Liverpool recorded their first FA Cup win over Manchester United in 85 years with an impressive Anfield victory. Peter Crouch headed home Steve Finnan’s cross after 19 minutes to give Rafael Benitez’s side a deserved place in the quarter-finals. Edwin van der Sar had saved brilliantly from Harry Kewell seconds earlier as Liverpool dominated a poor United side. United’s misery was compounded as substitute Alan Smith suffered a broken leg blocking a free-kick late on.
Liverpool restored Pepe Reina in goal and Crouch up front – but United lost Rio Ferdinand when he failed a fitness test on a hamstring injury and decided to play Kieron Richardson on the left flank instead of Ji-Sung Park. United captain Gary Neville was inevitably jeered after his goal celebration in their victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford. And he had a painful start when he was bundled over the touchline by Kewell inside three minutes. Liverpool’s power dominated a lightweight United midfield in the first 45 minutes, but chances were at a premium. Van der Sar produced a brilliant save to stop Liverpool taking the lead after 18 minutes, turning Kewell’s header around the post from Steven Gerrard’s free-kick. It was the briefest of reprieves as Gerrard worked the resulting corner to Finnan, whose cross was met by Crouch.
Van der Sar got a hand to the striker’s header, but it trickled across the line via a post. Reina did not have a single moment of anxiety in the first-half except for a disallowed RVN goal and a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals, and Liverpool should have doubled their lead after 34 minutes when Finnan fired over an open goal from another dangerous Gerrard free-kick. Sir Alex Ferguson reacted to United’s wretched display by sending on Louis Saha for Mikael Silvestre at the start of the second half. But Liverpool almost added to their advantage within seconds of the re-start, Wes Brown heading John Arne Riise’s cross narrowly over his own bar. United finally posed their first threat after 52 minutes when Neville’s cross almost caused confusion between Reina and Finnan, but the defender kept his composure to clear. Kewell squandered a great opportunity to give Liverpool a vital cushion when Gerrard’s corner fell to the unmarked Australian in the area, but his shot was wayward.
United lacked inspiration, but sparked briefly into life late on, Giggs shooting just over and Cristiano Ronaldo forcing Reina into a save low down. Smith had been sent on in a bid to get United an equaliser, but he was stretchered off with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle in the closing minutes, to be replaced by Ji-Sung Park. Liverpool were not troubled during seven minutes of injury time as they booked their spot in the last eight.
It’s not often we award this to an opposition player. But what choice do we have? Controlled the match from start to finish.