Liverpool 5 – 0 Luton Town
FA Cup: Third Round Replay
This was a game with a spine of survival, albeit of two different kinds.
After the revelation that Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette were chasing the Bayern Munich bound Jurgen Klinsmann, Rafael Benitez decided to start Steven Gerrard; Fernando Torres; Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher, who claimed his 500th Liverpool appearance, in a bid to arguably extend a stay of execution, and avoid one of the biggest FA Cup shocks ever witnessed. In the end, it proved more than ample.
For Luton, whilst their time in the FA Cup is now over for another year, they’ll at least return to compete again. The 2020 consortium and this valuable replay have offered a pardon for its sixteen remaining players and the soon to depart Kevin Blackwell, who was forced to play the injured Dean Brill (who struggled to even kick the ball); and the former Liverpool playing Scot Don Hutchinson, who was given the unfamiliar position of centre-back, and forced to deal with the threat of Gerrard.
The experience of Hutchinson, who called for composure before half-time, almost kept Luton right in the game until a fatal lapse in concentration by his fellow players led to Ryan Babel’s neat finish in the 18-yard area in first-half stoppage time.
Prior to that, Hutchinson was there to close down Gerrard and throw himself in front of his long-range efforts; while the Luton back-line was managing to cope with the threat of Torres and Crouch.
And, when able to go forward, Luton did occasionally threaten. Dean Currie and David Bell were useful; and Calvin Andrews’ effort and determination was undeniable, coming close to being clean through on goal after 37 minutes, only to be judged just offside – that was as close as Luton came.
The increasing pressure from Liverpool was telling, and the Babel goal was almost inevitable. To go into half-time all square would arguably have outdone the result at Kenilworth Road. After the break, you could sense that more goals were due. This was confirmed seven minutes later, when Gerrard slotted in a close range header after a neat lay-off from Crouch.
This finally broke Luton, who were almost embarrassed when confusion between defender Keith Keane and Brill lead to the ball having to be swept off the line. Sami Hyppia added a third moments later after his header was deflected inwards; an astutely placed Gerrard strike inside the area added a fourth after 64-minutes, and Gerrard completed his hat-trick eight minutes later with a sweetly struck long-range effort of which he is only capable of.
Although the scoreline will please Benitez, it was to be expected considering the current plight Luton are in. What will not please him is the form of Babel and substitute Dirk Kuyt, who were occasionally wasteful and, in the case of Kuyt especially, looked increasingly desperate. This over-reliance on Torres and Gerrard could be the difference between Benitez keeping or losing his job.
The Sight is in End’s Man of the Match: Don Hutchinson