Ian Rush entered football's hall of fame today by creating an FA Cup scoring record.
Liverpool's legendary striker set a new target of 42 goals in the competition by coming off the bench and getting the fifth against Rochdale.
That 61st minute strike, three minutes after he replaced Rob Jones, overtook the previous best by former Manchester United and Scotland star Denis Law. It was a day of personal triumph not only for Rush but also for strike partner Stan Collymore on a day when third division Rochdale were outclassed. The £8.5million British record signing chalked up his first hat-trick in Liverpool colours after his summer switch from Nottingham Forest. Collymore struck twice in the first half to kill off Rochdale after Robbie Fowler had opened the scoring.
Peter Valentine put through his own goal before Rush celebrated and Collymore completed his hat-trick. Rush scored his first FA Cup goal in 1979 in Chester's colours when they chalked a first round victory over Workington. Since then he has carved a path through the good and bad defences of the land with his pace and precision.
Rush's goal against Rochdale was a typical example of his craft. Fowler released him in the box and the Welsh international took the chance in an instant, giving keeper Chris Clarke no chance.
The Kop responded by mocking Denis Law as Rush and the Liverpool players celebrated.
It took Liverpool 21 minutes to open the scoring with Fowler getting his 21st goal of the season after a flowing move involving Steve McManaman and Steve Harkness. It was Fowler's eighth goal in five games and it sparked Liverpool off. Collymore added two more before half time, the first a shot into the corner after he was set up by Fowler.
He added a second a minute before half time to give Liverpool a comfortable lead at the break, heading home McManaman's cross. Rochdale suffered a further setback three minutes after the break when Valentine steered a cross from Jason McAteer into his own net. Then came Rush's moment of glory as he grabbed the fifth.
It was just a question of how many Rochdale would concede and Collymore inflicted more misery on them in the 70th minute when he rounded keeper Clarke to get the sixth and his third.
McAteer completed the rout with five minutes to go, latching on to a pass from Thomas to score his first goal for the club after his £4.5 million move from Bolton earlier in the season.
Liverpool striker Ian Rush reflected on one of the best weeks of his life tonight and said: "If I win the Lottery, I'll buy the club." Rush, awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours List, chalked up a post-war record for the number of goals scored in the FA Cup during Liverpool's 7-0 drubbing of third division Rochdale.
He set a new target of 42 by scoring the fifth goal to overtake Denis Law's previous best in modern times of 41. Rush was set up for the goal by Robbie Fowler, three minutes after coming on as sub -- his first game since November 18 after undergoing a cartilage operation.
"It's been a tremendous week for me," he said. "To get the goal at the Kop end was something special. Robbie thought about shooting himself but he gave it to me. I want to go on and hit 50 and reach a level no-one will beat."
Liverpool manager Roy Evans said: "It is a fantastic achievement by Rushie. Nothing surprises you about him. I bet he's just as pleased as he was when he won his MBE."
Rochdale manager Mick Docherty said: "It couldn't happen to a better pro. He is a shining light in the profession because of his work rate, dedication and his great scoring record."
Stan Collymore chalked up his first hat-trick in Liverpool's colours in this emphatic victory. Evans said: "It was a fine achievement by Stan and his confidence is increasing by the week. Rochdale held on for the first 25 minutes but once we got the first goal you could tell it was going to be our day."
Docherty said: "We were mesmerised and they gave us a lesson in football. The telling factor was five minutes either side of half-time when we went from 1-0 down to 4-0 down."
Copyright - Press Association