Blackburn take Liverpool to replay


Blackburn Rovers earned a deserved draw with Liverpool at Anfield as the Championship side forced an FA Cup quarter-final replay.

Craig Conway fired over early on for the visitors before Kolo Toure had an offside goal disallowed for the Reds.

Alex Baptiste then had a goal-bound header brilliantly saved as Blackburn continued to impress after the break.

Liverpool pressed late on with Jordan Henderson seeing a volley saved, but a replay at Ewood Park now awaits.

The match was halted for eight minutes early on as centre-back Martin Skrtel was taken off on a stretcher with a head injury after a heavy landing following a aerial challenge with Rudy Gestede.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was denied an Anfield FA Cup farewell, after being left out of the squad following six matches on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, but retains hope of a dream finale come 30 May.

The 34-year-old, who will leave Liverpool for LA Galaxy in the summer, has lifted the trophy twice for the Reds and this year’s final – which would be his last game for the club – falls on his 35th birthday.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard won’t play in the FA Cup at Anfield again

The Reds will have to play better in the replay if they are to reach a Wembley semi-final, though, as Rovers soaked up early pressure to hit them on the break, with striker Gestede a real threat.

The visitors’ confidence mirrored that shown in victories over Premier League Swansea and Stoke en route to reaching their second FA Cup quarter-final in three years.

And with Gestede dominating the hosts in the air early on, there were signs they could repeat their Anfield FA Cup heroics of 2000 when Nathan Blake scored to knock them out in the fourth round.

Rovers are 14 points off the play-off places in the Championship but Champions League-chasing Liverpool were struggling to cope as Conway and Gestede went close.

Liverpool, seeking their first FA Cup triumph since 2006, were thankful to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s stunning save to keep out Baptiste’s header after the break.

The inevitable home pressure finally came as the match clock ticked down, but Liverpool, who also drew 0-0 with Championship Bolton earlier in the competition, were unable to break their visitors down and must hope they can get the job done at the second time of asking.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers:
“Martin Skrtel is fine. He could have played on but you have to listen to the medical team and the experts and he is fine in the changing room. He fell heavily so there was a feeling he could have been knocked out or concussed but I’ll leave that to the medical experts.

“Our objective this week was to get four points out of six in the league and get into the next round of the FA Cup. We got six points out of six and although we are not through to the next round, we are still in the draw.”

Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer:
“In the first half especially we took the game to Liverpool in the areas we could exploit. Rudy Gestede was unplayable at times for us. We had to do a lot of defending but we had a game plan and we stuck to it.

“A lot of our team are young lads trying to make their way and to come here and have the experience is another massive boost in their development.

“We bring them back to Ewood Park and we hope we will have a full crowd. It’s something our fans really deserve.

“The pitch at Ewood is nowhere near the standard here so it might be a bit of a leveller for us.”

The match was delayed for eight minutes after Martin Skrtel was taken off on a stretcher

Daniel Sturridge had scored 10 goals in his last 12 FA Cup appearances

Steven Gerrard, who watched from the stands, has scored four goals in his last six matches against Blackburn

Liverpool had 21 shots but only four were on target

Gary Bowyer’s side had just one shot on target


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