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With the game shown live around the world, most people will have seen it so I'll be brief with my opinions.
Reasons to be cheerful, 1-2-3: the return of Nige in goal, of Batts in the middle of the park and Robbie Keane's lively presence up front.
Reasons to be unhappy: dominating the game and losing; not making the most of some very good chances; conceding a soft goal that should have been cleared twice before it hit the back of the net.
We've seen Liverpool play a very similar game to this earlier this season: they went to Old Trafford, soaked up the pressure and scored when the opportunity presented itself. Then as today, they defended the edge of their area well, despite the pressure, and the commitment of their defence was first rate. Sander Westerveld didn't have a huge amount to do - which is just as well (for them) because he looked dodgy under pressure, dropping the ball and looking generally dithery.
Nige had even less to do - but he won't be happy to be beaten inside his near post in front of Sven Goran Erickson: not the sort of thing to impress the new boss with. Bowyer and Woody didn't look like they were worrying about the trial: both had outstanding games in their respective roles.
Man of the match: well, until the final 10 minutes the answer was obviously Robbie Keane for his attacking invention, Lee Bowyer for a lively midfield display or Jon Woodgate for shutting up shop in defence so well. By full-time the only choice for the award was Robbie Fowler: his persistence paid off handsomely for the Reds: why he seems to be out of favour with Houillier is one of life's great mysteries.
The ref? Well, Andy D'Urso did miss a fairly obvious trip on Bowyer by McAllister, but he handled the game well, and his reluctance to caution Bowyer when his elbow caught Macca's head was maybe a little bit in Leeds' favour - but he generally kept the game flowing well and only stopped the flow when he needed.
Where do we go from here? Well, the focus is getting narrower and narrower as each game goes by. Winning the Champions' League would require some fairly outrageous fortune, and we are due some luck but I'd be surprised to get that much in one lump. There remain 45 points to be won in the league: if we can get over 35 of them we might still have a chance of a UEFA place - and whatever PR says, that's got to be an important target. Going out of the FA Cup closes yet another route to silverware, and for DOL that could be crucial. He's not in line for the chop yet (quite right too!) but if we find ourselves out of touch in the league, out of both domestic cups and having failed to qualify for Europe next January, a reading of the tea leaves indicates that the club might start thinking that a different hand on the tiller will be needed.
This was a game that could have gone either way. That it went Liverpool's is down to (in no particular order): odd personnel decisions by O'Leary; appalling finishing; unlucky refereeing decisions; plain bad luck. I'll deal with each in turn.
Quite why O'Leary refuses to start Dacourt and Batty together I do not understand. Dacourt may not have completely bossed the last couple of games, but he's a damn sight better than Bakke has been recently. Dacourt should have started in place of Bakke, and should CERTAINLY have been brought on for him when it became apparent Bakke was having a nightmare game. In addition, the decision to start and then continue with Matteo instead of Wilcox meant we had no natural wide players on the field. Matteo did not play particularly well, and should have been subbed as well. It was tough on Keane to be subbed, I thought, even though he had not been as bright the second half as he was the first. O'Leary says Houllier has been educating him about football. Well, perhaps he should ask the Liverpool boss about how to make smart substitutions.
Our finishing was godawful. Do none of our players remember how to hit the ball hard and accurately? Keane should have scored within 30 seconds but seemed to scuff his shot when a powerful shot to the far post was called for. Viduka did exactly the same later in the game, miskicking from close range and missing the goal entirely. Matteo missed a simple header he should have buried from about five yards range. Bakke toe-poked the ball towards the net from three yards, when a volley from a seven-year-old would have had enough strength to put it in the back of the net. And Viduka, when teed up at the edge of the box in the first half, couldn't even find the target. And that's not to mention the chance Keane had in the first half when he opted not to shoot at all. Fact: Liverpool had two shots on goal the whole game, and scored with each. Neither was a simpler chance than several of the above mentioned misses on our part. The first Liverpool goal was almost a carbon copy of the Barca goal at Elland Road, a shot that hits the post and rebounds to one of their players, who buries it. That's what happens when you shoot the ball at the goal. Someone has to tell our players that not every goal has to be the result of an intricate passing move.
Another ref would have given us (or any team but us, more likely) two penalties. The first, for an apparent handball in the first half, would have been harsh on Liverpool, but no harsher than the penalty given against Mills in almost identical circumstances last week. The second was clear-cut. Bowyer jinked his way past McAllister in the box, who promply tripped him. The TV replays were very clear. We were one-nil down, and that would have made a huge difference. However, a Scouser might say that this was justice for Bowyer's apparent elbowing of Macca in the first half. Many refs would have sent Bo off for that.
Bad luck? Well, you make your own luck, my Dad always says, but the ball fell kindly for Liverpool on several occasions in both penalty areas. They escaped the two penalty shouts mentioned above, and on another day one of those half-chances would have gone in, instead of getting cleared off the line.
