FA Cup - Liverpool dispose of plucky Oldham
Second-half goals from Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing’s first for Liverpool completed what turned out to be a rout of sorts, although the occasion was soured by an apparent incident involving at least one fan and Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi.
In this year's first FA Cup third-round tie, played on a Friday night due to Everton’s match at home to Tamworth on Saturday, the League One side went for their illustrious if under-strength hosts from the off, carving out several good opportunities before Simpson’s wonder-goal gave them a 28th-minute lead.
Liverpool had made eight changes from the 3-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester City, with Kenny Dalglish selecting an unfamiliar back four that saw Jamie Carragher bail out an uneasy Sebastian Coates on more than one occasion.
But both centre-halves were at fault when Shefki Kuqi hit the side netting after a mazy run – although he should have squared to Simpson for a tap-in – while Adeyemi flicked a header just wide and Chris Taylor was denied by a Carragher block.
Deservedly, albeit briefly, Simpson gave his side the lead with a cracking left-foot strike from the edge of the box that flew past Pep Reina inside the right-hand post to send the visiting fans wild.
Unfortunately for Simpson that joy was short-lived as the Reds levelled 66 seconds later, when Shelvey’s shot took a wicked deflection off team-mate Bellamy to wrong-foot Alex Cisak.
That swung the tie in favour of Liverpool, who took the lead just before half-time when Gerrard finished from the penalty spot after Maxi Rodriguez went down in the box, a decision which was contested by Oldham who felt the Argentine made the most of any contact with Adeyemi.
That was the cue for the hosts to dominate the second half, but a mixture of wayward finishing and inspired goalkeeping from Australian keeper Cisak - who made an incredible point-blank stop from Martin Kelly's header - meant they had to wait until the 67th minute until Shelvey was finally able to convert one of Bellamy’s countless great balls.
Liverpool eased off after then but substitute Carroll got a fourth soon after coming on, striking a trademark left-foot shot from range that fizzed past Cisak to break a worrying goal drought for the sometime England striker.
That came after an unsavoury incident between Adeyemi and one or more supporters, with the on-loan Norwich full-back needing to be calmed down by Reds skipper Gerrard and referee Neil Swarbrick but clearly troubled by something said or gestured to him as his game suffered in the latter stages.
Downing, another substitute, got his first goal for the Reds in stoppage time when he smacked the ball into the roof of the net after Cisak had done well to keep out an effort from wide.
That added a gloss to the result and Oldham must now switch focus to their League One campaign, where they lie 14th.