Liverpool beat Manchester United for the first time at Anfield in the FA Cup since Queen Victoria was on the throne and United were still known as Newton Heath. It was eighty-five years since they’d beaten their rivals on any ground in this competition, including final and semi-finals. Alex Ferguson will now have to decide whether to start showing some respect to a competition he generally treats as being extra reserve games when United face Wigan at Cardiff in the Carling Cup final – United are now out of everything else.
The joy of Liverpool’s win was tempered somewhat by a serious injury to former Leeds striker turned United midfielder Alan Smith. Smith had hardly been on the pitch when he went to charge down a John Arne Riise free-kick. Riise doesn’t know how to under-hit a free-kick, the result saw Smith slip as he was hit by the ball, and in doing so he fell awkwardly onto his leg. Confirmed later as a broken leg, it was reportedly described by Alex Ferguson as the worst injury he’d ever seen. Considering Ferguson was in charge when David Busst was injured for Coventry against United, then it sounds like Smith is in a bad way. In situations like this all rivalries need to be forgotten and we wish Smith all the best and hope he makes a full recovery.
Rafa Benitez also wanted to express is thoughts for Smith as he was interviewed straight after the game. He said: “The first thing to say is that we are all so sorry about the injury for Smith. It’s hard to know what to say right now, so we can only say ‘best wishes’. You never like to see your own players injured and it’s the same for opposition players as well. All we can say to him is good luck and we wish him well.”
For most of the first half Liverpool were the dominant side, with Peter
Crouch deservedly putting them ahead after nineteen minutes. Gary
Neville was fouled after just three minutes by Harry Kewell, who got a
talking-to by the referee and a big thank you from the Kop.
Just before the goal Kewell had come close to putting the Reds in
front. A great delivery from a free kick by Gerrard was headed toward
goal by Harry, and only a great save from van der Sar stopped it from
being the opener. The save resulted in a corner for Liverpool, taken
short by Gerrard. Liverpool’s corner-taking seems to consist of too
many short corners at times, but this one worked. Gerrard found Finnan,
who found a poorly-marked Crouch. Crouch’s header was almost saved by
van der Sar, but the Dutch keeper could do nothing as the ball hit the
post then rolled along the goal line for what seemed an age, before it
finally spun over the line and in.
United did create some chances, certainly in the minutes following the
goal, including a blocked effort from Wayne Rooney by Pepe Reina, but
most of the action was at the other end. Crouch became the first Reds
striker to score for Liverpool this year, Morientes looked sharp,
especially in approach play. Harry Kewell played a big part in
Liverpool’s domination, and should have been awarded a penalty when
Ryan Giggs brought him down inside the area. In the referee’s defence
the tackle was close to the edge of the area, but replays clearly
showed the aging Welsh winger had fouled the revitalised Australian
winger inside the box. Giggs was booked for the foul.
At half time the first change was made, when Ferguson took Silvestre
off to be replaced by Saha. The United camp say Silvestre was injured,
but to bring a striker showed Ferguson was concerned.
As Liverpool started to attack the Kop end Wes Brown was forced to head
over his own bar as Morientes closed in onto a Riise cross and a mix-up
between van der Sar and Vidic almost saw Crouch find the net.
Hyypia was booked for a challenge on Neville, the free kick almost
turned in by Rooney. Van Nistelrooy was rarely seen, although he did
manage to get the ball into the net twice – both times after the
whistle had already gone for half time.
Kewell had possibly Liverpool’s best chance of the second half, but as
the ball was rolling away from he had to stretch to make contact, and
his shot went wide of the goal.
Neville and Vidic were shown the yellow card for United – Neville for a
sly kick at Kewell. Kewell himself got a yellow for having a go at
Neville, clearly no love lost between the scouse-hater and the
Socceroo. This came in a period when the game was starting to look more
even, and van Nistelrooy saw one of his rare contributions diverted
wide by Jamie Carragher. Shortly after that Giggs volleyed over and hit
the wall with a wasted free-kick. Carragher and Hamann were both booked
for Liverpool in possibly the harshest bookings of the day.
By the time Alan Smith went down with the horror injury, United were at
the stage of wishing for added time. The referee added seven more
minutes on but by that time the game seemed to be less important than
it had been before. The players had no real idea of how long would be
added, and a lot of the players had looked visibly disturbed when
they’d seen the mess Alan Smith was in. Liverpool are said to have some
of the best medical facilities of any top-flight club in the country,
and their club doctor, Dr Mark Waller, was highly praised by Djibril
Cisse for saving his career after the Frenchman suffered his own horror
break against Blackburn. Action taken that day by Waller prevented
Cisse from possibly having to have his leg amputated, so hopes are high
that Smith will be back on the road to fitness again soon.
Man of the match: Tough call, but Harry Kewell edges it from the others
because he worked hard at both ends of the pitch and deserved a goal
and a penalty for his efforts.
Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0
FA Cup 5th Round. Half-time 1-0.
Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, J Carragher, S Hyypia, J Riise, S Gerrard, D Hamann,
M Sissoko, H Kewell (J Kromkamp 82), P Crouch (D Cisse 88), F
Morientes (Luis Garcia 62)
Subs: J Dudek, D Traore
Booked: D Hamann 48. S Hyypia 53, J Carragher 62, H Kewell 79
Manchester United: E Van der Sar, G Neville, W Brown, N Vidic, M Silvestre (L Saha 45), C
Ronaldo, D Fletcher (A Smith 76 (J Park 90) ), R Giggs, K Richardson, W Rooney, R
Unused Subs: T Howard, G Pique
Booked: R Giggs 33, G Neville 74, N Vidic 76
Referee: H Webb
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