Despite all this, there were some signs of a silver lining. The defence (especially the central defenders) did very well, restricting Liverpool to two shots on goal. Martyn's presence may have something to do with that. We passed the ball well, and created several chances. But we need to get Bakke and Matteo out of the side until they remember how to play. And we desperately need to improve our set-pieces.
MARTYN - 6
Had two saves to make and failed to make either, getting beaten at the near post for the first goal and by a long-distance shot for the second. I'm giving him an extra point because the defence as a whole played better today, which may be down to his organization and the confidence he spreads.
KELLY - 6
Defensively sound, but woeful distribution. Our Irish full backs need to go back to basics. Every time Kelly brings the ball out of defence, you can almost see him looking downfield for an opposition defender to launch it towards.
WOODGATE - 8
Both central defenders were magnificent. Fowler didn't get a shot on goal the entire game, and neither centre-half had to resort to illegal measures to keep 'Pool at bay. Very classy performance.
RIO - 8
See above. Rio is truly class. His ability to ride tackles on the ball and find his man with a pass is superior to that of either of our full-backs, as well as Matteo and Bakke.
HARTE - 6
As with his uncle Gary, he defended well, but gave the ball away too cheaply. I don't think he crossed accurately into the box once.
MATTEO - 5
Could have put us ahead with a simple header, but failed. Did nothing special on the left, and added no useful width. A marginal midfielder, on this performance.
BATTY - 8
Oh how we've missed him. He and Bo were everywhere, tackling with venom, and rarely giving the ball away. With Batty anchoring the rear of the midfield, and Dacourt pushing forward, we'd be very hard to outplay or outmuscle in the middle of the park.
BAKKE - 3
An absolutely appalling performance by the Norwegian. It's difficult to think of anything he did right. Created nothing, gave the ball away at will, missed tackles, and also missed one of our best chances. Why he started is anyone's guess, and why he finished is an even bigger conundrum. He needs to go back to the reserves for some re-education.
BOWYER - 8
Leeds' MOTM in my opinion. I would have given him a nine but the elbow he gave to Macca in the first half - even if unintentional - was irresponsible and could have cost us dearly. Bowyer bossed the first half, and never gave up. We are really going to miss him over the next few weeks (and I hope that's all it is).
VIDUKA - 7
I'm being generous because at least he and Keane were always looking to create chances. They just need to finish those they create.
KEANE - 7
As above. Robbie's a truly fine player, but he's got to start putting away a higher percentage of chances before he's regarded as anything close to the finished article.
The margins are fine in football. One day you play well and you lose, the next you play like shite and win. God is one twister mother-'
Leeds deserved better but the onion bag is there for a reason. We had to really win this game cos a replay at Anfield would be tougher than eating a breaded slipper insole.
When the draw was made for this game I suspected we'd go out. Liverpool were 8/5 at Ladbrokes. Very generous. I'm not encouraging you crazy kids to start gambling but I made an easy 60 quid out of this game.
I'd rather have been in the hat for the 5th round though.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 29/01/2001.
If the sole legacy of this season's FA Cup is the re-establishment of Robbie Fowler as one of the Premiership's outstanding forwards and the resumption of an England career which has yet to progress beyond the apprenticeship stage, the old competition will still have done its bit for club and country.
Though Fowler's ability has never been in doubt, recurrent injuries, scrapes on and off the field and the prowess of first Michael Owen and then Emile Heskey have combined to create the impression that if any attacker was likely to leave Anfield it would be he.
On the evidence of Fowler's contribution on Saturday, however, any such thought by Gérard Houllier would have to be regarded as a case for certifying. Three days after announcing a dramatic return to form in Liverpool's imperious dismissal of Crystal Palace from the Worthington Cup semi-finals, the 25-year-old practically lugged them into the last 16 of the FA Cup single-handedly.
Copy from The Independent of 28/01/2001.
Tie of the round? This was not even the tie of yesterday lunchtime as the curse of Sven yet again cast its stultifying grip on a contest he was attending. Beware all those who enter the vision of Mr Eriksson.
For 87 minutes the Swede, who is developing a reputation for witnessing contests of irredeemable torpor, must have been perturbed by the sheer inability of several performers to construct cohesive attacking patterns. Then, as if to remind the England coach that quality had not deserted the sides, but merely been subjugated by the sheer tension of the circumstances, two goals exploded past Nigel Martyn to deny us if that is the correct word a replay. Mind you, it required the fresh legs of Nick Barmby and Emile Heskey to profit when all around them appeared to be suffering from extremely fatigued limbs.
Liverpool's manager, Gérard Houllier, while accepting "it was not the best game of football either team have played", and that was putting it mildly, issued particular commendations for substitutes Barmby and Heskey, and also for Robbie Fowler. The England striker displayed indefatigable enthusiasm as a lone target man, with only Vladimir Smicer for occasional company for most of the game, and contributed to both goals.
