If Liverpool’s highly paid group of stars were under any illusions of this being simply another tie, these illusions were well and truly smashed by the piercing noise generated by the Elland Road faithful. The 38,000 strong crowd paid testament to the stature of the fixture despite the widening gap between the two great clubs.
Even the staunchest fans of both clubs will struggle to remember the figures of Bill Shankly and Don Revie leading their respective teams out in the 1965 FA Cup final. Goals from Liverpool’s two prestigious marksmen, Roger Hunt and Ian St. John, helped the Reds to an inaugural Cup victory.
It was the precursor to an intense rivalry between the pair which has been transformed over the last forty years. Indeed, during the 1970’s a clash between Leeds and Liverpool would invariably be a showcase for some of the most talented players in the land.
Illustrious names like Bremmer, Dalglish, Giles, and Keegan became synonymous with the encounter. Further down the timeline great names like Cantona, Yeboah, and Viduka all made lasting impressions on this fixture.
Nowadays the sad demise of Leeds United has resulted in the once mighty Whites playing the likes of Brentford and Exeter in League One. Meanwhile Liverpool is contesting for the title and travelling around the continent.
Despite the gap in class between the two sides, Liverpool would have preferred an easier passage into the fourth round. Flying high at the top of League One, with the prolific Jermaine Beckford in their ranks, and cheered on by a passionate crowd, Leeds would be a difficult proposition for the under strength Premiership side.
Indeed, Rafa Benitez opted to rest some of his big name stars. It allowed the likes of Jay Spearing, Phillip Degen and David N’Gog to throw their collective hats into the first team ring while joined by the experience of Jamie Carragher and Javier Mascherano.
The first half was dominated by a sprightly Leeds side. Jermaine Beckford looked intent on proving his goal-scoring ability, inspired perhaps by Zavon Hines who terrorised Carragher at Upton Park last Saturday.
The Elland Road faithful willed their team on. Simon Grayson’s men responded. Snodgrass surged down the right hand side thrusting in a vicious cross into the Liverpool box. It was met by an unmarked Doyle, but the midfielder headed wide.
Minutes later the home side had the ball in the net. Michilak rose highest to meet a cross which evaded the grasp of Cavalieri only to be ruled out by the assistant for offside. It was a questionable decision as Beckford was adjuged to have been ahead of play.
Despite the early warnings, Liverpool failed to stamp their authority on proceedings. The midfield looked dysfunctional. David N’Gog was isolated up front, despite his best efforts to create on opening for himself.
Liverpool were fortunate to be level as the sides trudged in at the break.
Early into the second half Beckford manufactured a couple of chances. The best opportunity came when the League One top scorer outpaced Kyrgiakos and found himself one on one with Cavelieri. He failed to apply the finish as his shot hit the chest of the Brazilian keeper.
It wasn’t long before another chance came his way. Johnson's cross found Beckford who hooked the ball just over the bar from six yards out, much to the relief of the Liverpool defence.
Javier Mascherano escaped punishment as he recklessly swung his elbow into Beckford’s neck. The forward fell to the turf in a heap. Despite Alan Wiley having a perfect view, the incident went unpunished with the crowd treated to Mascherano’s own attempt at ballroom dancing as the midfielder protested his innocence.
The Argentina captain played a key role in the only goal of the night. His hopeful punt into the box found N’Gog. The Frenchman controlled expertly, swivelling on his left foot to face the goal, before carefully stroking the ball past Higgs from 12 yards.
Jay Spearing had a penalty claim turned down as the away side began to put Leeds under increasing pressure. The arrival of Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel saw Liverpool conserve their slender lead.
There was no five odd minutes of added time on this occasion as Alan Wiley called time on a pulsating tie. Liverpool will be content to have overcome a dogged Leeds United side and progress to the fourth round of the Carling Cup.