No shock as Liverpool outclass Luton

Liverpool 5 Luton 0

Liverpool 5 Luton 0

Under-pressure Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez saw his side ease their way into the fourth round of the FA Cup tonight thanks to a hat-trick from Steven Gerrard.

League one Luton collapsed in this replay at Anfield after going behind to a late first-half goal from Ryan Babel.

Sami Hyypia was also on the scoresheet to give Benitez some breathing space after the shock revelation that Jurgen Klinsmann had been sounded out about the possibility of becoming the club's next manager.

Benitez selected a strong side, knowing defeat was not an option after the shock admission from co-owner Tom Hicks.

Jamie Carragher was named captain on his 500th appearance for the club while Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso were also in from the start.

Luton received a boost ahead of the game with the news a deal had been agreed with a consortium led by television presenter Nick Owen to buy the club.

The Kop made their feelings know about the manager from the start with chants of "Rafael Benitez" ringing around the ground.

Jermaine Pennant split the Luton defence after three minutes and found Gerrard. He raced forward but was crowded out.

Pennant then found Peter Crouch three minutes later, only for the striker to miss a good chance, heading wide from close range when it seemed easier to score.

Babel almost gave Liverpool the lead in the ninth minute after being released by Gerrard.

He beat goalkeeper Dean Brill with a curling shot from 20 yards but his superb effort came back off the post.

Then Crouch hooked the ball high over the crossbar following a cross from Gerrard and Torres followed suit in the 14th minute.

Liverpool, as expected, were running the show and Babel again came close in the 17th minute when his effort was blocked by Richard Jackson.

Luton were making a decent fist of it after shipping out a number of players in the past week.

Despite their lowly status, the third-tier club were being backed by a good number of supporters, who made themselves heard.

Babel was wasteful in the 38th minute when he sent his effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area after Crouch had played the ball back to him.

Veteran Luton defender Don Hutchison then launched himself at a shot from Gerrard on the stroke of half-time to make a clearance.

The breakthrough finally came in first-half stoppage time when Babel rifled a shot beyond Brill and into the corner after being released by Torres.

Alonso tried his luck straight from the kick off by trying to lob Brill but the goalkeeper was alert to the danger.

John Arne Riise strode forward for Liverpool in the 51st minute, only for his effort from distance to finish wide.

Gerrard made it 2-0 a minute later when he headed in from close range after Crouch flicked on a cross from Pennant.

Liverpool raised the tempo and Torres saw his shot deflected to safety by Kevin Keane in the 56th minute.

They extended their lead a minute later after Gerrard swung in a corner from the left.

Hyypia claimed the goal although Luton defender Matthew Spring seemed to get a touch at the last minute.

Gerrard scored his second of the game and made it 4-0 in the 64th minute, stroking the ball into the corner.

It came after Hutchison had only partially cleared a shot from Torres inside the area.

Gerrard completed his hat-trick in the 72nd minute with a thumping 30-yard drive that wrong-footed Brill after being set up by Riise.

Substitute Dirk Kuyt should have made it 6-0 only to head wide from close range 10 minutes later following a cross from Pennant.

Luton were happy to play out time but at least the cash-strapped club have the promise of a financial windfall and new owners.

Liverpool, meanwhile, can now look forward to a visit from either Swansea or non-league Havant and Waterlooville.

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