Three goals in the last eight minutes saw holders Liverpool through to the fourth round of the Coca-Cola Cup. But the scoreline flattered the Reds who withstood a determined fightback from City in the second half before finally killing off their challenge.
Liverpool began frantically and tested Eike Immel as early as the second minute when Steve McManaman found Robbie Fowler free in the area but his shot was turned around the post by the City keeper. Two minutes later Immel was again City's saviour, denying Ian Rush with a fine save but Liverpool eventually took the lead in the ninth minute. Jamie Redknapp's free-kick was head down by Rush and John Scales struck a fine half-volley to open his account for the season.
Despite their early dominance Liverpool faded and the visitors were quick to remind them of their potential with Uwe Rosler and Niall Quinn both going close -- the Republic of Ireland international wasting the best chance shortly after the half-hour.
Liverpool struggled to regain their rhythm and after the interval the visitors' confidence grew as they enjoyed the lion's share of possession. But, despite an admirable display of effort and commitment, City were rarely able to test Reds' keeper David James.
And their spirited performance was finally killed off when Fowler netted Liverpool's second in the 74th minute. That signalled the opening of the floodgates and five minutes later Rush added Liverpool's third.
Eight minutes from the end Liverpool completed the rout when Steve Harkness fired home the fourth at the second attempt after his first effort was blocked.
In the end Liverpool's progress to the next round was comfortable and, after this resounding victory, they will be confident of beating City again on Saturday when the two teams meet in the Premiership.
Manchester City boss Alan Ball remained in an up-beat mood after seeing his struggling side crash out of the Coca-Cola Cup at Liverpool tonight. Three goals in the last 16 minutes gave the cup holders a rather flattering 4-0 third round success at Anfield against the Premiership's bottom team. But Maine man Ball claimed that the only difference between the two sides was the quality of the finishing. He said: "The game is all about scoring goals. Liverpool were clinical tonight and that was the difference in the end. I think the scoreline flattered Liverpool a bit, but it was a great finish for the second goal and then we were out of it. But we're close to getting something."
John Scales put the Reds on the way with an opening goal after nine minutes, but it was not until Robbie Fowler netted his 10th strike of the campaign after 74 minutes that Liverpool took total charge.
Further goals by Ian Rush and Steve Harkness ensured an emphatic win, but Liverpool boss Roy Evans admitted that his side had failed to stamp their authority on the game. He said: "We should have had it finished off after 20 minutes. It was only when the second goal went in that we thought it was over. City battled well, but overall we've got to be pleased with a 4-0 victory."
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