FA Cup - Brighton self-destruct as Liverpool hit six
Liverpool were the grateful beneficiaries of no less than three own goals as they hammered Brighton and Hove Albion 6-1 at Anfield to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Liam Bridcutt was unfortunate enough to put the ball into his own net on two occasions, while Lewis Dunk's accidental strike after 75 minutes was truly bizarre. However, the margin of the scoreline hardly flattered Liverpool, who were in rampant form, particularly in a fantastic second-half performance.
Martin Skrtel headed Kenny Dalglish's side in front before a brilliant effort from Kazenga LuaLua drew the Championship side level after 17 minutes. Bridcutt beat his own keeper just before the break to restore Liverpool's advantage before Andy Carroll claimed a well-taken third.
It was then time for Brighton to implode as Bridcutt, again, and Dunk put into their own net and although Luis Suarez saw a penalty saved after being specifically instructed to take it by Dalglish, the Uruguayan rounded off the scoring with five minutes remaining when heading home the sixth.
The club's success in domestic cups this season has provided some respite from their disappointing league form and associated controversies, and they took the lead after only five minutes to continue their fine form in this respect.
Steven Gerrard supplied a corner from the left and Skrtel did well to get to the ball ahead of two Brighton defenders and direct a glancing header in at the near post.
Brighton's chances of making the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 appeared remote yet they found themselves level on 17 minutes courtesy of a fantastic strike from LuaLua. Having won the initial free kick, the midfielder then struck a ferocious low drive from 25 yards that flew past Jose Reina and in at the near post.
However, the brilliant hit from the Brighton youngster stood in contrast to the rest of the half as Liverpool dominated at home, with Suarez in irrepressible form. After linking up well with Stewart Downing, and later slipping past two defenders before failing to convert from eight yards. the forward then collected a square pass from Glen Johnson, drove in from the right and saw a shot with the outside of his boot cleared off the line by Dunk.
Strike partner Carroll was having a harder time of influencing proceedings. Adam El-Abd ensured he was distracted by a wrestling match at every set piece while Carroll was repeatedly brought to ground when tussling for the ball in the box.
On the one occasion that he did get free of Brighton's close attentions to meet a lovely cross from Gerrard, Carroll headed over the bar from eight yards out when he should really have hit the target at the very least.
With Brighton limited to a shot from LuaLua that thumped into the side netting, Liverpool extended their lead just before half time. Peter Brezovan produced a poor attempt at a punch from a corner and, after denying Suarez on the follow-up, could only watch as a headed attempt from Johnson was in turn headed off the line by Sam Vokes, but against Bridcutt and back over the line.
Liverpool tightened their grip on the game in the second half. Jordan Henderson almost flicked a Gerrard shot in at the near post, Downing saw a firm effort beaten away by Brezovan and Suarez was only denied by a fine sliding block by Gordon Greer after the Brighton keeper had inexplicably raced off his line and completely missed the ball.
They did breach Brighton's defence again on 57 minutes and it was Carroll who provided the finishing touch. A nice passing move built to a crescendo when Downing skipped away from Inigo Calderon and cut the ball back for the striker, who dispatched an excellent first-time shot past Brezovan when coming to meet the ball in the centre of the box.
Brighton were punished again on 71 minutes when being hit on the counter-attack from a corner. Alan Navarro made a horrible mess of a high ball into the box and allowed Gerrard to sneak in. His initial effort was well saved by Brezovan but the follow-up was turned home by Bridcutt, again.
Quite remarkably, Liverpool were the beneficiaries of a third own goal after 75 minutes, and this time it was down to sheer incompetence rather than bad luck. Brezovan missed a cross from the right from Suarez and, after controlling with his chest, Dunk tried to juggle the ball with his knee but only succeeded in knocking the ball over his line, before trying and failing to hook it out.
Brighton were falling apart, and when Craig Noone brought down Dirk Kuyt it seemed certain to herald another goal. Dalglish gestured for his number seven to take the penalty but Suarez saw his effort saved by Brezovan and failed to convert the follow-up. From the resulting corner Kuyt headed against the bar.
Suarez's fine performance deserved a goal and the striker did convert with five minutes remaining. Jose Enrique put in a deep cross and Carroll nodded back across goal to Suarez, who beat his man to head in from close range and complete a fine evening's work for Liverpool.