Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool

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Evening all. We won't know how seriously either side is taking this fixture until the teams are announced, but it is Championship high-fliers and hosts Brighton who are more likely to field a second-string side, what with them being scheduled to entertain Leeds United in a League match just 48 hours after tonight's match kicks off. That said, lack of motivation is unlikely to be a problem for whatever team Brighton manager Gus Poyet does end up picking for tonight's set-to.

"The reaction when the players heard it was Liverpool – it was like we had won the league all over again," he said. "But I'm not going to bring them down. The players want the game and I'm going to enjoy the game too. There's certainly no need to motivate the players – that's going to be easy."

Voicing his obligatory pre-match platitudes, Kenny Dalglish promised Liverpool would field "a strong team" and tonight's match could herald the return of Steven Gerrard from a long-term groin injury. Craig Bellamy is expected to make his first start for Liverpool since returning for his second spell at the club, while there may well be places in the eleven for a couple of hitherto unknown whey-faced, freckled youths from Merseyside who will no doubt be out to make names for themselves.

Whoever lines up for both teams tonight, here's hoping for a decent ball-game, unlike a certain match last night in which the only competitive edge centred around rival groups of knuckle-dragging troglodytes chanting at each other, before taking to the internet to feign outrage as they argued over whose chants were most offensive.

Good news: for any of you concerned by murmurings from the ATP Tour that Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick may be about to lead a players' revolt and set up picket lines around tennis courts around the globe. Everything is going to be OK. Phew.

Brighton: Ankergren, Calderon, Greer, Steve Cook, Vincelot,
Navarro, Sparrow, Bridcutt, Noone, Buckley, Mackail-Smith.
Subs: Brezovan, Dunk, Barnes, Vicente, LuaLua, Taricco, Kasim.

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Robinson, Kuyt,
Spearing, Lucas, Maxi, Bellamy, Suarez.
Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Carroll, Downing, Wilson, Shelvey, Flanagan.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Something to think about if you're having a bet on this match: It may be a weakened Liverpool team (yes, even weaker than the one that capitulated to Spurs on Sunday, but Gus Poyet has made five changes from the side beaten 1-0 at Leicester last weekend. Steve Cook makes his full debut for the Seagulls.

How Brighton will line up: In a 4-3-3, with Alan Navarro on the left of midfield, Matt Sparrow on the right and Liam Bridcutt in the centre. Craig Noone and Will Buckley will bookend Craig Mackail-Smith in the front bank of three.

How Liverpool will line up: In a 4-4-2, with Kuyt and Rodriguez on the right and left of a central midfield pairing of Jay Spearing and Lucas. Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez will play up front.

Hats off to Paul W (I won't publish his full name to spare his embarrassment), who's sent me the first email of the evening and it's a belter. Accusing me of "regional racism" because of my suggestion there might be a couple of 'whey-faced, freckled youths from Merseyside' on the Liverpool bench, he goes on to write "maybe they'll be dark-skinned youths from Peckham". The desperation of some football fans to conjure up offence where none is intended never, ever ceases to amaze.

1 min: Brighton kick off kitted out in blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts and white socks. Liverpool's players wear red shirts, shorts and socks. Liverpool win an early free-kick near halfway for a foul on Maxi Rodriguez.

2 min: Eighty seconds. That's how long it took the Sky commentary team to mention that Brighton winger Craig Noone used to work as a roofer and once did a job on Steven Gerrard's house.

3 min: Jay Spearing takes the first shot in anger from outside the Brighton penalty area after being teed up by Luis Suarez. His shot zooms high over the cross-bar.

5 min: Liverpool are enjoying most of the possession early doors and win the first corner of the game after a mix-up between Brighton centre-halves Gordon Greer and Steve Cook allowed Craig Bellamy to pounce and ping the ball towards Luis Suarez. Cook recovered enough to block the Uruguayan's attempted cross and put the ball out for a corner.

GOAL! Brighton 0-1 Liverpool (Bellamy 7): After good pass-and-movery in the Brighton right-back position, Luis Suarez dinks a short pass behind Liam Bridcutt and into the path of Craig Bellamy. The Welshman settles himself on the ball and then fires a low diagonal drive across into the bottom right-hand corner.

