FA Cup 3rd Round Replay – January 15th 2008 – Result
Liverpool 5-0 Luton
Liverpool made their expected way into the fourth round of the cup at the second attempt with what was a convincing win in the end.
Luton never looked like scoring, managing only two goal attempts all night, neither of which were on target. Their tactics were to defend and hope for a chance against the run of play, and they managed the defending well for almost the whole of the first half. It was a makeshift defence, but they were throwing their bodies into blocking shots in a style that Jamie Carragher would have been proud of.
Carra was captain for the night, making his 500th appearance, and entered the field to a guard of honour from both teams. Rafa Benitez was in that guard of honour, and as the supporters sang his name he seemed to gesture to them that they should be singing for Carra, not him. Carra ran on with his young son James, who was wearing a Torres number nine shirt.
Torres himself didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet, but the other player Liverpool rely on for goals did – three times. He wasn’t captain tonight, but Steven Gerrard at least managed to grab Liverpool some headlines for the right reasons with his hat-trick. Ryan Babel had opened the scoring just before the half-time whistle was blown, during time added on, after finally finding some space behind Luton’s defence. Sami Hyypia scored the other, in a game he probably thought he’d finally get a rest for, until Daniel Agger’s metatarsal injury setback.
Next up for the Reds in this competition is a home tie against the winners of tomorrow night’s replay between Swansea and non-league Havant and Waterlooville. The Reds’ next game is in the league, on Monday night against Aston Villa. Rafa said that one of the reasons he chose a strong side was because the next game is far enough off – six days – for the players to recover.
Rafa’s name was chanted repeatedly throughout the night, alongside chants proclaiming he was going nowhere, suggestions where the owners might want to stick their Klinsmann, and further chants that the club is in the wrong hands. It clearly is in the wrong hands, as Tom Hicks has shown in recent months. Rafa was asked by Sky Sports afterwards about the situation with the owners following on from Hicks’ revelations yesterday, but under orders not to talk about the owners’ plans or policies he had to deflect the question. First he said: “We weren’t really thinking about it because we know it’s important to progress in the FA Cup.” Then he said: “I was not thinking too much about this, I was thinking about the game.” And again: “I’m really happy because we won 5-0 and progressed in the competition.”
Smiling throughout, he also suggested the Sky reporter should be given a pay-rise for his persistence in trying to get an answer from him.
On the game itself Rafa said: “We knew it would be difficult to score the first goal but afterwards it would be an open game. We had a lot of chances and they were really hard with a lot of players behind the ball. We were trying to do our job and they were trying to theirs.”
Gerrard said his hat-trick wasn’t the most important aspect of the match for him: “It’s not just about the hat-trick; the win is the most important thing.” He was also inevitably asked the speculation, but didn’t want to be pressed: “It was important the headlines tomorrow were about football. Every time we’ve put the TV on we see what’s happening off the pitch.” Asked if the players went out to win for the manager, he said: “It’s not about the manager; it’s about the team and progressing into the fourth round. We need to keep winning so the headlines are about the football.” Some may criticise the club captain for what could be seen as a missed opportunity to voice his support of the boss, but in light of the owners’ decision in the summer to sack Rafa for daring be critical of their changed plans, he no doubt knows it’s best to keep quiet on that issue for now, at least in public.
Carragher was asked if when starting out in the first team he thought he’d ever play so many games for the club: “I never thought that. Even now I don’t look too far ahead. You never know what’s around the corner.”
With Hicks and Gillett in charge, you really don’t know what’s around the corner, although Carra wasn’t actually referring to them when he made that comment. There was a presentation on the pitch for him before the game, as Ian Callaghan handed him an award for racking up those appearances. Alongside Carra and Cally was a beaming Rafa Benitez and a very uncomfortable-looking Rick Parry, a pink tie underlining a frown that wouldn’t look out of place on a circus clown.
Liverpool’s future is uncertain, the owners have lost any support they had from the fans whilst Rafa has regained the little bit that he’d lost. The feeling is that either Rafa or the owners will be gone by the summer. Tonight the 12th man made it quite clear who their choice would be.
Liverpool: 30 Itandje, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 6 Riise, 16 Pennant, 14 Alonso, 8 Gerrard (21 Lucas, 73), 19 Babel, 15 Crouch (18 Kuyt, 65), 9 Torres (12 Aurelio, 73)
Unused subs: 40 Martin, 7 Kewell
Bookings: Hyypia 70
Goals: Babel 45, Gerrard 52, 64, 72, Hyypia 57
Luton: 1 Brill, 12 Jackson, 4 Hutchison, 21 Keane, 3 Goodall, 8 Bell (28 McVeigh, 73), 14 Robinson (15 O’Leary, 68), 25 Spring, 10 Currie, 20 Andrew (29 Furlong, 68), 19 Talbot
Unused subs: 9 Parkin, 17 Emanuel
BBC Stats: (Liverpool – Luton)
Possession: 57% – 43%
Shots on target: 22 – 0
Shots off target: 10 – 2
Corners: 11 – 2
Fouls: 4 – 7
Sky Stats: (Liverpool – Luton)
Possession: 57% – 43%
Shots on Target: 11 – 0
Blocked Shots: 12 – 0
Shots off Target: 9 – 2
Corners: 11 – 2
Fouls: 5 – 7
Offsides: 3 – 4
Referee: Peter Walton