DANNY Murphy ended more than two years of waiting for his first Liverpool goal

DANNY Murphy ended more than two years of waiting for his first Liverpool goal by notching a Worthington Cup double at Boothferry Park last night.

The Crewe-born midfielder, who went back to his home town club for three months on loan last season, put Liverpool firmly in control of this second round tie with two first half goals.

Striker Erik Meijer added a brace of his own in the second half and full back Steve Staunton drove in a fifth to make next week's second leg on Merseyside a formality.

Hull goalkeeper Lee Bracey, who conceded eight goals on his last visit to Anfield with Swansea City eight years ago, must be fearing the worst.

The only black mark for Liverpool was in conceding a goal to a set piece early in the second half.

That at least gave an enthusiastic home crowd a brief moment of cheer.

But they were well entertained throughout by the slick passing and movement of the men in red that left third division Hull chasing shadows.

Liverpool, fielding a line-up that drew heavily on manager Gerard Houllier's summer buys from abroad, made the most of the wide open spaces of Boothferry Park, one of the largest pitches in the country.

Liverpool drew much of the sting out of the atmosphere generated by a sell-out, all-ticket crowd by taking the lead in the 10th minute.

The goal emphasised the difference in quality between two teams from opposite ends of the league spectrum.

A sweeping move involving Vegard Heggem, Staunton and Vladimir Smicer finished with Meijer stepping over the ball for Murphy to drive crisply into the bottom corner from 15 yards.

Hull fought back gamely, occasionally giving Liverpool some uneasy moments by swinging high crosses into the six yard box.

Liverpool had a genuine let off on 27 minutes when Garry Brabin, taking a pass from John Schofield on the edge of the box, drove a fierce low shot against the foot of a post.

Four minutes later, however, Murphy doubled Liverpool's advantage with a cute finish from a dozen yards after Meijer had knocked down a right wing cross from David Thompson.

Liverpool could have been three up at the interval as Smicer curled a powerful shot against the face of the crossbar from 20 yards.

Murphy missed the first of several opportunities to complete a hat trick three minutes after the re-start.

But Liverpool had to wait only until the 50th minute for the third goal.

They were quick to seize on an error by Hull substitute Steve Swales as Thompson worked the ball in from the right for Meijer to strike first time into the far corner from just inside the box.

However Liverpool's defensive frailty from set plays was exposed once again when Hull pulled a goal back in the 59th minute.

A right wing corner by John Eyre was flicked on by Schofield and David Brown crashed the ball home from close range, leaving Liverpool's defenders to argue with each other about what went wrong.

Liverpool were stretched once again when Schofield found space on the right in the 67th minute to drive in a low shot that Sander Westerveld saved at full stretch.

Heggem and substitute Patrick Berger were unable to accept gilt-edged chances before Staunton added the fifth in the 89th minute by finishing off yet another slick passing movement.

Ironically, Michael Owen, starting a game for the first time this season, wasn't able to indulge in the goal fest but looked sharp all night before being substituted 14 minutes from time.

Hull: Bracey, Harper, Mann, (Swales 31), Greaves, Edwards, Whittle, Brabin, Schofield, D'Auria, (Alcide 56), Brown, Eyre, (Wood 73). Subs not used Williams, Baker.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Staunton, Heggem, Hyypia, Traore, Carragher, Murphy, Thompson, Smicer, (Berger 46), Meijer, Owen, (Camara 76). Subs not used; Song, Bjornebye, Friedel.

Booked: Carragher (Liverpool)

Ref:Kevin Leach (Staffs)

Att: 10,034

Report by Nick Hilton

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