Football: Fowler to the fore for Liverpool

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The Independent Online
Liverpool 4 Charlton Athletic 1

Liverpool, their Premiership challenge knocked awry at Blackburn in their previous match, righted themselves with an arrogant swagger last night, brushing Charlton aside in this Coca-Cola Cup third-round replay.

Two goals from Robbie Fowler, his ninth and 10th of the season, added to others from Mark Wright and Jamie Redknapp, ensured that they will met Arsenal at Anfield on 27 November. But such was their mastery of First Division opponents, the mystery was why they needed a second match to finish them off. Shaun Newton scored for Charlton but, in truth, they were outplayed and it was a chastened side that travelled back to London.

They will be further troubled by the news that Jamie Stuart has a suspected broken leg. The England Under-21 defender was badly hurt in the 56th minute following a challenge by Michael Thomas.

The Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, sprang two surprises, resting Phil Babb and Patrik Berger, but Stan Collymore could not make it into the first team even in their absence. A pounds 8.5m sideshow he had described himself last week, and last night he fitted the bill, as a substitute.

This gave Steve McManaman an even freer role than usual, and he took his liberties with both hands. After nine minutes he bewitched the Charlton back four with a delightful drag with the inside of his right heel that allowed him a free shot at Mike Salmon.

The Charlton goalkeeper saved that one and a fierce drive from Fowler four minutes later, but you can ride your luck for only so long. From the resulting corner Liverpool took the lead. Stig Inge Bjornebye drifted a kick to the far post where Wright's head met it like a sledgehammer on a nut.

After 17 minutes it was 2-0, after Fowler and Stuart Balmer had tussled so vigorously for Bjornebye's cross that neither made proper contact. The ball dropped enticingly and Redknapp accepted the invitation, putting it in from six yards.

At this point Charlton needed something extraordinary and it arrived after 26 minutes. Ricky Otto crossed from the left and when Dominic Matteo headed up in the air, Newton had the not inconsiderable problem of putting a difficult volley into a narrow gap. Difficult but not impossible - as he proved by crashing the ball past David James.

It will have concerned Evans that their First Division visitors kept the deficit to a goal by half-time. So Fowler's goal in the 47th minute was important in terms of setting the mood, even if it owed a lot to luck. Jason McAteer hit a low cross from the right and Fowler swung a boot at it. The connection did not match the intention, however, and instead of being driven into the net, the ball bobbled apologetically past the wrong- footed Salmon, trickling into the goal via a post.

Liverpool (5-3-1-1): James; McAteer, Wright, Ruddock, Matteo, Bjornebye; Redknapp, Thomas, Barnes; McManaman; Fowler. Substitutes not used: Babb, Collymore, Berger.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Salmon; Barness, Rufus, Balmer, Stuart (Nicholls, 56); Newton, Robinson, O'Connell, Otto; Leaburn (Lisbie, 82), Allen. Substitute not used: Chapple.

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).