Liverpool 2 Newcastle United 1

Last updated : 25 January 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Liverpool edged out Newcastle in a spirited cup tie which finished 2-1 after erupting into life straight from the kick-off.

With both teams poised on 33 points in the Premiership, the fans were expecting a close encounter.

But both Geordies and Scousers alike realised their teams have underperformed in an erratic season and some were demanding an FA Cup flourish to counter a disastrous and disappointing league position.

One banner which greeted the under-fire Reds boss Gerard Houllier read: "Sort it out Gerard Houllier - not good enough for LFC - no more expensive mistakes," adding to the already combative atmosphere of the evening.

Likewise Newcastle's senior citizen Bobby Robson has not won at fortress Anfield since 1968 and was looking to scupper the French colleague he so recently gave such public backing in the national press.

But within two minutes of the kick off of this frenetic and deafening cup tie the Reds struck first blood.

England midfielder Steven Gerrard played a neat throughball to Michael Owen who in turn played in Emile Heskey who ran at the onrushing keeper Shay Given.

Heskey's shot rebounded to French midfielder Bruno Cheyrou who tucked his shot into an empty net with a neat drive from wide on the left.

Liverpool celebrated a dream start in front of the Newcastle fans but before the Reds fans had a chance to sit down, Newcastle had equalised.

Dietmar Hamann brought down Newcastle's Olivier Bernard 35 yards from goal in the fourth minute.

Up stepped Laurent Robert who unleashed a left-foot piledriver which crashed into the top right-hand corner of the net sending the army of travelling Magpies fans into raptures.

Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek could, and should, have got a hand to the ball but at 78 miles per hour, as the video replay confirmed, the ball had hit the back of the net before Dudek had a chance to react.

Newcastle almost edged ahead in the 18th minute after a good spell of attacking possession, in particular Kieron Dyer who continues to partner Alan Shearer in attack.

Peruvian winger Nolberto Solano whipped in a corner from the right and Jermaine Jenas rose the highest but headed down wide of Dudek's right-hand post.

Chances were at a premium but Liverpool did well to carve out openings of their own.

On 22 minutes Hamann set up Cheyrou on the edge of the box and his curling left-foot shot was deflected agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.

The early passion and pace eventually began to subside halfway through the first half but both teams were scrapping for every ball.

On 33 minutes Alan Shearer cushioned the ball to Jenas 25 yards out before he tested Dudek with a rising well-hit half-volley.

England striker Heskey made way for the bleached blonde teenager Anthony Le Tallec at half time, and he was given width to roam on the right wing.

And a deep cross from the French youngster on 57 minutes almost unlocked the Newcastle back line.

Given flapped at Sami Hyypia's header and the ball fell to Owen in the box ten yards from goal.

He set up Jamie Carragher on the edge of the penalty area, but the left-back could only drag his shot wide of the left-hand upright.

A minute later Gerrard played a wonderful ball across the face of goal in to the path of the onrushing Owen.

But the ball skipped off the rain-drenched surface narrowly evading the England striker's right boot with the goal gaping.

But within minutes a similar move brought Liverpool their deserved second goal. Captain Gerrard again crossed beautifully into the box from wide on the left and found Cheyrou's run, who proceeded to angle his header low beyond the outstretched left hand of Given with clinical skill for his second of the game.

Houllier may have been criticised for some of his "expensive mistakes" but at least Cheyrou seems to be repaying the confidence his manager holds in him.

Cheyrou, dubbed the new Zinedine Zidane by Houllier, has now scored four goals in his last four appearances.

Newcastle responded by throwing on another striker, Shola Ameobi, at the expense of Solano with 20 minutes left on the clock.

But Liverpool were pinning Newcastle back and almost grabbed a third.

A corner from Gerrard on 73 minutes saw Le Tallec flash a header over the bar.

And two minutes later a similar corner routine in front of the Kop saw the ever commanding Hyypia head wide from ten yards out.

Newcastle's best chance of the second half also came from a corner as Liverpool dug in as the clock ticked down. Robert whipped in a cross from the right but Gary Speed's powerful header was deflected inches wide of the mark.

Newcastle were running out of ideas and Liverpool were determined not to concede a late equaliser having already been stung by Wolves just days previously.

A late strike from Shearer deep into injury time forced a good save from Dudek but it was too little too late as Houllier's men marched straight in to round five without the need for a replay.

After the match a relieved Liverpool boss gushed with pride at the result his side ground out saying: "I am pleased and proud. It was a difficult game when you look at the form Newcastle are in but we wanted to compete and show our worth.

"I thought it was a very good game of football and a good cup tie between two good teams.

"The pace was fantastic, stunning. We have beaten a quality side and we must be praised for that.

"There weren't many chances as you can expect in a cup tie but we did enough to create more openings."

The Frenchman heaped praise on his talented match winner Cheyrou saying the midfielder has never warranted criticism.

He said: "I bought Bruno with goals in mind and he has done just that. He has good skill and was playing the ball through to Michael Owen very effectively."

However, Houllier saved his most emphatic praise for the returning left-back Jamie Carragher who had a solid display, after breaking his leg in a challenge with Blackburn's Lucas Neill earlier in the season.