WALK ON, walk on. The old Anfield anthem has sounded muted in recent years, but now it is rising to a crescendo again. Thanks to Robbie Fowler, the youthful epitome of Merseyside, it will be heard again at Wembley, once Liverpool's second home, for the first time in three years.
On April 2, the Liverpool legions will walk on up Wembley Way with more than hope in their hearts. Last night's supremely efficient performance at Selhurst Park, where Fowler rubber-stamped Crystal Palace's dismissal from the Coca-Cola Cup, confirmed how far Liverpool have progressed since Roy Evans took the helm and Fowler started cutting a dash through opposition defences.
In recent knockout competitions, Liverpool have fallen foul of teams beginning with B. Not this season: Birmingham, Burnley and Blackburn have been bypassed on the B-roads to glory and the prospect of facing Bolton Wanderers, who surprised Liverpool in the FA Cup two seasons ago, will not trouble them unduly.
One thing is for certain, the stylish teams of Evans and Bruce Rioch will lay on a treat for those who love the passing game.
Palace were deprived of Chris Armstrong and Iain Dowie but even with their premier strikers they would have struggled, such was Liverpool's control.
Fowler effectively ended the tie with a glorious piece of finishing
Alan Smith, who deserves the utmost credit for what he is trying to achieve with a young side, deployed Chris Coleman, Palace's best centre- half, up front alongside Andy Preece: the makeshift partnership ran willingly, both strikers testing David James' reflexes in the opening exchanges, but a good attitude can rarely eclipse the inate aptitude of those like Fowler.
The forward, 19, whose late goal in the first leg gave Liverpool a slim lead, effectively ended the tie with a glorious piece of finishing after 26 minutes. Peeling away with wonderful timing from Palace's offside- obsessed back line, the teenager charged down the inside-left channel in pursuit of Steve McManaman's precise through-pass.
Advancing confidently towards Nigel Martyn's goal, Fowler drew the Palace 'keeper before sliding the ball from left to right for his 27th goal of the season.
Fowler, jigging gleefully over to the visiting corner, ripped his shirt off and replaced it back to front. Silly, very silly, Graham Kelly would doubtless hum, but why not? It was a finish worth celebrating with something completely different.
For all the buzzing midfield verve of Gareth Southgate, Smith's increasingly troubled side could not become attuned to the expansive football of the in-form visitors, who have now lost only once in 24 outings.
Palace appeared bereft of ideas, a Coleman header and curling John Salako shot providing the few respites from McManaman's raiding.
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