9 min: That goal didn't come directly from the corner, which was only half-cleared by goalkeeper Casper Ankergren, but Brighton looked unconvincing at the back and never properly cleared their lines.

10 min: "Here in the US, where 'soccer specific stadiums' are all the rage (18-20,000 seats as opposed to 60-70,000 seats for baseball/NFL), the Amex Stadium looks gorgeous," writes Daniel Stauss. "What's the atmosphere inside like?" Oh dear.

12 min: Brighton break on the counter, with Will Buckley galloping down the inside right flank. He attempts to fire in a cross but is blocked by Jamie Carragher.

14 min: "Regional racism, eh?" writes Liverpool supporter Phil Sawyer, whose mum is Scouse. "I always thought it was regional stereotyping. In three years studying a race relations degree I never came across the concept of regional racism, but I'm sure Paul W knows better than me. Anyway, by inference he's suggesting that Liverpool FC are a disenfranchised community constantly claiming that there is an institutional stance against them. Oh."

16 min: Brighton remain on the back foot. Jack Robinson gets forward well to chest down a long ball from midfield on the left-hand side of the Brighton penalty area. Upon delivering his ball across the face of goal, he sees it hacked clear, allowing Brighton to break on the counter again. Craig Noone's cross from the right is headed clear.

17 min: Liverpool corner, which Craig Bellamy sends in to the mixer from the left. After a bit of a scramble, the ball looks to be going dead and Brighton's defenders switch off. Dirk Kuyt keeps it in play and pulls it back across the face of goal, forcing Craig Mackail-Smith into a goal-line clearance. Brighton are getting some gubbing here. They look completely over-awed by their glamorous opposition.

20 min: Some good play from Brighton, who attack down the left flank courtesy of Will Buckley. He kicks the ball ahead of him, sprints past Martin Kelly and tries to pull it back from the goal-line. The ball wins the race to the chalk and goes wide before he can get his cross in.

23 min: Brighton win their first corner, which Craig Noone takes. His delivery is embarrassingly poor and he scuffs the ball low and wide of the near post. With lots of Brighton players committed to attack, Pepe Reina takes a quick kick-out - Liverpool are back on the front foot.

25 min: From the halfway line, Lucas pings a long knee-high pass towards Dirk Kuyt, who plays the ball back to Martin Kelly. A couple of passes later, Luis Suarez finds himself through on goal only to Torres his low diagonal effort wide of the far post.

28 min: Brighton win a throw-in deep in the Liverpool half, followed closely by a corner. Craig Noone manages to keep this one in play, sending an inswinger across the edge of the six-yard box. Pepe Reina dashes off his line to claim the ball and send Suarez and Kuyt on their way in one fluid movement.

29 min: My colleague Jacob Steinberg has just told me that REM have split up. It was news I greeted with a shoulder-shrug. He then revealed that The Times have referred to them as a hip-hop band, which was far more interesting.

31 min: Luis Suarez heads inches wide of the left upright - he should have put Liverpool 2-0 up there.

33 min: Just inside the Liverpool penalty area, Craig Noone tries to hack the ball goalward after getting on the end of a Inigo Calderon pull-back from the goal-line. His effort is blocked.

34 min: If somebody put a gun to my head and I had to choose, I'd probably say this is my desert island REM track - it's a little ditty called Marvin & Chardonnay.

36 min: From what looked like an impossible angle, Will Buckley sends an excellent cross to the near post area, but the ever-alert Reina is quick off his line to claim the ball.

38 min: Alan Navarro gets the first yellow card of the night for clipping somebody-or-other's heels about 40 yards from his own goal.

39 min: According to Sky's man on the touchline, the plan tonight is for Liverpool to give Steven Gerrard 30 minutes of game time. However, they don't want him to have to play extra time on top of that, so when he comes on will depend entirely on what the score is after 60 minutes.

40 min: A magnificent strike from Craig Bellamy, who takes a free kick from at least 35 yards out from goal. His effort fizzes all over the place before smacking the crossbar and bouncing back into play. That was a marvellous effort - when he kicked that ball, it stayed kicked.

