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BBC Sport's Alan Green
reports from the Britannia Stadium
 real 14k

Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"The movement and passing, everything was there."
 real 14k

banner Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 23:23 GMT
Liverpool blast eight at Stoke
Danny Murphy and Robbie Folwer
Danny Murphy helps Robbie Fowler celebrate his hat-trick
Stoke City 0-8 Liverpool

Robbie Fowler grabbed a hat-trick as Liverpool strolled into the last eight of the Worthington Cup, trampling hapless Stoke into the ground on their way.

Though they battled hard, Second Division Stoke could not prevent the visitors strolling through their defences at will as the Reds chalked up their biggest ever away win.

Fowler had taken a back seat in proceedings, content to notch just one goal in the opening half dozen.

But by the end he was walking away with the match-ball and the home side were left wondering what had hit them.

Stoke probably felt the backlash of the last four or five weeks when we have played quite well without getting the rewards
  Gerard Houllier, Liverpool manager

Gerard Houllier's side remain on course to reach the final of a competition Liverpool won four times on the trot in the early 1980s, but will face a tougher task against Fulham at Anfield in the last eight.

However, the French manager still has much to ponder as he continues the pursuit of silverware which has not adorned the Anfield trophy cabinet since 1995.

Yet even this trip to the Potteries could not disguise the cracks which have appeared in their defence this season.

Mixed with their clinically executed goals were the kind of schoolboy errors which continue to undermine the Reds' challenge for a Champions League berth.

Markus Babbel
Markus Babbel salutes his goal at the Britannia

With Emile Heskey, Nick Barmby and Dietmar Hamann on the bench, Houllier clearly thought he could win the match with something to spare.

The overall outcome proved Houllier correct as Stoke had no answer to a series of devastating Gary McAllister corners.

However, the contest could have taken on an entirely different complexion had Peter Thorne taken the early gift presented to him by visitors keeper Pegguy Arphexad.

With previous first choice Sander Westerveld looking on, Arphexad dallied in making a routine clearance and allowed Thorne to rob him with a block tackle.

Thorne hits a post

The Liverpool defence streamed back from the half-way line in disbelief but were still yards away from Thorne as he pounced on the loose ball and took aim at an empty net.

Inexplicably, instead of firing Stoke into a shock lead, Thorne slammed his shot against a post.

With their four-year-old ground packed to capacity for the first time, an early goal would have settled Stoke's nerves after their FA Cup defeat by Nuneaton on Saturday and also piled the pressure on Liverpool.

Instead, the Premiership side immediately sauntered to the other end of the field and took the lead themselves.

I warned people what might happen. At 0-0 we had an empty net to aim at and still couldn't score
  Stoke manager Gudjon Thordarson

Fowler provided the ammunition with a low left wing cross, Christian Ziege the close range finish as he split the gap between defence and keeper.

Kyle Lightbourne spurned a quick-fire opportunity to equalise when he struck a weak shot against Arphexad and gallantly Stoke continued to press.

To their cost, they found chances have to be taken and within 13 minutes, all hope evaporated.

Markus Babbel's long punt forward was disastrously allowed to bounce and Vladimir Smicer clipped a first time shot into the corner.

Babbel scored himself on Liverpool's next attack when Stoke failed to deal with a McAllister corner and Fowler's overhead kick found him at the far post.

With City begging for mercy, the visitors struck again.

Sami Hyypia flicked on another McAllister corner to Fowler who, unmarked, nodded home number four.

If Stoke thought Liverpool would ease off after the break, they were sadly mistaken.

Though Steve Wright was given his debut alongside another first-timer Richie Partridge who had also started the game, the Reds were in no mood to ease off.

They did allow Stoke 15 minutes of respite, the Second Division side forcing the pace as they had done at the start, encouraged by some more slipshod defending.

But just before the hour Hyypia converted another McAllister corner and the whirlwind returned.

Fowler broke clear down the left hand side and unselfishly squared to Danny Murphy to tap into an empty net.

But with 10 minutes remaining, Fowler decided it was time to remind temporary England coach Peter Taylor why the Kop-ites regard him as the best striker in the country.

In a similar position to where he had previously passed, Fowler this time stroked into the corner.

And, after Barmby had been brought down in the box, he quickly grabbed the ball to complete his hat-trick and end a thoroughly miserable night for the home side.

Stoke: Muggleton, Hansson, Dorigo, Mohan, Gunnarsson, Gudjonsson, Kavanagh, Risom, Clarke, Thorne, Lightbourne. Subs: Petty, Thordarson, Neal, Goodfellow, Kristinsson.

Liverpool: Arphexad, Henchoz, Ziege, Babbel, Hyypia, Smicer, Murphy, McAllister, Carragher, Fowler, Partridge. Subs: Heskey, Westerveld, Hamann, Barmby, Wright.

Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay)

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