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Liverpool 4 Man City 2 - FA Cup 5th round (Feb 18 2001)

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LIVERPOOL 4 Man City 2

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield

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Scorer(s) – Jari Litmanen (pen), Emile Heskey, Vladimir Smicer (pen), Markus Babbel

Half Time - 2-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Sun 18 Feb 2001

Star Man – Vladimir Smicer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say I was a bit concerned before this game. Don't get me wrong, I realize that City are shite, but I was worried about how the players would react after their heroic exertions in Rome just two and a half days earlier. The first five minutes told me everything I needed to know though, as it was clear right from the off that they were 'up' for the game.

 

Litmanen and Smicer have really hit it off in the short time that Jari has been at the club. Vladi's form seems to be getting better each week, and it's obvious that he and Jari are on the same wavelength. They have struck up an instant understanding on the field, and are a joy to watch at the moment.

 

They combined brilliantly for the first goal, and in a sense I'd rather that we scored twice from penalties rather than open play purely because I knew it would really wind Fathead Royle up. It's often said that managers try to build teams in their own image, and if the size of two of City's defenders are anything to go by, then Big Fat Joe is certainly doing that.

 

Richard Dunne is bloody enormous. He is without doubt the fattest player I've ever seen playing professional football, and makes his former team-mate David Unsworth look like Steve McManaman! He's got an arse like Mandy Dingle! Morrison is almost as bad, and looks more like a pub landlord than a footballer. No wonder they're in trouble at the bottom of the league.

 

From my position in the Main Stand I thought it was a definite penalty. After seeing the replay when I got home, I'd say it was still a penalty but that Vlad went looking for it and left his leg in. Smart play, and perfectly legal, despite the inevitable 'cheat' jibes that he'll no doubt be subjected to from Royle, Weaver & co.

 

It was Vlad and Jari who created the second too, as Smicer won the ball in midfield (something which he is doing more and more of these days) and Jari showed his class and vision with a wonderful first time ball for Heskey, who hit his 18th of the season, and kept up his record of scoring in every round.

 

That should have been all she wrote, but perhaps understandably in light of their exploits against Roma, the reds took their foot off the gas and City pulled one back. Not for the first time this season, I think Sander should have done better with the goal, but Huckerby's presence may have put him off, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time.

 

Litmanen going off was such a disappointment, as he had treated us to a masterclass in the first half. He is a truly wonderful player, and I'll bet the rest of the squad are all delighted to have him here, particularly the forwards and attacking midfielders like Smicer and Barmby. I can't wait to see how he links up with Paddy when he gets back. The way Jari drops off creates massive gaps for midfielders to run into, and Paddy is our greatest exponent of that. Exciting times are ahead I think.

 

The second half was fairly routine, with Vlad taking over from Jari as the game's dominant player and showing some wonderful skill. As one of the "he'll come good" brigade, I'm particularly pleased with Vladi's form of late. I could never understand the way many reds were so quick to criticize his every move. I've even heard some people describe him as the 'worst player ever to wear the red shirt.' Astonishing ignorance really.

 

If people wanted to criticize Smicer for not being physically strong enough, then that was a fair enough comment and was valid a few months ago, but his footballing ability has never been in doubt. It was blatantly obvious what a talent he is, but he was never fit enough to show it consistently. Since he reached peak fitness, we've seen a much more confident, physically strong player, and he's also picked up a couple of yards of pace too.

 

I didn't think there was any question as to who the star man was, so I was a bit surprised to hear that Big Fat Ron had overlooked Vlad in favour of Carra. Now I'm all for Carra getting some well deserved recognition (and how great was it to hear the Kop finally singing his name?) but I thought Smicer was sensational today.

 

I also thought Hamann had his best game at Anfield this season (Chelsea in the Worthy Cup excluded), which I was delighted to see. I've probably been his biggest critic, and make no apologies for anything I've said about him as it was deserved at the time. He was immense against Roma, but to be honest that wasn't much of a surprise as he always raises his game against quality opposition. I was interested to see how he would respond today against inferior players, and I'm delighted to say he was outstanding. He covered more yards in this game than he has done in his previous dozen games at Anfield. He was everywhere, and he used the ball well too. Long may it continue. The same goes for Ziege, who although still looking like a lazy get at times, crosses a ball as well as anyone, and can be a potent weapon for us from corners and free kicks.

 

Song of the day had to be "Joe Royle's got a big fat head." Classic stuff that. Bring on Tranmere now, so we can show the blueshite how it's done.

 

 

TEAM: Sander Westerveld; Markus Babbel, Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz, Jamie Carragher; Vladimir Smicer (Michael Owen), Dietmar Hamann, Igor Biscan, Christian Ziege; Jari Litmanen (Nick Barmby), Emile Heskey (Robbie Fowler):

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