42 min: Will Buckley looks to be dragged to the ground in the outer reaches of the Liverpool penalty area, right under the nose of referee Michael Oliver. He appeals for a penalty, but none is forthcoming. Replays show the referee made the correct decision.

43 min: Liverpool hit the wood-work again, this time with Jay Spearing running on to a loose ball and letting fly, only to see his effort hit the foot of the right upright.

45 min: Craig Noone and then Matt Sparrow go close as the ball ricochets around the Liverpool penalty area. After being put through by Mackail-Smith, Noone shot straight at Reina, who could only parry the ball into the path of Sparrow. As he lunged forward to stab the ball home from six yards out, a last-ditch lunge from Kelly saved the day.

Half-time That was a decent half of football. Having looked as if they might get hammered, Brighton have settled down in the past 15 minutes and are looking threatening. Gus Poyet has instructed the impressive Craig Noone and Will Buckley to swap wings and the latter is wreaking havoc down the right flank.

Half-time natter: "What is your view of Andy Carroll?" asks Brian Russell. "Is he a lumbering galoot, or the next Zlatan Ibra?" I'd say he's somewhere in between, but to read what some folk write, you could be forgiven for thinking he's the next Oliver Reed. I have no idea how much Andy Carroll drinks, much like many of the journalists who criticise him for being a tanking beer-monster.

Second half: Liverpool get the second half started. There are no changes to either side.

46 min: "On the subject of Gerrard and playing time, pardon if this is a stupid question but why not just start him and then take him off after 30 minutes?" asks Michael Bertin.

47 min: Under no pressure whatsoever, Sebastien Coates plays a suicidal cross-field "pass" across the edge of his own penalty area, straight to the feet of Craig Noone in the inside right position. The Brighton winger steadies himself and takes a shot, forcing Pepe Reina to push the ball on to his own crossbar. Great effort! Brighton win a corner, from which nothing comes.

49 min: Will Buckley charges out of the Brighton defence after robbing Lucas of possession. This is a great start to the second half from the home side.

50 min: I've just seen a replay of that Craig Noone shot and can report Pepe Reina didn't actually get near it. Noone's shot looked to be heading for the top left-hand corner but hit the crossbar.

53 min: I'm not sure what Gus Poyet said to his players at half-time, but it's certainly had an impact. They're all over Liverpool in the early stages of the second half. From the right-hand side of the Liverpool penalty area, Inigo Calderon sends the ball flashing across the face of goal, but there's nobody there to head home.

54 min: "In response to Michael Martin," writes Ryan Dunne. "Surely the obvious answer is that, having seen Frank Lampard being pulled off in shame on Sunday, Gerrard wants to be the Roy of the Rover match-winner, not suffer a similar fate, as he fancies himself to finally win the whole Gerrard v Lampard debate? (I know this is a bit '2004 phoned, and asked for its email back')"

55 min: Another promising Brighton attack comes to nowt when the increasingly impressive Jamie Noone dinks the ball into the path of Matt Sparrow, who brings a smart save out of Pepe Reina with a low drive.

56 min: Brighton attack down the inside left, courtesy of that man Noone again. He rolls a pass towards the goal-line for Navarro to run on to, but Martin Kelly wins possession and clears in one scything movement. Good defending.

58 min: Jay Spearing gets booked for a foul on Will Buckley, who was charging through midfield. From the ensuing free-kick, the ball is played through to the Liverpool penalty area, where Craig Noone charges straight into Jamie Carragher, who'd stood his ground.

60 min: Will Buckley goes down injured and is replaced by El puñal de Benicalap (the dagger of Benicalap). Or Vicente Rodríguez Guillén, as it probably says on his passport. He's made 243 appearances for Valencia, but this is his first for Brighton & Hove Albion.

62 min: Noone tries another shot from distance, but leans back as he strikes the ball and fires several feet over the bar.

64 min: Inigo Calderon takes an accidental smack in the nose from Luis Suarez and immediately receives treatment from the concerned Uruguayan, who dabs at the claret dribbling from his opponent's fizzog with his finger. Health and safety won't like that.

