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Rediff.com  » Sports » Liverpool down Luton in a thriller

Liverpool down Luton in a thriller

January 08, 2006 09:12 IST

European champions Liverpool survived an extraordinary FA Cup third round tie at second division Luton Town on Saturday, fighting back from 3-1 down to win 5-3.

Spaniard Xabi Alonso scored twice, including an injury-time strike from inside his own half with Luton keeper Marlon Beresford stranded after coming forward for a corner.

"Luton made it very difficult for us and they did a very good job," manager Rafael Benitez told Liverpool's web site after a comeback reminiscent of their Champions League final triumph over AC Milan.

"I was always confident that we could come back and win this game. Xabi Alonso played very well for us in the second half and played like a really good holding midfielder. He scored two fantastic goals."

Premier League Middlesbrough were taken to a replay by Nuneaton Borough after a late penalty earned the minor league club a 1-1 draw.

Two Robert Pires goals in the opening 18 minutes gave holders Arsenal a 2-1 win against Cardiff City and league leaders Chelsea survived a late scare to beat Huddersfield by the same score.

Liverpool appeared to be heading out of the competition at the third round stage for the second season running when Luton, coached by Merseyside-born Mike Newell, cancelled out Steven Gerrard's opener with goals from Steve Howard and Steve Robinson at Kenilworth Road.

Kevin Nicholls made it 3-1 from the penalty spot eight minutes after the break, minutes after France striker Djibril Cisse had his spot-kick saved by Beresford.

The introduction of substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle sparked Liverpool's fightback, the striker netting the first of three goals in 12 minutes for the away side.

Alonso made it 3-3 with a superb dipping shot from 30 metres and Sinama-Pongolle headed Liverpool back into the lead 17 minutes from time.

With time running out, Luton lost possession from a corner and with Beresford unable to get back to his goal, Alonso fired the ball into an unguarded net from 10 metres inside his own half.

Nuneaton's Gez Murphy sent Middlesbrough goalkeeper Bradley Jones the wrong way with 90 minutes on the clock, equalising Gaizka Mendieta's 15th minute free kick and securing a January 17 replay at the Riverside stadium.

"It's like winning the game to us," said Nuneaton manager Roger Ashby. "It's no more than we deserve."

Tamworth, the other minor league club in action, also forced a replay after a 0-0 draw at second division Stoke City while former England captain Alan Shearer equalled Jackie Milburn's club scoring record with his 200th goal for Newcastle United in a 1-0 defeat of Mansfield.

On the day the Premier League clubs joined the world's oldest knockout cup competition, Everton were held 1-1 by Millwall and Birmingham could only draw 0-0 at fourth division Torquay.

LOW DRIVE

Only six minutes into Arsenal's defence of the trophy they won for the 10th time in a penalty shootout last May, a Jose Antonio Reyes pass found Pires on the right and he put the London side in front with a low drive.

Twelve minutes later, the Frenchman rushed on to a neat pass from Dennis Bergkamp and another cool finish into the corner of the net doubled the lead.

Cardiff gave Arsenal a late fright when Cameron Jerome bundled in and Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was forced to save at Jeff Whitley's feet in stoppage time.

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho gave some squad players a run out at Stamford Bridge, making nine changes from the last league outing for the visit of Huddersfield.

Striker Carlton Cole made the most of his glimpse of the limelight and opened the scoring in the 12th minute.

Third division Huddersfield equalised against the run of play in 75th minute when Gary Taylor-Fletcher was put through by Michael Collins and beat Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.

Chelsea have not been held to a draw at home in the league this season and seven minutes later Dutch winger Arjen Robben cut the ball back for Eidur Gudjohnsen to tap in the winner.

Minor league Burton Albion have their chance to enter English soccer folklore when they host Manchester United on Sunday.


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