"Robbie gradually looks as though he's coming back to a very good level," reflected Houllier, adding to that question: "I've always said that I wanted four quality strikers. I don't want him to leave the club. Nobody wants him to leave the club. He doesn't want to leave the club."
Liverpool scarcely deserved their victory, and a fourth consecutive clean sheet; Leeds merited at least a draw for their earlier endeavours. But the gods are simply frowning on David O'Leary's team at present. Even after Barmby's goal had finally separated two finely-matched sides, Lee Bowyer, the most industrious and visionary player on the pitch (if an assault on Gary McAllister can be forgiven), might have earned a penalty when the Scot appeared to fell him. Referee Andy D'Urso was unmoved or unsighted, and not for the first time.
O'Leary observed: "There was definite contact made. Lee Bowyer said he was definitely taken down." Speaking of which, Bowyer's counsel will be endeavouring to ensure that does not happen to him at the conclusion of his court case at Hull, where, together with defender Jonathan Woodgate, he will answer serious assault charges. The case starts tomorrow and both players are likely to continue to feature in O'Leary's team during the proceedings, if they are in a suitable mental state.
Michael Duberry and reserve-team striker Tony Hackworth also facecharges relating to the same incident; whether this is the root of the problem, or whether there is a more general malaise, there is a pallid look to Leeds at the moment. "Things are not going for us, but we can't feel sorry for ourselves," said O'Leary. "We're still lacking confidence, and this won't do us any good. But it's a learning process, and we've got to take it on the chin."
These sides, models of inconsistency, had produced a 4-3 victory in favour of Leeds in the League back in November. If we expected the Cup to serve up a similarly stimulating concoction, the evidence that we were to be severely disappointed was there for all to see after only the first few minutes.
Maybe there would have been a more dramatic turn to events if Robbie Keane had scored in the first minute. Bowyer, not for the first time, created a schism in the Liverpool rearguard with a fine ball which the Irishman took in his stride. But the advancing Sander Westerveld managed to take the pace off his effort, and Stéphane Henchoz tidied up with a clearance as the ball ran towards the line.
Apart from half-chances falling to Mark Viduka and Keane, we saw little more from O'Leary's men until Bowyer pounced on an opening just before the interval, but found the arms of Westerveld. Whether the midfielder should actually have still been a participant by that stage is a another matter: after 40 minutes of sterility, the game turned septic as Bowyer and the former Leeds player McAllister clashed near the dug-outs.
From every angle, apart from those of D'Urso and hisassistants, it seemed that Bowyer delivered a forearm smash into the face of McAllister. Houllier and Phil Thompson bounced off the bench in anger, but after treatment to the Scot and discussions between the officials, no action was taken. "I don't know if it was intentional or not, but he got away with murder," said Houllier, who might have added that Liverpool then got away with a touch of larceny. What he did say was that "we showed more strength in character than fluid football".
In reality, it meant that Sami Hyypia and Henchoz remained resolute in the second half, despite Viduka failing to convert a decent chance, Eirik Bakke having an effort cleared by the Finn off the line and Dominic Matteo failing with a header. A kind of inevitability attended the manner in which another substitute, Christian Ziege, broke into the home defence, in which Rio Ferdinand had otherwise performed with distinction, and found Fowler, whose shot struck a post, before Barmby despatched an angled drive past the hitherto under-employed Martyn.
The England goalkeeper had returned from injury, in doing so ousting the impressive Paul Robinson, and he probably wished he hadn't when, to confirm Leeds' discomfort, Heskey cracked the ball between goalkeeper and post, after a Fowler cross and Barmby cutback had presented him with the chance. Something at last for Eriksson to drool over.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 28/01/2001.
The two late goals by substitutes Nick Barmby and Emile Heskey that took Liverpool into the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in five years could also have cost Leeds United their likeliest route back into Europe next season.
David O'Leary put a brave face on defeat, claiming there was still enough time to climb back to a respectable Premiership position, but Leeds will not finish high enough playing like this and the appearance of Leeds players at Hull Crown Court tomorrow morning will do little to improve concentration.
Robbie Keane missed a glorious opportunity to put Leeds in front after just 35 seconds, and Mark Viduka, Eirik Bakke and Dominic Matteo also had chances to score before Liverpool got started. After 85 minutes of uninspired and often inept football it appeared that the visitors would be happy with a draw, but between them Gérard Houllier's substitutes and his captain, Robbie Fowler, had other ideas.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 29/01/2001.
DISPATCHED from the Worthington Cup by Tranmere on a kamikaze night back in October, United fell to another Mersey foe in the FA Cup at Elland Road to ensure that there will be no domestic trophy to cherish this season.
