Anfield was treated to an engrossing cup tie; although Liverpool’s cause was assisted by an unprecedented 3 own goals in their favour. Gus Poyet’s side have become renowned for their passing style and attacking threat and, with the Reds looking a side which was anything but distracted by pending Wembley engagements, both teams looked to take the attacking initiative at every given opportunity.
During a closely contested first half it rarely looked likely that a five goal winning margin would decide the tie. However, having re-taken the lead shortly before the break, Liverpool out-classed their second-tier opponents with an energetic and comprehensive second-half display.
Liverpool opted to omit both Daniel Agger and Craig Bellamy from the match day squad altogether – presumably with next weekend’s Wembley date in mind. But, aside from the aforementioned duo, Kenny Dalglish again showed his intent in this season’s domestic cup competitions with another strong starting line-up.
Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez were paired together in attack and – on a rare occasion that the pair were used in tandem with Steven Gerrard – they demonstrated the kind on individual form and combined understanding which must surely convince Dalglish to allow them and extended audition at the forefront of Liverpool’s attack.
Martin Skrtel gave Liverpool an early lead with a near post header from Gerrard’s left-wing corner. With Brighton’s attentions focused on the threat of Carroll, Skrtel beat his marker at the near post to meet Gerrard’s delivery and direct the ball beyond Peter Brezovan.
Brighton had already tasted defeat at the hands of the Reds in a Carling Cup tie on the south coast earlier this season. Yet, they grew into the game, enjoying plenty of possession and using the ball well. So much so, that the visitors were on level terms on 17 minutes.
Jordan Henderson was penalised for a foul on Kazenga Lua-Lua, 25-yards out. Lua-Lua picked himself up to drive an unstoppable effort past Pepe Reina, after the ball was rolled to him from the resulting free-kick.
At that stage it looked as though cup frustration could have been on the cards for the Reds. Although short of their best, Liverpool continued to create the better of the chances. Suarez burst into life after an under-whelming start; evading a few challenges inside the box and stabbing the ball beyond Brezovan, only to be denied by a goal-line clearance.
Carroll also sent a powerful header narrowly over the bar. Whilst a flighted Gerrad set-piece also gave Brezovan some cause for concern.
Liverpool did re-gain the lead, which they just about merited on the balance of play, shortly before half-time – albeit in rather fortuitous circumstances. Brighton failed to deal with Charlie Adam’s corner-kick, or Suarez’s resulting shot. Glen Johnson headed the ball back towards goal, only for Sam Vokes to strike his attempted clearance against Liam Bridcutt. It was announced as a Johnson goal but there was little doubt that Bridcutt had the decisive, if unfortunate, intervention.
Having taken the lead Liverpool asserted their superiority after the interval and a third, courtesy of Carroll, was the eventual reward. Stewart Downing – who showed an improvement in form in the second half – ran down the left and intelligently cut the ball back to Carroll; who comprehensively beat the goalkeeper with a well-taken, first-time effort.
The Seagulls capitulated defensively after falling three goals behind. Poyet’s team continued to commit men to attack as they sought a route back into the game but, in doing so, left gaps which Liverpool were all too willing to exploit and capitalise on a porous Brighton defence.
Suarez, in particular, was relishing the space he was being afforded. The Uruguayan will surely now be eager to put recent events behind him and – despite a muted start – was at the heart of Liverpool’s attacking threat.
Yet, it was a couple more own-goals which were to further bolster the winning margin. The first somewhat unlucky; the second a comical error. Gerrard’s run pierced the away defence before being denied by Brezovan, only to pick up the loose ball and send in a cross which was deflected into his own goal for a second time by a beleaguered Birdcutt from no more than a yard out.
Liam Dunk then inexplicably contrived to carry the ball over his own goal line despite little pressure inside his own six-yard box when attempting to deal with Suarez’s centre.
With Brighton dejected, Liverpool threatened to run up a record scoreline. Substitute Dirk Kuyt was felled by Craig Noone in the penalty area. Kuyt wanted the honours for himself but, when Dalglish over-ruled from the sidelines in favour of Suarez, the end result could have been foretold. Suarez missed his second, and Liverpool’s fifth, spot-kick of the season.
Kuyt did strike the crossbar from the resulting corner. But Suarez finally had the Kop End goal which he so craved before full-time. Carroll reached Jose Enrique’s deep cross and headed back across goal; where Suarez was placed to head home from close range.
Liverpool have now scored an impressive total of 13 goals from their 3 FA Cup ties to date. In doing so, they made the prospect of double-cup success an ever more likely possibility.
Man of the Match
Being to show signs of a blossoming partnership with Carroll – one which should surely be afforded an extended run of games.