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Tranmere 2 Liverpool 4 - FA Cup QF (March 11 2001)

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Tranmere 2 LIVERPOOL 4

Report by Dave Usher at Prenton Park

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Scorer(s) – Danny Murphy, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler (pen)

Half Time - 0-2

Venue - Prenton Park

Date - Sun 11 March 2001

Star Man – Steven Gerrard / Robbie Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn't as routine as it could have been, but in the end it was still fairly comfortbale. Tranmere launched their expected aerial assault, but unlike Southampton a few weeks before, the reds stood firm and kept their composure. I have a soft spot for Tranmere, and I really hope they can stay up, but I fear for them. Their up and at 'em approach has put paid to many a Premiership side unaccustomed to that type of game, but it appears that division one defences are better equipped to deal with it, and that's why they are struggling.

 

The only problems we had with Tranmere were ones of our own making, as we gave away two very bad goals. I read a comment from one of players (Danny Murphy I think) last week saying that we need to stop giving goals away just after half time as it's a problem that's been plaguing us all season. Sadly the lesson still hasn't been learnt, as despite building up a comfortable lead in the first half - and silencing the home fans in the process - within two minutes of the restart we'd let them back into it and woken up the Tranny fans.

 

They really began to make some noise after that, and I can honestly say that Prenton Park was noisier than Old Trafford was a few months back. It's a good few years since I was last at Prenton (for a pre-season game in which even Stig Bjornebye got on the scoresheet!), and I have to say it's a decent little stadium. A damn sight better than Filbert Street anyway.

 

As for their chants of "We hate scousers", tut tut boys, that's not very nice now is it. Some of their fans were obnoxious, horrible bastards, but these are probably the part timers who turn up for big cup games, and probably spend the rest of their time supporting the blueshite. The majority of Rovers fans were nice, friendly folk, and I really wish them well for the rest of this season.

 

It was good to see Gerard give Stephen Wright his first start, as not only was young Wrighty deserving of the chance, but it meant that the side wasn't unbalanced by switching around a load of other players. A couple of months ago, Henchoz's absence would have meant Gerard either bringing in Vignal, and switching Carragher to the right with Babbel moving inside, or he would have moved Stevie G to right back, thuse weakening the midfield.

 

Thankfully Wrighty's impressive performance against West Ham the other week has convinced Gerard that he can be relied on to do a job, and he did just that. After a slightly nervy first ten minutes, he settled down and played very well.

 

The team as a whole didn't start particularly well, but as soon as Murphy gave us the lead, they settled down and showed their superiority. Murphy was outstanding in the first half, and his control and lay off to create the second for Owen was exceptional. Owen looked sharper in this game than he's looked for quite some time, although he is still some way short of his unstoppable best. He and Fowler both worked their socks off again, chasing and harrying and defending from the front, although Fowler's 'defending' cost us a goal for the second week in succession, but I'll get to that later.

 

Tranmere posed no threat whatsoever in the first half. Andy Parkinson is their main dangerman, but did he even get a touch? I like Parky, he's a good player, and it's to the credit of Carragher and Wright that he didn't get a sniff despite regularly switching flanks trying to get into the game.

 

Stevie Gerrard was absolutely immense in the opening half. His tackling was fearsome, and he has to be a very intimidating player to play against. You could see on occasions that the Tranmere players were just looking to get rid of the ball before Stevie nailed them, and he totally bossed the game against an opposing midfield who's best asset, ironically, is their competitiveness.

 

It was fitting therefore that it was Stevie who restored the two goal lead, with a close range header in front of the travelling reds. He enjoyed it too didn't he? That bet between him and Danny Murphy looks like it will run right until the end of the season. If they can both reach double figures that would be a fine achievement, especially if Barmby and Smicer can make it four midfielders in double figures.

 

So at 3-1 the game looked over again, and Tranmere had visibly wilted. Then all of a sudden out of nothing, it was 3-2. Unlike most reports I've heard and read, I don't actually think Tranmere's goal was Fowler's fault. He got back and won the ball well, and facing his own goal he did the sensible thing and played it back to his keeper. I haven't seen the TV replay yet, but at the time my impression was that Babbel had switched off and wasn't paying attention. The ball hit him and fell to Allison and we know what happened after that.

 

For me though, had Babbel been paying attention he could have either moved out of the way and let the ball run through to Westerveld, or he could have controlled it himself and cleared. He is more to blame than Robbie in my view.

 

I thought that overall Sami and Markus weren't too impressive. They coped relatively well with the aerial stuff (despite having to run the gauntlet of Paul Rideout's elbows - blueshite bastard), but Babbel allowed Barlow to run in behind him far too regularly, and some of Sami's distribution was awful. Still, in the past our defenders wouldn't have been able to cope with a game like this on one of their better days, so it's refreshing that our present centre halves can have off days and still get the job done. We do miss Henchoz though.

 

So from being in the comfort zone, it was backs to wall time, as Tranmere threw everything at us, Challinor throws, Koumas corners, long high punts into the box... Whatever they tried though, they didn't look like scoring, and eventually Robbie made the game safe with a trademark penalty after Gary Mac (who had a great second half, even if he did shit out of a goalscoring opportunity when he instead passed to Fowler) had been brought down in the box.

 

I was made up for Robbie, as his all round game was good and he worked so hard. He missed a couple of chances, but thankfully they didn't prove costly and we're now in the final (drawing Wycombe is as good as getting a bye).

 

A final word about the referee. He was shocking. I don't know where they found him but I suggest he is sent back there, along with the idiot linesman who kept putting his flag up in the second half every time we had an attack. He actually gave Fowler offside on one occasion when the ball had been played into his path by a Tranmere defender! And we thought Premiership refs were bad.

 

TEAM: Sander Westerveld; Stephen Wright, Markus Babbel, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher; Nick Barmby (Igor Biscan), Gary McAllister, Steven Gerrard, Danny Murphy (Vladimir Smicer); Michael Owen (Jari Litmanen), Robbie Fowler:

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