A large slice of good fortune, a referee who thinks that penalties are all about parking fines and some pitiful finishing by United ensured that Liverpool, as well as the gutsy Tranmere, will carry the Mersey flag in round five.
Yet when Robbie Keane twice spurns gilt-edged chances, Mark Viduka is appreciably wide of the target with two only slightly less obvious opportunities and Eirik Bakke fails to convert from three yards, what, other than ignominy, do United expect?
Add to those the denial of two penalties and an individual performance from Robbie Fowler which graduated from unpromising to world class, and nothing more than a return to the drawing board for United instead of a place in the fifth round draw was guaranteed.
Liverpool, always happy to sit back, soak it up, rely on the long ball, came with the specific intent of taking United back to Anfield for a replay and after 87 largely disappointing minutes even the most fierce of gamblers would not have bet against it.
Yet their manager Gerard Houllier had been masterful with the introduction of his substitutes and two of them, Nick Barmby and Emile Heskey, benefited from the growing influence of Fowler.
Another to emerge from the bench, Christian Ziege, was the architect of the first in the 87th minute as he ghosted across the face of goal and fed Fowler, whose studied and measured shot cannoned off a post.
Barmby, alert more than anybody to possibilities, came storming in from nowhere to lash in the rebound.
And in injury time Heskey blasted a second following a magnificent cross by Fowler to Barmby, whose lay-back was an open invitation.
In between Lee Bowyer was floored in the area by Gary McAllister, with this pair having earlier been involved in an incident in which Bowyer elbowed the former Leeds man and left his face bloodied.
But referee D'Urso, who ignored a Liverpool penalty area handball in the first half, would have none of it, waved play on for the red brigade to wrap it up.
Said United manager David O'Leary: "Bowyer's was a clear enough penalty from the dugout, never mind from where the referee was standing. That finished us. The second goal was academic."
O'Leary sensationally axed in-form goalkeeper Paul Robinson and midfield dynamo Olivier Dacourt, giving Nigel Martyn his first outing since mid-October and David Batty only his third start of the season.
Watching England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, robbed of a further appraisal of Robinson, also had no chance to run the rule over Liverpool's Stephen Gerrard and Michael Owen, who were injured, though the antics of Fowler and, later, Heskey and Barmby, certainly caught his eye.
In the opening minute Bowyer's quick free kick caught Liverpool flat-footed and Keane, one on one with Westerveld, looked certain to score. But the keeper stuck out a leg and Henchoz booted clear to prevent the nastiest of early shocks.
And Westerveld was again the hero in the fourth minute, smothering at Viduka's feet after a sliderule pass from Keane created havoc.
Then Viduka's fine ball to Bowyer forced the concession of a corner as Leeds, unaffected by recent paranoias at home, pressed relentlessly.
Keane wanted one touch too many when he again burst through on the break and when Viduka picked up the pieces he screwed his shot well wide.
Little had been seen of Liverpool as an attacking force as they preferred long balls from defence and midfield which were readily dealt with by Ferdinand and Woodgate.
Neither were they in a hurry at deadball situations, giving the distinct impression that a replay would suit them fine.
When, in the 33rd minute, they finally did get in a shot, Hamann was high, wide and not so handsome from 25 yards.
Bowyer was lucky to get away with it when he elbowed McAllister, incurring the wrath of the Liverpool bench. D'Urso clearly had not seen it, but suddenly there was fire in Liverpool bellies and Carragher held nothing back in a full-blooded challenge on Batty.
United opened them up on 54 minutes when Keane got in a fine cross to Viduka, whose shot flashed across the face of the goal. Considering that only a few weeks previously the big Aussie had perpetrated a one-man demolition job on Liverpool with all four goals in a memorable 4-3 win, that was bad finishing.
Viduka vacillates between greatness and gruesomeness and here it was he, not Keane, who should have been replaced by Smith and much earlier at that.
Soon it was Liverpool's turn to go close, McAllister whipping in a direct free kick which went just wide of the far post.
Then Smicer got in a snapshot which flew wide after good approach work by Murphy. Liverpool had a lucky escape on the hour when Westerveld dropped Bowyer's curling free kick and Bakke poked it goalwards only for Hyypia to clear off the line.
And when they sprinted upfield McAllister couldn't get quite enough on his touch from an awkward angle.
Fowler had a fine chance when McAllister threaded him through, but after turning Woodgate he blasted his shot into the side-netting.
Matteo was just over with a powerful header from Bowyer's cross as the game at last opened up and midway through the half Liverpool changed their tactics, going three at the back as Barmby replaced Babbel.
It was with 17 minutes left that both sides introduced some firepower as Smith replaced Keane for Leeds and Heskey came on for Smicer.
Said Houllier: "Substitutes are becoming more and more important in the game and they were our ace card here.
"But while we have gone through it could just as easily have been Leeds' name in the draw."