Liverpool walked away with the Liverpool Senior Cup thanks to Paul Willis in a thrilling penalty shoot-out. Willis first saved a penalty and then scored his own in sudden death to take the trophy. The final was held at Goodison Park and the Reds missed two penalties in normal time only to see them win eventually on penalties.
The Upper Bullens stand was opened up to a reasonably sized crowd and I made sure I found a white seat to sit on rather than those awful blue coloured things. Everton got the game underway and it was them who had the first effort on goal although Anthony Gerrard (brother of Liverpool's Stevie G) shot well wide of the target. The game started very bitty and at times looked very poor football to be honest. Everton had the bigger strength and thought in the first part of the game as the Reds tried to use Karl Noon as a target man. That proved hard all night as he doesn't have the height and was blatantly pushed in the back all night by his marker Hughes.
The Reds' first chance went the same was as the Blues' - wide of the goal from John Paul Kelly. Liverpool really should have scored on eight minutes though when Danny Smith sent in a superb cross from the left side only to see Platt head over the bar. Platt had reasonable time and should have done better with the chance.
The opening goal came on twenty six minutes from Anichebe of Everton. The move started as Vaughan had a shot on goal which Willis had to turn away for a corner at full stretch. The cross which came in from Fox saw the Blue number ten glance a header home all too easily. The way the Blue's had started the game as well you worried that they might go on from that. That fear grew two minutes later as Willis misread a cross altogether and having flapped at it just about got away with it as Woods prevented a shot on goal.
The Reds were awarded a penalty on thirty one minutes as Fox handled in the area. Noon had played a cross in towards the back post and Fox used his arm to shepherd the ball back to keeper Lake. Reds captain David Mannix took responsibility but his spot kick, which sent the keeper the wrong way hit the base of the post and went clear before anyone could follow in.
On thirty four minutes the Reds had a great move down the right side. Calum Woods cut out an Everton cross at the back post and played it forward to Guthrie. He moved it forward to Platt who then moved it on to Noon in the area but his excellent shot was saved by the feet of the keeper for a corner.
Everton were nearly handed a fluke goal on thirty eight minutes as Woods tried to clear a ball. His clearance hit Hopkins and arched just wide of the far post with Willis seemingly beaten. The Reds were handed another lifeline on forty two minutes when Joxer was pulled down in the area for another blatant penalty. Mannix again stepped up to take it and changed sides. Lake saved the penalty though but as it rebounded back out Mannix smashed the ball home to make it one each at half time.
At half time Everton brought on Irving for Anichebe before the Reds got the game underway. Vaughan had the first opportunity of the half for Everton four minutes in but the shot was always rising after he had created good space from Peltier. Sub Irving then really should have scored on fifty six minutes when he blasted over from a good Vaughan cross. Hopkins then forced Willis into a routine save from a thirty five yard shot as Everton were the dominant side again.
Karl Noon found himself in acres of space deep on the right side but with no one u in support for him the best h could do was win a corner kick from what should have been a promising opportunity. Two minutes later and it was Non who was in the middle to head a chance just over the bar.
The Reds made their first change on seventy one minutes when Barnett came on for Townley. Townley had looked up for the game but just didn't have the beating of the impressive looking Wynne for Everton. The Reds started getting back in to the game a little more now although chances stared drying up as the players started to tire a bit and get cramp on the large pitch. Everton made a further change with eight minutes to go as Hopkins was replaced by Morrison who looked like a mini Craig Bellamy.
There were a couple of late chances in the game for both sides to win it. With five minutes left Noon received a ball from Guthrie only to see his shot saved for a corner. Irving then forced Willis into a save before Joxer had a glorious chance t win it for the Reds. On full time the ball fell at Kelly's feet at the far post but his swipe at the ball was mistimed and the ball went out for a goal kick. The game was forced into extra time.
Extra time got underway with Everton kicking off and they had a great chance to score two minutes in but Fox blazed over the bar. Boyle had a header saved by Willis four minutes later. The first half of the extra time in truth was poor with both sides wary of committing to many players forward as well as having little energy left to do it anyway. The only other chance of note fell to Vaughan on half time when he shot over the bar from a Gerrard cross.
The second half of extra time saw few chances again. Wynne went closest with a great shot from the right edge of the box three minutes into the half but it sailed past Willis and just past the far post. Lee Peltier put in an absolutely superb challenge on one hundred and ten minutes when he wrapped his foot around the ball as Vaughan broke clear in the area. It was a stretch that ultimately saw Peltier leave the pitch. Jordan Holmes replaced him three minutes later. As the half ended the game was destined to be finished on penalties.
The penalty shoot out as always was tense but exciting yet on the end went right through all eleven players on each side. Guthrie, Woods, Kelly, Noon and Mannix were the chosen five for the Reds. The first two each were scored before Vaughan blazed high over the bar to give the Reds the ascendancy. Noon missed the fourth for the Reds to even things back up though as his shot to the right was saved. Mannix showed huge guts to step up and take the Reds' fifth and move the shoot-out to sudden death.
Seargeant and Platt both had the next penalties saved before each player scored. As certain players stepped up you always worried yet those you wee scared would miss most ended up taking the best penalties. With the scored tied at eight each Everton sent up Morrison for their eleventh spot kick. Paul Willis saved his shot and then realised he had the chance to win it. Morrison was distraught and was helped back to the middle by a team mate. Before he got back Willis stepped up and made the keeper dive before chipping the ball straight down the middle. The Reds cheered, Willis did a running somersault and the cup was won. Penalty shoot-outs are in a way cruel for the losing side but when it's the blues on the losing side it's always that bit sweeter.
MotM : Danny Guthrie - one Red who consistently had a good go and always looked likely to create that opening. His penalty shoot out goal was also superb as is body went one way and the ball the other. A mention also has to go to Manno who played a full game to begin with and also had the guts to take one of the main five penalty kicks having missed two in normal time.