Carroll on target in Reds stroll
An ultimately comfortable victory over Oldham in the third round of the FA Cup, albeit having recovered from an early scare, appeared to bring a turbulent week to a satisfactory end for Liverpool.
However, with traumatic scenes in the final stages when Oldham full-back Tom Adeyemi emotionally reacted to what appeared to be a comment from a fan on the Kop, the tribulations which began with the Luis Suarez racism controversy may not be entirely over.
Friday-night football will catch on at Anfield if the entertainment is always as good as this, as for the second consecutive week Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy turned a deficit into a comfortable victory.
Bellamy's deflected effort cancelled out on-loan Robbie Simpson's fantasy-football opener for Huddersfield, before Gerrard's penalty gave Liverpool a platform. Jonjo Shelvey -- with his first senior goal for the club -- Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing completed a rout in the second half.
With the family of Gary Ablett distinguished guests -- a fitting minute's applause was held in his tribute -- an emotional evening appeared to be drawing to a close.
But play was halted on 80 minutes when Adeyemi was visibly upset and referee Neil Swarbrick appeared to report an incident to his assistant.
Oldham arrived at Anfield hoping to join a surprisingly lengthy list of lower league visitors on the roll of honour. The memory of Northampton in last year's Carling Cup -- and the terminal damage the defeat inflicted on Roy Hodgson -- still lingers on Merseyside, as do FA Cup humiliations at home to Reading and Barnsley.
Those warnings ensured Kenny Dalglish knew better than to tinker too much with his line-up and there was a formidable look to it. Gerrard made just his third start of the season, while Jamie Carragher was intent in reminding his manager and plenty others his career isn't over yet. He's been unable to dislodge Martin Skrtel or Daniel Agger.
Fabio Aurelio also made his first appearance for seven months.
With Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez also included, Oldham boss Paul Dickov could have been forgiven for thinking he was facing Dalglish's preferred XI.
That didn't seem to intimidate the League One side during their impressive opening, as Liverpool's returning icons looked rusty.
When journeyman Shefki Kuqi fashioned an opportunity on 10 minutes, evading Carragher's challenge before shooting wildly into the side-netting, the warnings were there.
There was another scare for the Kop when Adeyemi glanced a free header inches from the top corner.
It was lethargic stuff from the home side and they were duly punished with a strike worthy of a Wembley final from Simpson on 28 minutes.
Back to goal, 25 yards out, he flicked the ball sideways before striking the sweetest of volleys beyond Pepe Reina.
The giant-killing dreams lasted barely a minute, as Liverpool arose from their slumber, benefiting from a deflected Shelvey shot -- it hit Bellamy's chest -- and wrongfooted Oldham 'keeper Alex Cisak.
It was cruel on Dickov's men, but also the least the livewire Bellamy deserved. The Welshman's enterprise should have seen Kuyt twice head Liverpool ahead, but a sense of normality was restored after Adeyemi clumsily collided with Rodriguez in the six-yard box on the stroke of half-time.
From the penalty, Gerrard found the top corner. It looked a formality, but given Liverpool have missed four spot-kicks already this season, there was more pressure on him than it seemed.
In Suarez's absence, Bellamy looks the most likely of Liverpool's strikeforce to flourish, and both Kuyt and Maxi were wasteful from more expert supply from the Welshman in the early stages of the second half.
Having started alongside Kuyt, Bellamy was switched to the right flank and was in rampant form.
But for Cisak, Liverpool would have been swiftly out of sight, but their wastefulness in front of goal, so chronic in the Premier League, was not diminished.
It kept Oldham, and the 7,000 they'd packed into the Anfield Road end, believing that a comeback was possible. Those hopes were finally scuppered on 68 minutes when Bellamy, inevitably, gifted Shelvey the third -- a simple thump in from six yards. Carroll and Downing, both late subs, slammed in the fourth and fifth on the stroke of full-time.
After a period where Liverpool have handled more legal documents than an Old Bailey clerk, it seemed the only message to the FA from Anfield was the recording of their safe passage into round four.
The referee's observations following Adeyemi's complaints may suggest otherwise. (© Daily Telegraph, London)