The build up to this match started the very moment the two were pulled out of the hat to face each other. Pitting together two of the biggest forces in the Premiership, both who should be challenging for title honours, but find themselves facing a tough battle between 5 or 6 clubs all vying for 1 elusive Champions League spot.

Liverpool come off the back of two disappointing league games where they lost away at Spurs, and failed to beat Wolves at Molineux, but were happy in the knowledge they could field a strong, near preferred 11. With the absence of Diouf and Diao in the African Nations Cup, there were still limited available options for all positions. 

The much awaited return of the Hyypia and Henchoz partnership was met with even more delight with the return of ever-reliable Scouser Jamie Carragher. And with Finnan fit again to play at right back, our strongest back four was complete. Jerzy Dudek continued in goal after coming back in the Wolves match and a near perfect midfield with a repaired Stevie Gerrard completing the perfect partnership with the German Hamann. Harry Kewell was the man on the left and Emile Heskey seemed to be playing on the right with the reborn Frenchman, Cheyrou playing in the hole behind Michael Owen.

So with our strongest team fielded we should have expected nothing more than a complete performance, but the result was what mattered more than the performance. It was to be a quick start at Anfield after just 72 seconds when Cheyrou and Owen linked well with each other to put Heskey through on goal and after his shot was blocked by Olivier Bernard, the ball found Cheyrou 10 yards from an empty net to put Liverpool 1-0 up, much to the delight of the ever-faithful Kopites.

However, the lead was going to be short-lived when Laurent Robert struck a 30 yard free-kick with awesome power past the Polish keeper who perhaps should have done better in his effort at trying to tip it over the bar. This wasn’t to set a tempo that would last for the entire first half as each side played well enough to cancel out any attempt of an attack. The first half consisted mainly of midfield play with few chances being created and a deserved 1-1 scoreline was to be taken in at the break.

The second half was to be better for the team in red as more chances were to be made and better football was played. Carragher and Gerrard were solid in the tackle and together formed a local duo that took control of the game and didn’t let Newcastle have much time on the ball. Heskey was to be replaced by Anthony Le Tallec shortly into the second half as Emile had made little impact in the time he had played. Liverpool’s first serious chance came when Gerrard and Owen found themselves 2 on 1 but Gerrard’s final ball to Owen was overhit and a good chance went begging, as it was certain that Owen would have been bearing down on goal for 2-1.

That moment was to be long forgotten soon after as Gerrard stormed down the left wing, beating and teasing two Toon defenders before turning onto his right foot and delivering an inch perfect cross which Cheyrou met to power home in front of the ecstatic Kop and give Liverpool the key to the next round. Liverpool then played some solid football, kept possession and took the game to Newcastle.

Kewell made some excellent drives forward, Le Tallec also added extra vision and guile to the performance and although Owen didn’t have many chances of his own, not for the want of trying however, still played well, linking up with the midfielders doing most of his work out of the box. This performance merited an early chorus of You’ll Never Walk alone as Liverpool flowed and never let their guard down, until a cross from deep found Alan Shearer on the edge of the box and his neat turn and shot was flicked over the bar by Dudek, much to the applause of the home Anny Road Enders!!

Everybody had their say in this game and it was a complete team performance and the deserved Liverpool go into the hat for the 5th round draw. I’m sure many people would like the Burnley’s and Swansea’s in the draw as much as a tasty top class tie such as Chelsea or the favourites Arsenal, preferably at home no matter what as nowhere in the country could you find such an incredibly friendly atmosphere!!

© Adam Elce,

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