With all the pre-match talk centered around the epic cup tie of two years ago, and whether the match would live up to expectations this time around the opening period of the game did its best to answer that question.
Inside the first 25 seconds Liverpool made their intentions clear when Ryan Babel forced a good save from Dean Brill, who dived low to his right to keep the ball out after the Dutch winger had cut inside and beaten Chris Perry and Keith Keane to work a shooting opportunity. The Hatters though were keen to show their Premiership opponents that they were as capable of creating their own chances and when Dave Edwards picked up the ball without a Liverpool defender in sight, most people in the ground were holding their breath. The Welsh international struck his effort well enough but he was denied by a block from Charles Itandje. The ball bounced loosely in the Reds box and Calvin Andrew hooked the ball over his shoulder while Itandje was grounded however the ball wouldn’t come down quick enough and his effort ended up looping over the bar.
Peter Crouch then volleyed over from the edge of the box and two minutes later, Dirk Kyut drove over the bar. John Arne Riise then tried his luck from distance but the shot didn’t trouble Luton and sailed wide of the target.
Then with seemingly nowhere to go in the corner, Drew Tablot dropped his shoulder and sent Sami Hyypia the wrong way and in doing so, created space for himself by the byline. However Itandje managed to get across and block his pull back and the danger was averted. Midway through the half, Matthew Spring mis-struck a long range effort and the ball whistled past Talbot, who had he been able to make any contact would have turned it goalwards and could have caused Hyypia problems.
Luton’s midfield were growing in stature the more the game wore on and with David Bell and Darren Currie causing trouble down the flanks at Kenilworth Road, the Hatters were proving a real match for their opponents, under the watchful eye of England manager Fabio Cappello who was at Kenilworth Road for the game.
Crouch then had a couple of efforts in as many minutes, the first was dealt with by Brill and the second went wide of the far post as Liverpool looked to rediscover the penetrative football of the opening stages of the game.
Eight minutes before half time Talbot skipped past a challenge in front of the Liverpool back four however as he planted his standing leg to take a shot at goal he lost his footing and fired well wide of the target. Currie and Talbot then flashed the ball across the goal after making space for themselves, and both crosses only needed the slightest of touches but they eluded everyone in the box on both occasions.
An entertaining first half came to a close when Bell wrapped his foot around a free kick from twenty-five yards out after Edwards had been up ended however his shot failed to trouble Itandje in the Liverpool goal.
The second half action got underway when Kuty rifled in a low shot across the face of the goal that eluded Yossi Benayoun and Babel at the far post.
Brill then had to be on his toes to get a hand to a deflected Riise drive after initially being wrong footed to keep the score at 0-0. Currie then lifted a cross into the box at the second attempt but Talbot could only direct his header over the bar.
Luton survived when Babel nicked the ball of the toe of Brill after chasing down a back pass on 56 minutes, the Hatters defence getting back to clear the danger. Three minutes later Andrew fired over at the other end as the game tried to maintain the promise of the first half. Ten minutes passed before the next real opportunity of note came when Currie struck a difficult volley from Keith Keane’s cross which went just wide of the far post.
After 73 minutes Chris Perry misjudged a header and substitute Andrei Voronin pounced, however he couldn’t find a way past Brill who was quickly off his line to close down the threat and narrow the angle. The ball though deflected in to the path of Crouch who slid in to slot home from close range and open the scoring against the run of play.
The lead though was short lived as another dangerous cross from Talbot from the left forced Riise to lunge in ahead of Edwards at the near post in an attempt to clear but all the defender was able to do was to turn the ball past Itandje’s near post for the equalising goal.
Eleven minutes from time Riise scampered clear as he sought to make amends however he pulled his shot across the goal and narrowly wide. Both teams continued to press for a winning goal and at the other end, Andrew won a header on the edge of the Liverpool box to tee-up Edwards to try his luck with a dipping volley which whistled frustratingly over the bar for the Hatters.
That though was the end of the chances and Luton Town had done enough to earn a money-spinning replay at Anfield after a spirited display at Kenilworth Road.
Luton: Brill; Keane, Coyne, Perry, Goodall; Bell, Edwards, Spring, Currie; Talbot, Andrew.
Subs not used: Hutchinson, Jackson, Robinson, O’Leary, Furlong.
Liverpool: Itandje; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Benayoun (sub El Zhar 86), Alonso (sub Mascherano 74), Lucas, Babel (sub Voronin 71); Crouch, Kuyt.
Subs not used: Hobbs, Martin.
Bookings: Alonso (45), Riise (69), Hyypia (83)
Referee: Mr. H. Webb