Reds ride their luck

Ian Rush produced one of the most valuable goals of his Anfield career to rescue holders Liverpool from FA Cup humiliation against second division Bolton.

The aristocrats of English football were seven minutes away from an embarrassing third round exit when Rush pounced to spare Liverpool's blushes and kept their season alive.

A tragic error by former Anfield reserve Mark Seagraves allowed Liverpool to stage their own version of the great escape.

Seagraves' weak 83rd minute back pass was intercepted by Steve McManaman whose shot was saved by the diving Keith Branagan. The ball rebounded into the path of Rush who shot his 39th FA Cup goal for the club.

Earlier it had appeared as though Seagraves would be the hero of the afternoon. He headed in Bolton's second goal after 22 minutes when Tony Kelly flicked on a Mark Patterson corner and Liverpool looked dead and buried.

They had fallen behind in the eighth minute when Phil Brown and Scott Green combined to set up former Millwall striker John McGinlay for his 10th goal of the season.

That was the signal for Bolton, separated from Liverpool by 42 places in the English league set-up, to give the Merseyside men a first half roasting.

Liverpool were thankful to retreat at half-time just two goals behind.

McGinlay should have added a second goal after 21 minutes when he took Patterson's pass past Torben Piechnik and around goalkeeper Mike Hooper before hitting a post. David Lee sliced the rebound over an empty goal.

After Seagraves had headed the second, Hooper could only kick a Steve Nicol backpass against Andy Walker whose instant shot hit the goalkeeper and as both players fell Walker headed the rebound wide of a gaping goal.

Walker missed another chance just as inviting in the final minute of the half.

Liverpool, having staged rousing comebacks against sides of supposedly inferior status in the past, found the urgency lacking in their first half performance.

The substitution of Ronnie Rosenthal for Michael Thomas who scored a Wembley goal against Sunderland last May, proved a turning point after 54 minutes. Three minutes later and with his first kick Rosenthal put Liverpool back in the match.

A miskick by McGinlay allowed him to race away with only Branagan to beat and although his curling shot rebounded from a post defender Mark Winstanley could not avoid putting through his own goal in attempting to clear.

Liverpool, with three appearances in the final and one semi-final in the last five years, kept on going and stayed on the Wembley trail through ace marksman Rush.

Liverpool boss Graeme Souness admitted he feared the worst before his side staged their great escape. Souness said: "Bolton had the best of the first half and were looking at going out after 45 minutes. But you need a bit of luck in cup competitions, we got back in it and thoroughly deserved a draw in the end. It was a very entertaining, exciting cup tie with goals and near goals on a tricky pitch and that is what knock-out competitions are all about. Bolton were 2-0 up after their first three attacks and at that stage we were contributing to our own problems."

Bolton manager Bruce Rioch admitted there were mixed feelings in his dressing room. He said: "I am satisfied and delighted with the way we played and I know the players really enjoyed it," he said.

"But that feeling is tinged with a little disappointment and if you feel that way after facing Liverpool you know you have competed well. We might have had three or four goals in what was an excellent first half for us. After the break I felt we had a good chance of winning but we conceded a couple of unfortunate goals through an own goal and a miss directed back pass. We were not able to keep the momentum going in the second half but it has been a good day for us. I am only disappointed because we didn't win after leading 2-0. I suppose Liverpool will be thinking they have done the hard work but now we will look forward to the replay and who knows what might happen if we create as many chances at Anfield."

Liverpool's England forward John Barnes said: "At one stage we looked to be going out and could have been three or four goals down at half-time. But if anyone was going to score it was going to be Rushie. You can never write him off. Any team who wins the cup relies on a little bit of luck."

Seagraves reflected on the agony and the ecstasy of his give-away back pass after heading Bolton's second goal. He said: "It's marvellous to score against anyone but especially against Liverpool. On the back pass I was trying to play the ball back to our goalkeeper and mis-hit it. You can't afford to give a team like Liverpool those sort of opportunities. But we should have been five goals up at halftime and if we play the same way at Anfield there is no reason why we can't win the replay."

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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