Seagulls, Own Goals and Streakers - Just Another FA Cup Round At Anfield
Today was the day that the magic of the FA Cup returned to Anfield and with a added bit of fun at the end, it was one that will be remembered for many years to come.
Brighton and Hove Albion were our opponents and having faced them earlier in the Carling Cup, everyone wondered if it was going to be payback time or indeed if we would beat them once again. Since the arrival of their manager Gus Poyet they have made strides in the Championship and are just outside the playoff places, so if fate is on their side they may find themselves in the Premiership next season.
For most of the players, today was the day that they would find themselves on the Anfield pitch for the very first time in their career and one that they hoped would see them progress into the next round where they would meet Stoke.
But it was not too be. Liverpool who has already earned next week's trip to 'Anfield South' for the Carling Cup Final are looking to sign off the season there with another trip in May.
Kenny who has never taken any of the domestic competitions lightly chose a strong team, but left out Craig Bellamy and Daniel Agger who both took knocks in training on Friday (or did they - I suspect they are being saved for next weekend.) It was also the first time that Stevie G, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez had played together and I have admit, it worked very well.
The tempo of the game was set by Liverpool from the moment referee Andre Marriner blew his whistle to start the game. Liverpool were in the ascendency from the beginning and with five minutes on the clock Martin Skrtel picked up a cross from Stevie G and headed straight into the back of the net. Brighton had been caught off guard by a moment's lack of concentration due to being more interested in the wrestling match between Andy Carroll and Adam El-Abd.
This set the tone for the first half with Brighton being caught out several times, although it was Liverpool's badly set wall that saw the second goal of the game. Brighton had won a free kick that was taken superbly by Lua Lua. He did what a good player does and sent a ferocious ball towards the wall which collapsed when Jordan Henderson moved away - it was unstoppable and found the back of the net.
With both teams now level, it looked as though the curse of Anfield had struck once again and we would be joining Chelsea and Tottenham in the replay queue.
But as the half edged towards the half time mark, the hand of fate decided to unsteady Brighton with what would be their first own goal of the game. Luis Suarez had picked up a ball and was making some fantastic moves which ended with a shot towards the goal but it was stopped by Brezovan and sent towards Glen Johnson who picked up the rebounded and with the ball goal bound it was stopped by Sam Vokes. Unfortunately his clearance then met Bridcutt and bounced back into the goal
Within ten minutes of the second half, Liverpool again stamped their authority on the game wihen Jordan Henderson picked up a badly placed shot from Stevie G only to see it saved by Brezovan. But moments later the lurking Stewart Downing sent a ball straight across into the area which was picked up by Andy Carroll and the big man scored. Now Andy, and the net have not met as many times as they should have this season, and hopefully this will help his confidence grow a little more.
Liverpool was now winning and it was wonderful to see that Liverpool was not going to sit back and let Brighton take over. The football on display was fantastic to watch and it was only going to be a matter of time before goal number four went into the net.
Unfortunately for Brighton, it was again an own goal by young Bridcutt who was in the wrong place when a low cross from Stevie G bounded off him and straight into the back of the net. By now I suspect the young lad's confidence was dented so much, that he just wished the game was over. But credit to him, he picked himself up and continued playing only to be injured in the final minutes.
Liverpool's fifth goal also came by virtue of a Brighton player when Dunk trying to defend got into a bit of a muddle and kneed the ball into the back of the net.
By now Anfield was rocking - the next round was in our sights and it was at this point that Kenny made three changes. Maxi came on for Downing, JonJo for Stevie and Dirk for Henderson.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, but Liverpool now had Wembley in their sights and were determined to continue with the high tempo play until the end.
Then I guess, the only 'mistake' of the game happened. Ten minutes from time Dirk was brought down in the area and with Liverpool awarded a penalty, came the decision of who was to take it. Now I would have put my money on Dirk but Kenny signalled from the bench that is it was to be Suarez. Now Luis does not have a great history where taking penalty's is concerned and as expected he missed.
It was seen as just one of those things, but his day was not yet over. There was some great action in the goalmouth when Andy picked up a ball which he normally would have sent goal wards, today though, knowing that Luis needed to stamp his presence on the game, he headed it softly to him and seconds later it was in the net.
Victory was now assured and with the George Sephton having announced that there would be two minutes of injury time, it was just a matter of running the clock down. Liverpool being Liverpool though, these things never go to plan. Young Bridgott went down injured and for a few minutes it looked as though it was serious but thankfully, it appears that other than a sore back, he is fine.
Play was restarted, but shall we say in keeping with the occasion, a streaker decided that today was the day, he was going to have a little fun. He run onto the pitch and whilst everyone around him stood bemused, he sprinted over to Jamie Carragher and according to press reports shared a joke until the stewards took him off.
All I will say about that, is thanks for the laugh, but next time you decide with a group of your mates to do that, choose someone who is good looking and can cope with the cold, because it did not do you any justice.
The game finished with Liverpool now lining up against Stoke at some point during the weekend of 17-18th March in their quest for the second visit to Wembley this season.
We must not take anything away from Gus Poyet and Brighton, who played as well as they could and who also brought with them 6000 well behaved supporters who sang their hearts out.
This time next week, we will be hopefully celebrating after our first trip to the new Anfield South. A trip that will show how much Liverpool Football Club under the guidance of Kenny Dalglish have improved.