POOL KEEP CUP DREAM ALIVE
By Alex Livie
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The draw for the semi-finals was made immediately after the final whistle, and Liverpool will visit either Crystal Palace or Sunderland in the first leg, while Manchester City or Ipswich will host Birmingham in the first encounter of their tie.
The first legs are due to be played on the week commencing January 8, while the second legs are set for a fortnight later.
The Anfield side are only the second team into the last four due to the adverse weather conditions, but their passage was never secure due to a positive performance by Fulham.
However, Owen produced the goods at the second attempt, with Smicer and Barmby putting the icing on the cake to give Gerard Houllier`s side a real opportunity of earning some silverware for the dusty Liverpool trophy cabinet.
Liverpool started brightly, Smicer broke down the right and whipped in a fine cross, but Emile Heskey could not set himself and headed over the bar.
Igor Biscan nearly marked his first full game with a goal, but his snap-shot was deflected wide by Chris Coleman.
Fulham, however, quickly settled into a smooth rhythm, passing the ball confidently and looking every inch the Premiership side that they so desperately want to be next season.
On 13 minutes, Liverpool survived a real scare, with Sami Hyypia selling Sander Westerveld short with a back-pass, but Lee Clark did not have the pace to make a clean contact on the ball.
Robbie Fowler, who kept his place despite question marks about his fitness and form, showed a glimpse of his undoubted talent with a jinking run and chip that just drifted over the bar.
Moments before the break, Danny Murphy set Heskey away, but the England international lacked conviction in front of goal and Maik Taylor was able to make a simple save.
At the start of the second half, Jean Tigana`s side dominated play and Louis Saha showed why he is among the country`s top-scorers with a powerful run, but his shot was deflected over. Bjarni Goldbaek then forced a fine low save from Westerveld, and it appeared that the Premiership side were struggling to keep Fulham at bay.
The game then started to ebb and flow. Liverpool had a fine chance through Fowler but were denied and Fulham broke swiftly through Saha and Fabrice Fernandez, but Stephane Henchoz made a superb saving tackle to avert the danger.
Liverpool twice nearly stole the game in the dying moments. Firstly, Biscan played Smicer clear and he rounded Taylor, but he was forced wide and shot into the side netting. Secondly, Biscan was again involved, winning a free-kick that Murphy thumped against the woodwork.
The home side dominated play in the extra period and their greater attacking threat was rewarded on the stroke of half-time, when Smicer latched onto a long ball and crossed expertly for Owen who headed against Andy Melville, but had the presence of mind to slot the rebound into the top corner.
As Fulham pressed, gaps appeared and Markus Babbel and Barmby created space for Smicer and he calmly slotted the ball into the top corner, his first ever goal at Anfield.
In the last minute, Barmby broke clear to make it three. A scoreline, but not a result, that flattered Liverpool.
Fulham can be proud of their efforts, but Tigana`s side have more pressing engagements in securing their Premiership status.