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Latics cup magic

27 January 2013

Liverpool beaten, now for Everton

Latics caused the major upset of the fourth round by knocking Premier League giants Liverpool out of the FA Cup with Budweiser in what Paul Dickov described as one of the most magical moments of his career.

Over 10,000 packed into Boundary Park and millions more watched on live television as Latics overcame a Liverpool side containing most of their big guns.

While Brendan Rodgers showed Latics respect, Paul Dickov's side didn't reciprocate as they were by no means fazed by a side whose front two was Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge with combined transfer fees of £36million.

Though Liverpool later threw on Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey, Latics held on to earn a fifth-round tie against Everton.

It was not only a battling performance from Latics, but one in which they played some terrific football.

Dickov certainly through caution to the wind playing an attacking formation as Matt Smith and Robbie Simpson were the front two with Jose Baxter in the hole just behind them.

The 11 players who started, plus the three substitutes, produced heroic performances.

And there was a fairytale as Smith, the striker who was playing non-league football little over 18 months ago, scored twice while right-back Reece Wabara headed the third which would ultimately prove to be the matchwinner.

Dickov said: "I have been lucky to play in European finals, be involved in FA Cup finals and represent my country, but what happened today is definitely up there.

"It was not just the result, but the performance which more than anything else delighted me.

"I have been saying you have to believe you can do it. If you don't believe, it will never happen.

Latics' manager added that the team Rodgers played was a measure of the respect he showed for Latics.

Dickov said: "Obviously they brought on Stevie Gerrard who completely changed the game because he is class, but we hung in there.

"You always have a chance when you work hard and the boys got their rewards.

"The games we have been losing in the league have only been by the odd goal, but which quite possibly we could have won.

"Today we had that bit of luck and won by the odd goal and could quite possibly have lost.

"The fans were unbelievable and hopefully we can get a few more through the doors.

"I am proud of the players and the supporters because they deserve it and it has been tough, not only recently but for the last few seasons.

"For them to see that performance against a top-class team was great."

Lee Croft and Robbie Simpson, who were on the bench in midweek at Notts County, were recalled to Latics' starting line up.

Latics got the dream start they craved as they took the lead in the third minute to stun the Merseysiders.

Croft's over-hit cross was retrieved by Youssouf M'Changama on the left and he crossed for Smith to head home despite the desperate efforts of Martin Skrtel to keep the ball out of the net.

Latics lost M'Changama early on after a foul by Raheem Sterling for which he was booked. He was replaced by Carl Winchester with less than ten minutes played.

Liverpool drew level in the 17th minute when Suarez played a return pass off Cliff Byrne before bursting in the box and finding the net with a low shot.

Latics had an appeal for a penalty rejected for handball by Sebastian Coates.

It was proving a feisty opening in which Simpson and Wabara were also booked.

Liverpool had a goal disallowed midway through the half when Suarez was caught offside when he glanced Jordan Henderson's free kick into the net.

Jose Baxter and Simpson fired not far wide as Latics tried to regain the lead.

They did so in the third minute of added time at the end of the opening period when there was further drama not long after Smith forced Liverpool keeper Brad Jones to fingertip his header over the crossbar.

Wabara overlapped on the right and his low cross was spilled by Jones leaving Croft to square the ball for Smith to have a simple tap in for his second of the game and sixth of the season.

One of the defining periods of the game came early in the second half.

Fabio Borini skied a shot over the crossbar which could have made it 2-2.

Not long afterwards it was 3-1 when Wabara, overlapping again, popped up at the far post (pictured) to head home a delightful left-wing cross from Winchester.

Latics were rampant as Baxter tried an audacious but unsuccessful chip over Jones while Jean-Yves M'voto headed just wide from Baxter's free kick.

Liverpool summoned Gerrard and Downing from the bench in the 56th minute and Gerrard's introduction helped drag Liverpool back into the game.

Latics defended heroically throwing bodies on the line as they withstood increased pressure from the visitors.

They eventually cracked in the 79th minute when Downing's corner was headed clear and Joe Allen volleyed home from the edge of the box.

Latics had not long before had chances to added a fourth goal as Baxter and Simpson both had creditable goal attempts.

There were frayed nerves towards the end when Allen's shot was deflected just wide and in the 90th minute Gerrard's screamer from 30 yards hit the crossbar.

And to pile on the agony, there were six minutes of added time for Latics to survive which they did with relative ease to create tomorrow's headlines on the sports pages of the national press.

Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, Byrne, M'voto, Grounds; Croft, Wesolowski, Baxter, M'Changama (Winchester 10); Simpson (Taylor 77), Smith (Mellor 84). Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Tarkowski, Sutherland.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Jones; Wisdom (Gerrard 56), Coates, Skrtel, Robinson; Sterling (Shelvey 72), Allen, Henderson, Borini (Downing 56); Suarez, Sturridge. Subs (not used): Leiva, Carragher, Suso, Gulacsi.

The goals: Smith (3, 45+3), Wabara (48) for Latics. Suarez (17) for Liverpool.

Bookings: Simpson (7), Wabara (23), Smith (71) for Latics. Sterling (5) for Liverpool.

Referee: Mr L Probert.

Attendance: 10,295 (2,786 visitors) 

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