Liverpool’s season went from bad to worse last night when they were knocked out of the FA Cup by First Division Crystal Palace at Anfield.
The result did not reflect Liverpool’s first-half dominance, but was made more impressive by the fact that Palace played the last 20 minutes with ten men.
A dejected Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, said the turning point of the match was when Emile Heskey missed a one-on-one opportunity early in the second-half.
“Emile was one-on-one with their goalkeeper a minute after half-time and failed to score, mentally we sunk after that,” said Houllier.
“It was a bad day for us. We should have finished it by half-time, we wasted so many chances. Houllier did manage to take some solace in his teams ability to create chances:
“Michael Owen missed chances, Emile did, so did lots of the players. We weren’t dry of chances. We made an awful lot.
“Our strikers are young men and the important thing is for them to keep faith. As a manager you worry more if you are not creating chances.
“But you have to score those chances. If you don’t you are always in danger of being caught on the break, which is what they did.” he added.
Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were the main culprits for Liverpool’s apparent inability to scoreas they squandered chance after chance in the first-half.
Owen’s first opportunity came from a Danny Murphy square pass which the England striker managed to slice wide. For his next trick he blazed a scoring opportunity wide of oncoming Palace goalkeeper Cedric Berthelin, and the goal.
But Owen presented us with his most spectacular miss on 24 minutes when, the out-of-form striker, got on the end of El Hadji Diouf’s mazy run, and from six yards, skied the ball over the bar.
Palace’s fortune seemed to change with the introduction of Dougie Freedman, it was his run and pass that found Danny Butterfield who’s cross was flicked on by Dele Adebola and netted by ex-Arsenal trainee Julian Gray on the 55th minute.
However Palace’s luck seemed to change again when on 70 minutes Freedman was sent back to the changing rooms for elbowing Sami Hyypia. However nine minutes later Palace scored again when a Julian Grey cross was bundled into the net by Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz.
Palace nowface another club in crisis when they host Terry Venables’ Leeds side in the fifth round.
In last nights other FA cup fourth-round replays first division Millwall lost to Southampton after extra-time through two goals from Matt Oakley.
Oakley, 25, scored his first from a long range left foot shot on 21 minutes. Millwall equalised on the 37th minute through a Steven Reid goal.
The score stayed at 1-1 until extra time when Oakley added a second goal, accurately passing the ball round Millwall keeper Tony Warner.
Millwall manager, Mark McGHEE, now believes Southampton can go all the way.
“I really hope the Saints go on and win it,” he said afterwards.
“The way the draw is panning out, they could go all the way playing First Division opposition,” he added.
The Saints play First Division Norwich at home in the next round
The final FA Cup game of Wednesday night saw bottom of the Premiership Sunderland put their league worries behind them and knock out Blackburn 3-0 on penalties.
The match finished 2-2 with goals from Kevin Philips and Gavin McCann for Sunderland and two for Blackburn midfielderGary Flitcroft.
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen turned out to be the penalty shoot-out hero making two saves from Andy Cole and Corrado Grabbi.
Sunderland manager, Howard Wilkinson was delighted with the result.
“Tommy did magnificently and I thought we played well,” said Wilkinson.
Sunderland now play Watford at home in the fifth round.