Havant & Waterlooville might be a mouthful, but rest assured they are going to become a byword for the romance of the FA Cup. They could not quite pull off the greatest upset in the history of football's oldest and most venerable knockout competition yesterday, but they came mighty close.
Twice the Blue Square South team – the last non-League survivors – led England's most decorated club, and it required a mighty effort from last May's Champions' League finalists to escape the jaws of the underdogs. Liverpool claimed the win and a place in the fifth round, but it was Havant who slipped away from Anfield with the glory.
Five rungs and 123 places below Liverpool in the English league ladder, Havant went 1-0 and 2-1 ahead thanks to goals from Richard Pacquette – a truant officer in his day job – and Alfie Potter, one of their few full-time players. If they could have clung to that latter lead to half-time, who knows what would have happened? Fortunately for the already beleaguered home manager, Rafael Benitez, his team pulled themselves together. Yossi Benayoun scored in the 44th minute on the way to his second hat-trick in his first season for Liverpool and, combined with Leiva Lucas's first goal for the club and one in the last minute from Peter Crouch, the Premier League team got away with it.
"You must give them credit," Benitez said. "In the end it was a professional job but we had to work very hard. I honestly felt confident even when we were 2-1 down, but our second goal just before half-time was important. It meant we could start again on level terms. It was fantastic for them to come here and score twice. They will have good memories." They certainly will.
It was left to the Havant goalkeeper, Kevin Scriven, to sum up the mood when they were leading 2-1. "We were looking at each other and thinking, 'This shouldn't be happening'," he said.
Havant soon showed they had no intention of playing hapless victims. The game's first two corners were won by the Hampshire part-timers and from the second, after eight minutes, they scored. Quite what happened to the Liverpool defence will no doubt be the subject of an inquest this week, but when Mo Harkin's inswinging corner arrived in the six-yard box Pacquette was able to head virtuallyunhindered into the net.
Lucas equalised with a lovelycurling shot from 20 yards in the 27th minute, but just as Anfield relaxed, Havant took the lead again four minutes later. Again the home defence disintegrated,allowing Jay Smith to cross from the right, and then failed to win the second ball when Martin Skrtel cleared.
Tom Jordan headed back into the area and Steve Finnan stood on the ball before slipping over. Potter was free eight yards out and his shot was deflected past Itandje off Skrtel as the Liverpool centre-back attempted a block. Could Havant make it to half-time with their lead intact? Almost. With just a minute to go Ryan Babel found Jermaine Pennant, whose clever pass inside allowed Benayoun the space to shoot past Scriven.
Liverpool breathed a sigh of relief and finally relaxed when they took the lead that ought to have been theirs for the taking at 3pm after 56 minutes. Pennant passed from the right and Benayoun turned before surprising Scriven by going for the narrow angle and shooting into the roof of the net.
You could almost see the energy draining from the part-time players, and the next Liverpool goal arrived within three minutes. Babel cut in from the left and hit a low shot that Scriven did well to save low to his right. The Havant goal-keeper could not hold on to the ball, however, and Benayoun flicked the rebound into the net.
A tap-in from Crouch from Steven Gerrard's cross com-pleted the scoring and there was a standing ovation at the end. But it was not for the winners.
Lowdown on goal heroes
Richard Pacquette: age 24
Clubs: (11) QPR, Stevenage, Dagenham & Redbridge, Mansfield, MK Dons, Brentford, Farnborough, St Albans, Worthing, Thurrock, Havant & Waterlooville
Goals: 51 in 150 games
Alfie Potter: age 19
Clubs: (four) Peterborough, Millwall, Grays Athletic, Havant & WaterloovilleReuse content