Traoré's blunder a gift for Burnley

Burnley 1 - Liverpool 0
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The Independent Football

At Anfield this has been the week of the smoking gun and the bleeding foot. After their self-inflicted defeat by Manchester United comes dismissal from the FA Cup courtesy of an own goal and a deliberately weakened team.

At Anfield this has been the week of the smoking gun and the bleeding foot. After their self-inflicted defeat by Manchester United comes dismissal from the FA Cup courtesy of an own goal and a deliberately weakened team.

Rafael Benitez could not have predicted that Djimi Traoré would put through his own net, but it was the Liverpool manager's decision to field essentially a reserve team to face a very competent, if threadbare Burnley side, that had already knocked Aston Villa out of the Carling Cup.

Liverpool have frequently been in trouble in matches this season but last night there was no Steven Gerrard to rescue them. Milan Baros's introduction provided an attacking spark Liverpool had hitherto lacked but it proved too late and Antonio Nuñez's sending-off for a crude use of the elbow merely compounded the humiliation.

For the past few years many at Anfield have wondered how good the youngsters nurtured at Liverpool's academy are and argued that they should be given their head. Last night they were and given their display of ineptitude, they are unlikely to be asked again in a hurry. The lasting memory of the evening was of Sami Hyypia being given the run-around by Jean Louis Valois.

This was the third time Steve Cotterill had faced Liverpool in his managerial career and twice with Sunderland and once with Burnley he has yet to lose. But for a fingertip save from Jerzy Dudek, Burnley might have won more comfortably and his reward is a fourth round tie with Bournemouth. It may not mean much in Burnley but Bournemouth is where Cotterill lives and where he used to play. They might provide rather more resistance.

That last night's tie went ahead at all was something of a relief. However, the pitch had suffered from the kind of weather that had briefly transformed the Pennines into a snowfield, topped off with hail and further heavy rain which made the middle resemble a strip of soggy corrugated cardboard.

Under these circumstances, maybe it was not surprising that keeping any sort of possession was difficult, although Liverpool sometimes went to great lengths to give the ball away. The only time in the first hour they showed any propensity to finish came with the own goal as Traoré superbly back-heeled a low cross from Richard Chaplow firmly into his own net. It was another embarrassing goal, but this time at least Dudek could be absolved from blame.

Only three members of the side beaten by Manchester United at Anfield started at Turf Moor but one of them was Dudek, whose wounds from another goalkeeping error against Liverpool's greatest rivals had still not begun to scab over. Unsurprisingly, Burnley chose to test him often and early.

If the Pole wanted saves to restore his confidence, he was given his wish. As the home team heaved forward against a Liverpool side who could only have been familiar with each other from reserve fixtures at Chester, Chaplow, the night's most interesting figure, found himself clear on goal. This time, however, Dudek kept his nerve and then saved well from a drive from Micah Hide that spat through flurry of legs and which he must have seen very late.

Corners - five in the first half - found Dudek still looking dangerously absent-minded while the young Liverpool defence, stiffened by Traoré and Hyypia, showed frequent signs of panic even before the former's own goal. However, as the play slowed, you wondered if Burnley, whose resources were so thin that Cotterill was forced to name his first-team coach as a substitute, had the ability to punish them. The answer was not long in coming.

Burnley (4-5-1): Jensen; Sinclair, Cahill, McGreal, Camara; Roche, Chaplow, Hyde, Grant, Valois; Moore. Substitutes not used: Coyne (gk), O'Neill, Pilkington, Scott, Yates.

Liverpool (4-5-1): Dudek; Raven, Hyypia, Whitbread, Traoré (Baros, 66); Nuñez, Welsh (Mellor, 75), Potter, Biscan, Warnock; Sinama-Pongolle. Substitutes not used: Harrison (gk), Otsemobor, Smyth.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

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