66 min: Romain Vincelot sends a diagonal ball into the Liverpool penalty area from the left touchline, but Jamie Carragher stoops to head clear.

68 min: Vicente cuts inside off the right touchline, runs on to a pass from midfield, rides a Lucas tackle and shoots for goal from 20 yards. Wide.

69 min: Brighton win a corner when Sebastian Coates is forced to put the ball out of play under pressure from Noone. That's six corners to four in Brighton's favour. Like the previous five, nothing comes of this one.

72 min: "Re: El puñal de Benicalap," writes Dominic Wright. "For future reference, puñal, at least in Mexico, is a very derogatory term. Guess it can't mean the same in Spain. Or maybe it does and Spanish football is more progressive on sexuality than it is on racism."

74 min: Liverpool free-kick, 30 yards from goal. Suarez tries his luck, the ball ricochets off the wall and out for a corner, which Craig Bellamy takes.

75 min: The corner is sent into the mixer, where Sebastian Coates is penalised for climbing on the back of a Brighton player.

76 min: Liverpool substitution: Steven Gerrard on, Luis Suarez off. This is Gerrard's first start for Liverpool in six months. He takes up position alongside Jay Spearing in the centre of midfield and Lucas moves forward.

77 min: Vincelot nutmegs Kelly down the left flank, Noone runs on to the ball and wins another corner for Brighton. His out-swinger is headed over the bar.

78 min: Brighton double substitution: Noone and - I think - Matt Sparrow off, Kazenga LuaLua and Ashley Barnes on.

79 min: Second half possession stats: Brighton 61%-39% Liverpool.

GOAL! Brighton 0-2 Liverpool (Kuyt 81) Liverpool attack on the break and from the left touchline, Bellamy plays a low, long cross-field pass to Maxi Rodriguez. He draws the defender and plays the ball into the path of Dirk Kuyt, who slots a low diagonal ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

84 min: "Re: Andy Carroll's drinking habits," writes James Clark. "I think the a key element in your analysis is missing. Surely the issue is that the press pack busily accusing Carroll of being a beer monster don't know how much they drink. Important distinction."

Well, I can't speak for too many others in the press pack, but I know exactly how much I drink, which is why you're not going to hear me telling anyone else they should cut down. I still chuckle when I recall the time when, without a trace of irony, a couple of decidedly rotund (and I'm being polite here) football writers on the Sunday Supplement were pontificating about Frank Lampard being possibly a bit overweight.

86 min: Liverpool substitution: Martin Kelly off, whey-faced freckled youth from Merseyside John Flanagan on.

PENALTY FOR BRIGHTON: Spearing treads on the ball and falls over, leaving Vicente with the ball at his feet in the penalty area. Jamie Carragher lunges, the Spaniard goes down and the referee points to the spot.

GOAL! Brighton 1-2 Liverpool (Barnes 89): Great strike from Ashley Barnes, who hammers the ball high into the top left-hand corner.

90 min: There'll be a minimum of four minutes added time. In other housekeeping news, Craig Noone, who was released by Liverpool as a kid and told he'd never make it as a professional footballer, has been announced as the sponsors' man of the match.

90+1 min: Lucas gets booked after conceding a free-kick in the left channel with a foul on LuaLua, adjacent to the Liverpool penalty area. Vicente's delivery is poor, but first defender Steven Gerrard puts the ball out for a corner.

90+3 min: Craig Bellamy gets a ticking-off for incessant moaning at the referee over something or other.

90 + 4 min: Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeep! Michael Oliver ends the game with three shrill blasts on his whistle. One of Brighton's players immediately rushes to try to get Steven Gerrard's shirt, a state of affairs that, for me at least, sums up in a nutshell exactly why they lost this match. For the opening 40 minutes, they were clearly overawed by the occasion and the reputation of their opposition, when the following 50 showed they had no need to feel cowed or nervous. Their shaky start aside, Brighton's players did themselves and their supporters immense credit in a very entertaining game of football tonight, but it's Liverpool who advance to the next round.

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