Reds relief after scare from part-timers

Rafa Benitez has paid tribute to Havant and Waterlooville after his team's 5-2 victory took them through to the 5th round of the FA Cup.

updated: January 31, 2008 09:11 IST
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Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has paid tribute to the non-league players of Havant and Waterlooville after his team's 5-2 victory took them through to the fifth round of the FA Cup at Anfield.

The team from the Conference South twice took the lead in an incredible first half with goals from Richard Pacquette and Alfie Potter.

In between, Brazilian Lucas equalised and Yossi Benyoun scored an important second equaliser just before half-time before going on to complete a 15-minute hat-trick after the restart.

Peter Crouch's 90th minute tap-in gave the scoreline a harsh appearance for a team 123 places below Liverpool in the Football League pyramid.

"They will have fantastic memories after this game," said Benitez. "The atmosphere was good and it was fantastic for them to be here. It was ever better for them to score one and two goals at Anfield.

"The FA Cup is like this, it's a fantastic competition. You can see a team progressing through the rounds and playing at Anfield even though they are five divisions below. That's how good, how amazing the FA Cup is.

"We knew they would work hard, we watched videos and knew they were a physically hard-working team but also we knew they couldn't keep the high tempo going."

Benitez claimed he had never feared an embarrassing exit from the competition, which would have severely tested the truce that has emerged between him and the club's American owners in the last few days.

"Even at 2-1 I had confidence, honestly. The question is, we needed to improve the movement and passing. For me, it was just scoring the second goal, drawing level and starting again with a different mentality. The first half was really disappointing but the second half was much better.

"You must give credit to them. They started really well, scored a goal and so there was always hope for them. We needed to work really hard and in the end it was a professional job.

"In the first half, I was not happy with the defending. We knew it could be a corner or free-kick that brought the chance they were looking for and that is what happened.

"We needed to work really hard and the second half was much better, we were attacking and playing better but you must give credit to them because they were doing everything. They were working hard and playing with a lot of hope."

Havant manager Shaun Gale did not conceal his pride in the way his players performed on one of the biggest stages in world football.

"To come to Anfield and produce a performance of that magnitude, I'm immensely proud of the players," said Gale. "People laughed when we said we would come to Anfield and have a go. But we well and truly came and had a go. That's the only way we can play.

"We have had a fantastic run so for it to end at a stadium like this, you accept that. We frustrated them in the first half but, unfortunately, in the end class has shone through.

"I will remember everything about this day. It has been fantastic for the players. I told them to enjoy it but that they were not coming here for a party, they can have a party afterwards.

"When you get a standing ovation from the whole ground on the final whistle, that sums it all up and the lads deserved it. It has been a fantastic achievement and I'm proud to be their manager."

Meanwhile, Pacquette -- a truant officer by trade -- will long remember scoring in front of The Kop and the day his team almost pulled off the most incredible upset in FA Cup history.

Pacquette said: "It was an amazing feeling to score in front of the Kop. Even going out there, I was emotional. When I heard all the noise I started to fill up.

"I knew I had a good performance in me and it's happened. Our club photographer said he had a dream in which I scored, and I did! Not many clubs come here and take the lead twice so it's a proud day for us all."