The Third Division outfit's priorities were clear from the start, pack the defence and hope for the best. Those tactics could only have worked with speed in the counter-attack and vigorous denial of Liverpool space, qualities Rochdale did not possess.
It was akin to putting the Queen Mother in the ring with Mike Tyson, and the subsequent mauling was inevitable. The only problem Liverpool could have encountered was individual greed overshadowing the collective goal, but the home side maintained their discipline.
"Mesmerised is the word," said the Rochdale boss Mick Docherty, son of Tommy. "They gave us an object lesson in the game of football. I don't think our heads dropped, I just think they were a cut above. We were on a hiding to nothing and that's exactly what we got," he added.
Rochdale failed to cope with Liverpool's intricate passing systems and, whenever the ball reached the flanks, the visitors were in desperate trouble. One solitary shot on target, Dave Thompson's volley producing a fine save, was precious little consolation and at times Sir Cyril Smith, the Lancashire town's former MP, would have been a useful goal-line asset.
Rochdale held out for just 21 minutes, Steve Harkness finding ludicrous space on the edge of the area and putting Robbie Fowler through to drag a low shot into the far corner.
Stan Collymore killed any Rochdale dreams immediately before half-time with two goals in as many minutes. The first was a carbon copy of Fowler's strike, with Collymore's partner turning the provider. For Liverpool's third the right flank again proved fruitful, Steve McManaman's cross met by an unchallenged Collymore head at close range. Peter Valentine was not to experience Cup's romance, finding his own goal just after the break.
Ian Rush was not to be denied a slice of the celebrations minutes after coming on as substitute, hitting the fifth, once more low and into the far left corner, so breaking Denis Law's record of 41 Cup goals.
Collymore completed his hat-trick after rounding the keeper and timing his shot to beat two frantically retreating defenders. McAteer's probing eventually paid dividends for the seventh, Michael Thomas tipping into space in the penalty area, and the full-back connecting with a sweet volley. And it could have been so many more.Reuse content