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Keeping the FA magic alive

Our man at the match casts an eye over the weekend's big football story

Published on January 28th 2008.

Keeping the FA magic alive

“Liverpool will never forget Havant and Waterlooville scored twice at Anfield,” declared Match of the Day commentator Alistair Mann on Saturday.

Nor should they be allowed to.

If Rafa the Faffer learnt anything from the game, Kopites will surely hope it’s that he should never rest Jamie Carragher again.

Amid the finger pointing and pub postmortems being carried out by frustrated fans over the weekend, due credit should be paid to Shaun Gale’s team. By every account, they were fantastic.

No greater compliment can be offered to the Hampshire side than the sight and sound of the appreciative Kop standing, to a man, to applaud the wide-eyed players off a pitch few of them ever dreamed of walking out on.

The Blue Square South side are only the seventh group of non-leaguers ever to make it beyond the third round of the world’s greatest cup competition. On Saturday, a dream came true for every member of their squad and their small army of travelling fans.

By the time Peter Crouch’s shot poked home to make it 5-2 (offside!) the part-timers didn’t have a breath left in their bodies. But they left Anfield with nothing but the respect and admiration of everyone inside the ground after giving what are, after all, last season’s Champions League runners-up an almighty scare and making a mockery of those who suggest the FA Cup has lost its magic.

But few of us will be talking about Havant and Waterlooville next week.

Saturday’s near-debacle confirmed Liverpool are not the force they should and could be. They will not win the Premier League this season, and they will not come close.

They are desperately clinging onto the coat tails of the Premier League’s big boys and at present few non-Reds would be surprised if they failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

In recent years the gulf between the country’s top three clubs and the final member The Big Four has never been wider, while the gap between fourth spot and The Chasing Pack continues to narrow to the point where David Moyes would have you believe it’s now merely a crack.

While Liverpool squirmed past a team of plumbers and plasterers the Wenger Boys breezed past Condemned Kev’s Newcastle, Chelsea eased comfortably past Wigan and United beat a resurgent Spurs side without ever really turning it on.

In the midst of all the furore, we should not forget Liverpool did win, and will very probably reach the latter stages of the competition.

But if Rafa the Faffer learnt anything from Saturday, Kopites will surely hope it’s that he should never rest Jamie Carragher again. Liverpool’s defending was, at times, comical without him.

Truant officer Richard Pacquette and the wonderfully named Rocky Baptiste, who plans to be become a London cabbie after his playing days, gave the aging Sami Hyypia and stuttering debutant Martin Skrtel a much tougher time than anyone with a Red inclination would have wanted or expected.

Liverpool’s class (or superior fitness, depending on which report you read) eventually shone through but the performance raised yet more questions about what this group of players can achieve.

The fans, the city and football in this country needs a successful Liverpool side challenging to be the best.

But, at the moment, they’re not even the best team on Merseyside.

“Old Red-Blue Eyes”

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DoddyJanuary 28th 2008.

Couldn't agree more. It's sad to admit, but Liverpool cannot expect to mount a serious league challenge in the foreseeable future

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