knew everyone was talking but we were trying to concentrate on the game against Luton. I know people must ask but I want to talk about the game.”
He didn’t need to say much. Interviews with the fans before and after the game did it all for him. Let’s hope more score lines like this are achieved. They amount to more than anything words can say.
Liverpool: Itandje, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Pennant, Alonso, Gerrard (Lucas 73), Babel, Crouch (Kuyt 65), Torres (Aurelio 73).
Subs Not Used: Martin, Kewell.
Luton: Brill, Jackson, Hutchison, Keane, Goodall, Bell (McVeigh 73), Robinson (O’Leary 68), Spring, Currie, Andrew (Furlong 68), Talbot.
Subs Not Used: Parkin, Emanuel.