x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Liverpool manager Dalglish eyes FA Cup semi-final with Everton

Liverpool's 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Stoke City means a second trip to Wembley Stadium just a few weeks after their Carling Cup triumph.

Liverpool's Andy Carroll, left, fends off Stoke duo Glenn Whelan and Robert Huth. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Liverpool's Andy Carroll, left, fends off Stoke duo Glenn Whelan and Robert Huth. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Liverpool // As it was in their heyday, Wembley Stadium is becoming a home from home for Liverpool. Less than a month after their last visit, they have booked another trip.

After Stoke City were eliminated in the FA Cup quarter-finals, Kenny Dalglish's side are heading for Anfield South, as the national stadium used to be known on the red half of Merseyside.

Their opponents may be their neighbours, with Liverpool drawn against either Everton or Sunderland in the semi-final. Either way, they will start as favourites and remain on course for a Carling and FA Cup double.

Stoke rank among their victims in both competitions. If that bodes well for Liverpool, there are other favourable portents. Drawn at home in every round, with the Manchester clubs eliminated, and with memories of past cup doubles and the two FA Cup final victories of Kenny Dalglish's first spell at the helm, the omens are encouraging.

So, after a restorative few days for the Scot, was the result. Yet, regardless of an energetic display, the most positive factor may be a belated return on their huge investment in Stewart Downing. The winger's winner was only his second goal for Liverpool and was taken superbly.

Veering infield from the right flank, Downing fed Steven Gerrard and was supplied in turn, the captain deftly back-heeling the ball into his path. The former Aston Villa player accelerated into the penalty area and dispatched his shot with an emphatic thump.

"It's not the first time he's done that," said Dalglish, although, as the first was against League One Oldham Athletic, it was far and away the most significant contribution since his £20 million (Dh116 m) signing last summer.

"The first year is sometimes a difficult year to get yourself through. Stewart is a really good player, with a good turn of pace and a really good left foot as he showed there. He's done us proud."

Liverpool's opening goal was equally well taken. Having declared he wanted to stay and sign an extended contract, Luis Suarez further endeared himself to the Kop with a lovely goal. Found by Gerrard, Suarez exchanged passes with Maxi Rodriguez before curling a shot beyond Thomas Sorensen.

Following on from an influential performance in Tuesday's Merseyside derby, where he created two of Gerrard's three goals, it illustrated the Uruguayan's return to form. He was sharp and skilful, making a nuisance of himself and irritating opponents and officials alike.

Yet Liverpool's lead only lasted three minutes, courtesy of one of their former players. Peter Crouch escaped the attentions of the current Liverpool target man, and his would-be marker, Andy Carroll to meet Matthew Etherington's corner with a downward header.

It was a goal to upset Liverpool, who felt Pepe Reina was blocked by Ryan Shotton. "The goalkeeper is fouled," said Dalglish while Reina was sufficiently agitated to collect a caution for his protests.

The momentum was with Stoke then, Jonathan Walters spurned a chance to put them ahead before Liverpool assumed control in the second half.

No sooner had they secured their place in the last four than thoughts turned to their nearest and dearest in next week's replay. "Everyone in Merseyside will be hoping Everton get through and we can all have a day out," Dalglish said.

In the day's other FA Cup quarter-final, Chelsea striker Fernando Torres ended his 25 hours and 41 minutes without scoring a goal for his club by bagging a brace at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea booked their place in the last four with a 5-2 victory over Leicester City.


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