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Gerrard treble gives Benitez a boost

Rafa Benitez finally got some good news as Steven Gerrard’s hat-trick helped Liverpool cruise into the FA Cup fourth round with a 5-0 win against crisis-ridden League One outfit Luton on Tuesday.

Benitez’s position looks increasingly untenable after Liverpool’s American owners admitted they held talks with Jurgen Klinsmann over the manager’s job late last year.

But the Spaniard at least avoided an embarrassing third-round replay defeat thanks to Gerrard’s treble and goals from Ryan Babel and Sami Hyypia at Anfield.

Liverpool’s stars ran riot in the second half and advanced to a tie against Conference South club Havant and Waterlooville or League One Swansea in the next round.

Luton had outplayed and outfought Liverpool for long periods when they drew 1-1 at Kenilworth Road. Benitez’s side, captained by Jamie Carragher on his 500th appearance, didn’t take them for granted this time.

The breakthrough arrived in first-half stoppage time when Fernando Torres fed Babel and the Dutch winger’s low shot arrowed home.

Gerrard scored from close range in the 52nd minute before Hyypia glanced in a header five minutes later.

A 64th-minute strike from Gerrard made it four and the England midfielder completed his first hat-trick for over two years in the 72nd minute.

Benitez refused to be drawn on his future, saying: ”I wasn’t thinking much about it. We were really thinking about this game because we knew it was important to progress in the FA Cup.

”I’m really pleased because we won 5-0 and played a good game,” added the implacable Spaniard.

Robbie Keane’s 99th goal for Tottenham gave his side a 1-0 win at Reading.

Keane struck in the first half at the Madejski Stadium to earn Juande Ramos’s men a trip to Manchester United.

Dimitar Berbatov was sidelined with flu as Ramos made five changes but Keane made sure the Bulgaria striker wasn’t missed.

Spurs had the better of it from the moment Keane pounced from close range in the 15th minute. Younes Kaboul had driven Jermaine Jenas’s corner against the crossbar and Keane was perfectly placed to slot home.

Managerless Bury stunned Norwich as the League Two side beat their Championship opponents 2-1 at Gigg Lane.

Bury sacked Chris Casper and director of football Keith Alexander on Monday and the decision appeared to work wonders.

They went ahead in the 18th minute through Ben Futcher.

Andy Bishop increased Bury’s lead in the 61st minute and, although veteran Dion Dublin gave Norwich hope in the 86th minute, the hosts held on to earn a trip to Southampton.

Championship leaders West Bromwich held their nerve in a penalty shoot-out against Charlton to set up a fourth-round clash at Peterborough.

Tony Mowbray’s team blew a two-goal lead as they were held 2-2 after extra-time at the Hawthorns, but Charlton missed two of their five spot-kicks in the shoot out and Albion won 4-3.

The hosts took the lead in the 14th minute when Roman Bednar met Zoltan Gera’s header with a tap-in. Albion looked certain to go through when James Morrison added the second goal in the 51st minute.

But Darren Ambrose reduced the deficit in the 64th minute and Chris Dickson sent the tie to extra-time with a 90th-minute equaliser.

Millwall, 2004 FA Cup finalists, will travel to Coventry after beating League One rivals Walsall 2-1 at the New Den.

Kenny Jackett’s side went ahead in the 15th minute when Ben May drove home from the edge of the area. Gary Alexander put Millwall in control when he scored four minutes into the second half.

Alex Nicholls pulled one back for the visitors in the 61st minute but it failed to stop Walsall suffering their first defeat in 19 matches.

Sheffield Wednesday’s clash against Premiership tail-enders Derby was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Hillsborough. Derby’s fellow Premiership strugglers Fulham’s trip to Bristol Rovers and Barnet’s tie against Swindon suffered the same fate. — Sapa-AFP

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Steve Griffiths
Guest Author

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