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Feb 19, 2012

Three own goals aid Reds, Spurs held

Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool side head to Wembley in a week's time to contest the Carling Cup final with Cardiff, and they will hope for a quick return to the capital after beating Brighton 6-1 to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals. Strikes from Martin Skrtel, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, in addition to three own goals, did the damage for the Reds, who could and should have had more.

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Dalglish handed a start to Luis Suarez just a week after his controversial outing at Old Trafford, when a rejected handshake by the Uruguayan with Patrice Evra forced the club to make a public apology. And five minutes was all it took for the Merseysiders to puncture their Championship opposition, Skrtel heading home Steven Gerrard's corner at the near post for an early lead.

For a Brighton team who had not won an away FA Cup tie against a top-flight side since beating Newcastle in 1986, it was a horror start for Gus Poyet's men. However, their response was quite breathtaking - restoring parity just 11 minutes later. Kazenga LuaLua was the man to line up a free-kick 30 yards from goal, and he drilled a ferocious drive through the wall to beat Pepe Reina low to his right-hand side.

Liverpool looked for an instant reply and almost found one through Stewart Downing, who turned the ball past the goalkeeper but his effort lacked direction. Suarez then went even closer when he beat the keeper but saw his shot miraculously cleared off the line.

Carroll was next to threaten, sending a free header over the bar when he should have scored, but Liverpool did lead before half-time thanks in no small part to Suarez. It was his deft control that forced keeper Peter Brezovan into a save, and Glen Johnson's resulting header ricocheted in for a Bridcutt own goal.

Although fortunate, it was a lead Liverpool richly deserved, firing in 18 shots at goal inside the first 50 minutes alone, and their superiority was confirmed when Carroll buried Downing's cutback just before the hour. The unlucky Liam Bridcutt then deflected his second own goal into the net for Liverpool's fourth, his desperate attempt to stop Gerrard scoring only resulting in the ball ricocheting into the top corner of the Brighton net.

The most embarrassing own goal was still to come, though, when Lewis Dunk inadvertently converted Suarez's cross. Dunk controlled the ball, kneed it up and then cleared only once the ball had crossed his own line in what is sure to make it onto future bloopers DVDs.

Still there was time for one more sub-plot though as Dirk Kuyt won a penalty at the Kop end, only for Suarez to see his effort saved. The Uruguayan did finally register Liverpool's six, however, heading in from close range from Carroll's nod across goal.

Stevenage defied the odds and put on an impressive display to hold Tottenham to a goalless draw in the FA Cup fifth round clash at the Lamex Stadium.

The home side created their fair share of chances throughout the match, with Chris Beardsley and Luke Freeman both failing to really test Carlo Cudicini - who nevertheless had a couple of hairy moments.

The Boro rode their luck on occasions, however - no more so than when Saha thought he had opened the scoring midway through the second half. The Frenchman was in the right place to lash his shot over goalkeeper Chris Day and towards goal from six-yards - but linesman Darren Cann noticed the ball had clipped Scott Parker on the line as it went in, correctly ruling it for offside.

The last few seconds of the game saw both sides threaten with a winner, but in the end a replay was fair reward for Stevenage's efforts.

Stoke City comfortably booked their place in the sixth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, beating Crawley Town 2-0 despite being reduced to ten-men following Rory Delap's sending off.

Delap was given his marching orders by referee Mark Jones for a poor tackle on David Hunt after just 15 minutes. The incident failed to have a galvanising effect on the League Two hosts, however, as Jonathan Walters converted from the penalty spot shortly before half-time to ease the pressure on Tony Pulis' men.

Peter Crouch then finished off a straightforward chance shortly after the interval to effectively seal the victory, as the Potters moved into the quarter-finals.

Crawley manager Steve Evans was vocal before the match about his hope of causing an upset against the Premier League visitors, but any advantage his side gained from Delap's dismissal was erased shortly afterwards as Stoke were awarded a soft penalty for Kyle McFadzean's foul on Ryan Shawcross.

Walters stepped up, and made absolutely no mistake as he buried the ball to on-loan debutant Rene Gilmartin's right.

The second half saw Stoke complete the job, and it came through Crouch. The striker used his height to meet Glenn Whelan's clipped cross, easily beating Gilmartin to allow his side to start thinking of the quarter-finals.

Crawley left it late to respond - with Danny Collins perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty for what appeared to be handball on the line - but were unable to force their way back into the contest, as Sanchez Watt and Tyrone Barnett were among a number of players guilty of wasting decent openings throughout the 90 minutes.

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