Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Gerrard Double Ends Wimbledon Run

After a run of good performances in the Premier League, Liverpool started their quest in the FA Cup with a trip to face League Two side AFC Wimbledon on Monday night. Since the sides were paired in the third round draw, the classic 1988 final has been a constant feature in the build up where the underdogs of Wimbledon stunned the giants of Liverpool.

In recent years, Liverpool have made sweeping changes when the third round comes calling but elected to field a strong team due to the threat that AFC Wimbledon could pose despite their lower league position.  Four changes saw Martin Skrtel and Javier Manquillo return while Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert were also included.

The kick-off had been preceded by the fourth round draw which saw Bolton Wanderers drawn out to visit either of the two teams and Wimbledon looked to mount the best start to such a match-up with an early chance.  Sean Rigg advanced on goal and found space in the area before driving his shot just past the far post.

Liverpool responded in the 12th minute with Javier Manquillo lofting in a dangerous cross which found the head of Steven Gerrrard who guided the ball past James Shea to the joy of the 800 travelling Reds fans.

Lazar Markovic could have extended the lead when a clever one-two combination between him and Philippe Coutinho saw the winger hit his shot across goal and cleared by the Dons defence. Wimbledon soon came close with an effort of their own after a corner from the right caused chaos in the Liverpool defence and allowed Rigg to power a shot at goal which was superbly tipped over by Simon Mignolet.

A defensive mistake from Skrtel and Manquillo led to the ball finding Matt Tubbs who turned and unleashed a shot but to his despair, saw the ball drift past the target and the attacking prowess from the Dons soon paid off nine minutes before the break. A corner looped into the box caused havoc for the visitors defence with the ball glancing off Sakho and into the path of Adebayo Akinfenwa who rifled the ball into the net.

Wimbledon could have taken a surprise lead after the restart after Adam Barrett hit an effort at goal which was cleared off the line by a clever header from Steven Gerrard before Rigg drove an effort over the bar as the Dons built up some momentum.

The shift in momentum to the home side gave them hopes of causing an upset but those hopes were dented just after the hour mark by a superb free-kick from Steven Gerrard which came after Coutinho had been fouled outside the area. Gerrard stepped up and swept a textbook curling effort into the top corner to regain the lead and show what the club will miss after his summer exit.

The Dons could have drawn level almost instantly when Dannie Bulman hit an effort towards goal but the ball went wide of target before Shea was called into action at the other end to prevent Rickie Lambert from extending the lead.

Gerrard came close with a free-kick before Shea denied a late chance from Coutinho with a superb save before Gerrard was denied his hat-trick by a fine stop from Shea in the closing seconds as the Reds held on to set up a tie against Bolton which may see former Reds attacker Emile Heskey return to Anfield.