Down­ing seals semi spot for Liver­pool

Liver­pool Suarez 23 Down­ing 57 Stoke City Crouch 26 At­ten­dance: 43,962 2 1

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer News - KEVIN MCCARRA

SOME FA Cup tra­di­tions can be tire­some. This match lived up to the ex­pec­ta­tion that a quar­ter­fi­nal will be hard-fought, but there is only so much en­joy­ment to be extracted from a pro­longed strug­gle. Even so, Liver­pool un­doubt­edly de­served a win that leads them to a semi-final with the vic­tors of the re­play be­tween Sun­der­land and Ever­ton.

That en­counter, ac­cord­ing to man­ager Kenny Dal­glish, will go ahead at Wem­b­ley on Satur­day April 14th, since a match the fol­low­ing day would fall on the an­niver­sary of the Hills­bor­ough dis­as­ter of 1989 when Liver­pool faced Not­ting­ham For­est in an FA Cup tie. “We have never played on the 15th,” he said. “The FA and Uefa have al­ways been ex­em­plary.”

There was a tone of happy an­tic­i­pa­tion when Dal­glish’s thoughts turned in­stead to the pos­si­bil­ity of a derby match at Wem­b­ley, should Ever­ton pros­per in that re­play at the Sta­dium of Light. “Mersey­side will be hop­ing Ever­ton get through and we can all have a day out,” said the Liver­pool man­ager.

There was a need for dogged­ness to en­sure that Dal­glish’s men would be at the na­tional sta­dium again, fol­low­ing their suc­cess in win­ning the Car­ling Cup there this sea­son. “If you don’t put in a de­cent per­for­mance against Stoke,” the man­ager said, “you don’t get a de­cent re­sult”.

The losers were far from dev­as­tated by the out­come. Tony Pulis, the man­ager, recog­nised a “ground-break­ing” sea­son in which they had ap­peared in the Europa League and ap­peared in the FA Cup sixth round for the third con­sec­u­tive cam­paign.

Liver­pool’s opener had a re­fine­ment that was sel­dom on view in this con­test. Luis Suarez worked a one-two with Maxi Ro­driguez and sent a low, bend­ing drive be­yond the left hand of Thomas Sorensen in the 23rd minute. It would have heart­ened the home sup­port that the Uruguayan is now minded to stay in this coun­try de­spite the eight-match ban he served for racially abus­ing Manch­ester United’s Pa­trice Evra.

De­spite be­ing a new­comer Suarez has even spo­ken of hop­ing to sign a new con­tract even though the ex­ist­ing one runs to 2016.

“I want to stay, de­spite ev­ery­thing that hap­pened,” he told a Uruguayan web­site. All the same, the move for his opener con­trasted with much of the ac­tion and An­field was not the scene of a wholly com­mand­ing per­for­mance.

For­mer Liver­pool striker Peter Crouch lev­elled in the 26th minute by head­ing in from a Matthew Ether­ing­ton corner while Pepe Reina com­plained that his path had been blocked by Ryan Shot­ton.

“The goal­keeper is fouled,” Dal­glish said flatly and, by con­tem­po­rary stan­dards, ac­cu­rately. Per­haps the rough and tum­ble sanc­tioned by the ref­eree, Kevin Friend, was a nod to the her­itage of what has some­times been a rough old tour­na­ment.

The hosts had much of the play un­til the move that re-es­tab­lished the lead. With 57 min­utes gone, Ste­wart Down­ing came off the right wing and cut across the edge of the penalty area to ex­change passes with Ger­rard and shoot low past the left hand of Sorensen.

There were more flour­ishes to fol­low, with Suarez again test­ing Sorensen, yet this had been an un­tidy win in which Liver­pool spent part of stop­page time de­fend­ing Stoke cor­ners.

Dal­glish rightly pre­ferred to think of Down­ing’s con­tri­bu­tion. He notched only his sec­ond goal for the club and it was the first to carry true sig­nif­i­cance.

This tour­na­ment and the Car­ling Cup have been im­por­tant to Liver­pool. A sus­tained bid for, say, the Premier League ti­tle does not look prob­a­ble in the near fu­ture. While the side did not im­press greatly, they took an­other step to­wards the pres­tige of yesteryear as they set course for Wem­b­ley.

Guardian ser­vice

Pho­to­graph: Alex Livesey/getty Images

Liver­pool’s Ste­wart Down­ing skips past Andy Wilkinson of Stoke City dur­ing yes­ter­day's FA Cup sixth round match at An­field.

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