Liverpool. . .2
(aet; Wimbledon win 4-3 on pens; 90min 2-2)
WIMBLEDON have muscled their way into almost every corner of the football landscape but never before had they they achieved a place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup competition. They did it the hard way last night, via a penalty shoot-out and an extra-time save from the spot by Hans Segers from John Barnes to secure a home tie with Sheffield Wednesday. After Jamie Redknapp and Mark Walters had missed with their efforts in sudden-death Neal Ardley sealed matters.
The omens had not been in Liverpool's favour: in five games against them the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, had still to sample defeat while it was on this ground a year ago in a fourth-round replay against Crystal Palace that Liverpool's ambitions for this trophy last came to grief.
Much would depend on how well they handled John Fashanu and Dean Holdsworth. Fashanu was busy, a pacy run that took him beyond Neil Ruddock bearing out Kinnear's assertion of his improvement on the ground.
Liverpool, in true patient style, probed for openings but the back door remained closed. Their willingness to bring defenders forward left open spaces and Peter Fear was not too far wide after Vinnie Jones set him up with an exquisite pass off the outside of his boot.
As if to prove that this was no fluke, Jones repeated the feat shortly after and this time Wimbledon were able to make it tell, Fear drawing the ball back for Holdsworth to bundle home his third goal in as many games. It was an 18th-minute lead they deserved and could easily have trebled within a matter of minutes as Holdsworth shot over and then Fashanu delayed his shot fatally when set up by Jones.
Mark Wright had been injured attempting to halt Holdsworth and was soon limping off. So did Jan Molby nine minutes later as Liverpool faced a severe examination of their resolve. They appeared to pass it just before half-time after Steve McManaman was floored by Scott Fitzgerald. John Barnes slipped the ball square for Ruddock to thrash home. Still, Liverpool continued to look vulnerable at the other end and Robbie Earle had the chance to punish them on the break but could not control the ball, a common failing in a swirling wind and on an imperfect surface.
Mark Walters's introduction had allowed Barnes to move inside where his composure and skilful touches were important to the Liverpool plan of pulling their opponents apart down both flanks. McManaman cut in from the right and was stopped by John Scales and Ian Rush's deflected drive only narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Finely balanced, the tie then swung Wimbledon's way when Grobbelar could not deal with Fashanu's drive and Earle ran in to score. Segers was distraught in the second minute of injury time when he appeared to fist Steve Nicol's cross into his own net while under pressure from Robbie Fowler but had the chance to atone five minutes into extra-time when he saved Barnes' penalty after Walters had been pulled back by Fashanu.
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Barton, Scales, Fitzgerald, McAllister; Fear, Earle, Jones, Ardley; Fashanu, Holdsworth. Substitutes not used: Talboys, Clarke, Sullivan (gk).
Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright (Harkness, 26), Ruddock, Nicol; McManaman, Molby (Walters, 35), Redknapp, Barnes; Fowler, Rush. Substitutes not used: James (gk).
Referee: H King (Merthyr Tydfil).
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