Riise own-goal helps Luton deny Liverpool


Last updated at 00:18 07 January 2008

The future of Rafa Benitez may continue to be in the balance after his Liverpool side struggled in the FA Cup. But the future of Luton may just be saved by this vital draw.

Benitez's name was splashed

across the back of yesterday's

newspapers, with reports claiming

that the Spaniard is already

aware he will be out of a job

come the end of the season.

Not so, said Benitez, even though

there was still little solace for the

Spaniard at Kenilworth Road.


Liverpool looked second best all

afternoon against a Luton side

stuck in administration and

playing for their very survival.

An off-the-pace Peter Crouch

handed Liverpool the lead on 74


But John Arne Riise's own goal

three minutes later earned Luton a

deserved replay at Anfield tomorrow

week, a fixture which will earn

the cash-strapped League One

club a vital boost in the region of £500,000. The administrator may

not have agreed but Luton manager

Kevin Blackwell insisted he

would have been delighted to see

his side book their place in the

fourth round at the first attempt.

"With the things that are going on

it was a perfect result," conceded


"Otherwise I'm disappointed we

haven't won. I think we edged it on

chances and with a bit more guile

we could have won quite


"I was really proud to watch my

team out-pass Liverpool at times.

My team went out and did a job

and made Liverpool look poor."

Perhaps more important for

Luton than today's fourth round

draw at lunchtime is the five

o'clock cut-off point for potential

buyers to submit their bids to the


riise v luton

Even if a buyer is found who

satisfies the club's many creditors,

departures would seem to be an

inevitable consequence of the

financial mess at Kenilworth Road.

Facing up to a potential player

exodus, Blackwell admitted: "I'm sure that my phone will be red hot

after today so I shall lose it tonight


"I need someone to come in and

buy the club by around January 24

— if not I've got to sell players to get

the money to keep the club alive."

It speaks volumes for the Luton

players' commitment that they can

turn in such displays despite

receiving a fraction of the wages

they have been due over the past

two months. Last night's result will

mean it is time for a trip to the

cashpoint at long last.

Benitez pronounced himself

happy with his team's display,

pointing to the exits of Blackburn,

Everton and Bolton as reasons.

Although there may be 60 league

places separating Luton and Liverpool,

there was little evidence of a

gulf in class.

The Barclays Premier League

side needed just 25 seconds to register

their first effort on goal, Ryan

Babel testing Dean Brill with a low


However, as Luton got into their

stride the pace of Drew Talbot and

the power of Calvin Andrew kept

Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia

on their toes.


New England manager Fabio

Capello, who found his way to Villa

Park for the visit of Manchester

United on Saturday, continued his

tour of the FA Cup third round in

the slightly less luxurious

surroundings of Kenilworth Road.

But if Crouch was intent on

putting on a performance for the

Italian, it certainly did not show.

Yet it was thanks to the England

striker that Liverpool looked set to

escape, thanks to a classic smash

and grab.

Luton defender Chris Perry could

only head a long ball straight up in

the air and substitute Andriy

Voronin was on to him in a flash.

The Ukrainian's shot was well

saved by Brill but Crouch was on

hand to make amends for his poor

display by stroking home the

rebound on 73 minutes.

Team spirit is not short on the

ground at Luton, however, and just

three minutes later the home side

got the slice of luck their determined

performance deserved.

Talbot, still full of running, burst

down the left before delivering a

cross which Riise could only slice

against his own arm and past

keeper Charles Itandje.

Any conspiracy theories that

Luton would simply settle for a

draw and a bumper Anfield payday

were undone moments later when

Dave Edwards sent a dipping effort

just over. With the future of Luton

hanging in the balance, it was just

as well Edwards was only marginally

off target.

That miss was certainly a relief for


"From my point of view the only

thing is that when you score a goal

you need to use your experience

and control the game. We conceded

a goal three minutes later which is

very disappointing," said the Liverpool


"In terms of the performance

we could play a little better but

at least we have the chance of

playing another game at Anfield —

and I think that will be different."

It certainly needs to be if he is to

silence those who see his departure

this summer as a foregone