Sport

FA Cup is Liverpool's redemption

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. Getty Images Sport - Laurence Griffiths

PERHAPS with the departure of Damien Comolli the emphasis on statistical analysis at Liverpool has been diluted and the club is returning to a more traditional policy, of the sort Kenny Dalglish has advocated in recent weeks. In which case, the verdict of Steven Gerrard - who has seen it all at close quarters - on the brink of a second cup semi-final was fairly damning.

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There were key phrases that fell from Gerrard's mouth and in the main they were about a season of failing to reach targets. This was not a rebuke to fortune, more the frustrations of a man who has given his career to his home club and sees the Champions League, never mind Premier League title, disappearing over the horizon.

He talked of frustration, of stopping the rot and not delivering, and in that honesty there was much to respect. Tomorrow he will lead Liverpool out in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. Of course he is delighted at the opportunity the occasion presents and from him came the same kind of uncertainty that commentators have faced in trying to offer assessments on Liverpool's season as a whole.

Departing the FA Cup at the hands of Everton, you suspect, will open the floodgates. Staying in it would offer Liverpool the chance to stop the rot with a second piece of silverware.

"Everyone is frustrated at the league position but if this squad can make two major cup finals, then we can call this season a success," he said. "We would have gone to Wembley in a confident mood in any case, but it was important to stop the rot at Blackburn. Tuesday was a good night for the squad. I don't think form or psychological factors will play any part.

"I don't know if the Cup is holding the season together [for us] but the simple fact is that our league campaign hasn't been good enough. The players have under-delivered in the league. That applies to all of us, not just the new players but those of us who have been here a while.

"We have done fantastic in the cups but we had three aims at the start of the season and one was to get in the top four. We have under-delivered in the league but we have delivered one cup and to deliver two would be an unbelievable achievement.

"It will be a special occasion. Leading a team out at Wembley is a big thing for me and it is a special occasion for the football club. There is so much at stake - it is a big game and we are looking forward to it. This is not only a semi-final, it is a semi-final against Everton. For everyone at this club and everyone at Everton it is a massive occasion and I am not going to play it down. It could change our season for the better.

"We've beaten Everton twice this year so that should give us belief and confidence but we need to perform to the same levels at Wembley to get the same result. We all need to deliver good performances - all the players."

And on such a knife-edge rests the reputation of Liverpool this season, and indeed of Dalglish himself - that and perhaps the fact that, as the FA has turned down Alexander Doni's appeal for wrongful dismissal at Blackburn, Liverpool will be starting with their third-choice keeper, Brad Jones.

Topics:  fa cup, liverpool fc, steven gerrard


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