Rochdale transfixed by Rush's late entrance

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The Independent Online
Liverpool 7 Rochdale 0

Dean Martin should have been in the players' lounge having a chin-wag with his colleagues. Instead, the Rochdale midfielder was found wandering, somewhat bewildered, among the Anfield trophy cabinets.

A Liverpool supporter as a lad, he gazed in awe at the glittering array, much as he had during the game. "It was a little bit frightening. John Barnes gets slaughtered by a lot of football fans in this country but they want to try getting anywhere near him. And Steve McManaman runs quicker with the ball than most of us can run without it," he confessed.

Dean will long remember his performance at Anfield, but it was one which could have been so much more enjoyable. Rochdale may have earned the adulation from the visiting supporters, but what scoreline does an FA Cup underdog have to produce in order to prevent a standing ovation?

That cavern separating Premiership and Third Division clubs may never have been wider, however, and Liverpool are packed with players more than ready to transfix the tonsils of gift horses. McManaman's jaunts down both flanks were particularly exhilarating but only passively resisted.

Martin's role, sitting in front of the back four, was crucial. Rochdale employed a five-man defence against the team that largely made the formation fashionable. However, they failed to push the full-backs forward when in possession, leaving five men to mark just Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler. A first goal was always going to prompt a deluge, with Barnes and Michael Thomas allowed to approach the edge of the opposition area virtually unopposed.

Three of the seven goals resulted from Liverpool players running late into the right half of the box, and Ian Rush's record-breaking 42nd goal in the FA Cup also came from that position. Intriguingly for the Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, the home side turned on the style following the Welshman's entrance. Just how Evans deploys his three strikers when the Premiership action resumes is a fascinating conundrum.

Goals: Fowler (21) 1-0; Collymore (43) 2-0 Collymore (44) 3-0; Valentine og (48) 4-0; Rush (61) 5-0; Collymore (70) 6-0; McAteer (85) 7-0.

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; McAteer, Wright (Matteo, 58), Scales, Harkness, R Jones (Rush, 58); McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Collymore, Fowler. Substitute not used: Pears (gk).

Rochdale (5-3-2); Clarke; Thackeray, Valentine, Butler, Formby, Martin; Thompson (Thompstone, 60), Deary, Peake (Ryan, 54); Moulden (Shaw, 54), Whitehall.

Referee: K Leach (West Midlands).

Bookings: Rochdale: Butler, Whitehall.

Man of the match: McManaman.

Attendance: 28,126.