Heroic underdogs Chesterfield gave troubled Liverpool and boss Graeme Souness a nightmare in an astonishing Coca-Cola Cup tie at Anfield.
The magnificent third division outfit, roared on by 5,000 fans, piled on the agony for Souness by racing to a 3-0 lead before his side began to make a fight of it. Liverpool managed to scrape a draw but it was still a deeply embarrassing night for a team racked by injuries but boasting five full internationals.
It was a super birthday celebration for former Halifax striker Steve Norris and it sets up a mouth-watering prospect for the second leg at Saltergate on October 6. Chesterfield took the lead after just seven minutes, Andy Morris rising to head on Lee Rogers' right wing cross for Norris to tuck his seventh goal of the season inside the post.
They then sustained a spell of Liverpool pressure before capitalising on a dreadful blunder in the home defence on the half hour.
England centre-half and Liverpool captain Mark Wright gave David James the kind of back-pass goalkeepers are having nightmares about this season, and striker Dave Lancaster pounced to force the ball over the line as James tried to control it.
Lancaster could have had his second five minutes before half-time, heading straight at James from Cliff Carr's cross.
But three minutes into the second half he struck again, capitalising on another uncertain moment by Wright to drill home a precise shot.
The Liverpool supporters were finally given something to cheer about a minute later with an `international' goal when Hungarian substitute Istvan Kozma crossed from the right for Israeli international Ronnie Rosenthal to score with a diving header.
And it was 3-2 after 58 minutes when Chesterfield goalkeeper Mick Leonard saved brilliantly from Mark Walters only to see Don Hutchison follow up with a cool piece of finishing to give him his first senior goal for Liverpool.
Leonard then brought off two fine saves to turn a blistering 20 yard shot from Mike Marsh wide and block a Mark Walters shot as Liverpool went all out for the equaliser.
But with Liverpool committed forward Carr punted a long clearance up field in the 69th minute and Norris raced clear before slotting the ball past James who left it late to come off his line.
Liverpool were not done and after 72 minutes Walters held off the challenge of Steve Williams to arrow a low shot into the corner.
Five minutes from time Kozma floated in a right wing cross for Wright to atone for his earlier mistakes by powering in a header that unlucky Leonard got a hand to but could not keep out. The drama was complete when Hutchison's injury time shot rebounded off a defender onto a post, avoiding a last ditch defeat that would have been so cruel on the valiant visitors.
Copyright - British Soccer Week
Graeme Souness, the Liverpool manager, announced yesterday that Bruce Grobbelaar will replace David James in goal for the Premier League game against Wimbledon at Anfield tomorrow. His decision follows the embarrassing 4-4 draw with Chesterfield, of the third division, in the Coca Cola Cup on Tuesday.
James, an England Under-21 international who was signed from Watford for 1.2 million pounds, has played in all 11 of Liverpool's senior fixtures this season, conceding 20 goals and failing to keep one clean sheet.
"David was at fault for one of the goals in midweek," Souness said. "I am bringing Bruce back into the team in the hope that his influence will spread to those around him. His experience could be very valuable to us at the moment."
Although Liverpool's inconsistent start to the season - the poorest in more than 30 years - was discussed at a meeting of the Board Of Directors yesterday, Souness' position is not thought to be in jeopardy.
The bookmakers, however, have made Kevin Keegan favourite to succeed him, although Keegan yesterday declared himself a non-runner. "I think it is absolutely disgraceful that they should start a book on a job which isn't even vacant," Keegan said. "But I am not interested. I said when I came to Newcastle that this is the only club for me, and that when I walk away from here it will be back to my stud farm. That still stands."
Since his arrival in February, Keegan's impact on Newcastle has been astonishing. With maximum points from their first seven games, their start to the season has been in stark contrast to Liverpool's.
Keegan has always insisted that Newcastle have the capacity to match Liverpool or Manchester United and on recent performance they are on course to fulfil such lofty ambitions. Newcastle supporters are already convinced that Keegan will leave, but only for the England job when it becomes available.