Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Birmingham 0-7 Liverpool (FA Cup)

Well, needless to say, I'm in seventh heaven tonight...

I can't remember the last time we went into a Cup game - particularly against Premiership opposition - with such an overwhelming expectation on us to win. It was almost as if the case, even before the match, was a case of by how many, not whether we'd win. Since such talk can breed arrogance and complacency, I wasn't particularly encouraged.

Thankfully my fears were assuaged by the 4th minute, when Liverpool went 2-0 up due to a lack of marking on Hyypia then Crouch. Given that Birmingham have scored two wins and two draws against us in League meetings since Rafa took over (and were the only Premiership team we hadn't beaten under him), I was still somewhat apprehensive. We conceded own goals in both our previous matches this season too, so I was worried we'd slip up and let them back in the game - as we almost did at Newcastle. Thankfully Birmingham didn't put up much fight, and it was soon obvious the match was only going one way.

The big news with team selection was the welcome return of Momo Sissoko, after his horrific eye injury. Apparently he started with Edgar Davids-style protective goggles, but took them off because he couldn't see. I was frankly amazed. Surely he'd tried them before the match? And what's more, I was quite worried risking him playing without such protection.

The other interesting question was about whether we'd use the same wingback formation as against Newcastle (variously a 5-4-1, 3-4-3 and 3-2-2-2-1). I think that may well have been the plan, with Traore replacing Agger as the third centre half, and Riise and Finnan coming in as wingbacks. As it happened, Traore didn't last too long and had to be replaced by Kewell after twenty minutes, reverting to 4-4-2. The sight of Harry arriving must have cheered a Birmingham team already 2-0 down.

Anyway, back to the action, it seemed Liverpool took their foot off the gas a little, but Crouch was able to score another before half time to pretty much settle the match. But then, remember last time a team were 3-0 up at half time in a certain cup final last May...?

Realistically, Birmingham never looked much like repeating those heroics of Istanbul. The commentators pointed out both teams would probably have been quite happy to settle for the result at half-time and not resume play. As it was, they had to of course, and Liverpool went on to score four more through Morientes, Riise, a Tebily o.g. and Cisse.

I think 7-0 is the biggest win I've ever seen (well, heard tonight) - apparently it's Birmingham's heaviest ever FA Cup defeat and our biggest ever away win in the competition. It's a shame this match - unlike the previous three - wasn't on the BBC, but at least I was able to see all the goals on the news.

That's now 15 goals if you include the o.g., and all our strikers have scored in their last two notable appearances (if you include Robbie's effort for the reserves last night, and not his one minute cameo at Newcastle). I read somewhere, before Fulham, that Liverpool were about 20 goals short of a target (last season's tally?) that Benitez had said wasn't good enough. Looks like we've gone a long way to rectifying that... It's funny how goals, like buses, can just start coming once they start.

Too bad it's the Merseyside derby this weekend, where form is a notoriously bad indicator; but if we carry on like this for the rest of the season then we should put in a strong finish.

p.s. A particularly bumpable post on 606 from a Man Ure (or Celtic?) fan before the game saying 'if u don't beat brum by at least 6 goals then u r sh1t'. Of course, the fact we did beat them by 7 doesn't logically, given what s/he said, prove we aren't shit; but it's fun when numpties embarrass themselves a bit.

And another one, predicting 7-0 before the game (as highlighted here). Given s/he predicts Reina to score the fourth, I'm not sure how serious it was - but scarily quite accurate!

And yet another, this time a Brum fan saying if you beat us please make it a thrashing (to buck their ideas up I guess)

p.p.s. I'll be cheering Newcastle tomorrow.

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