Charlton fall to dynamic duo

GUY HODGSON

Liverpool 2 Charlton Athletic 1

While some of the Premiership's elite have been troubled by their inferiors in the FA Cup, Liverpool are swatting them like irksome flies.

Their two goals took their tally in this competition to 13 this season and that is in just three matches. Leeds United, their opponents in the quarter-finals, will wait with some foreboding.

Almost inevitably, given their scoring rate since December, it has been Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore who have created most havoc and last night's fifth-round tie was no exception, the duo grabbing a goal apiece.

First Division Charlton, worthy but limited, managed a goal four minutes from time but the only occasion they looked capable of an upset was in the first minute when Lee Bowyer, their coveted midfield player, squandered a chance six yards out. Indeed, but their outstanding goalkeeper, Mike Salmon, they might have been buried under an avalanche.

Ian Rush, who Tranmere yesterday indicated they would like to sign at the end of the season, might be disgruntled to see Fowler and Collymore on the team sheet ahead of himself, but it hardly thrills opposing defences either. From the start last night it was easy to see why. After five minutes Salmon had to move sharply to stop a drive from Fowler and in the next attack Collymore's 20 yard shot was deflected narrowly by a post.

The two strikers always seemed to be in space so it was hardly surprising that one of them struck after 11 minutes. Jason McAteer, his back to the goal on the right flank, was swivelled and swung in an optimistic cross to the penalty spot where Fowler stretching like a sprinter for the tape, stooped to head into the far corner.

Liverpool then went in to one of their plump up the cushions and relax moods, Fowler, Steve McManaman and Collymore wasting opportunities. No matter, after 57 minutes Collymore made amends. A lovely move down the right between McAteer and Michael Thomas allowed the later time and his pass was perfectly weighted for the striker. From a range of eight yards, he steadied himself and then swept the ball in.

That should have been that but with the home team thinking the tie was won they were shocked when Kim Grant beat David James with a curling shot from 20 yards. Ten minutes earlier and home nerve might not have survived but at that late stageit merely acted as consolation.

Liverpool (5 3 2): James; McAteer, Wright, Scales, Babb, R Jones; McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Collymore (Rush, 78), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Harkness, Warner (gk).

Charlton Athletic (4 4 2): Salmon; Brown (Grant, 59), Rufus, Barber, Stuart; Robson, K Jones, Bowyer, Robinson; Leaburn, Nelson (Newton, 77). Substitute not used: Amann (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Middlebrough).

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