The FA Cup is a competition that has brought much success for Liverpool as seven-time holders respectively.
When Charlton Athletic were announced as fifth round opponents in 1996, you could hardly blame Reds fans for being overly optimistic.
This was a Liverpool side that boasted exciting young talents like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, as well as experienced players that understood a good cup run like captain on the day John Barnes and Ian Rush who started on the bench. Not to mention the fact they were current holders of the Coca-Cola Cup.
Striker Stan Collymore started up front alongside Fowler as the two continued to build a formidable partnership following his arrival from Nottingham Forest the previous summer.
They’d be facing a Charlton side under Alan Curbishley’s management, including the likes of Lee Bowyer, a man probably more famous for a moment he’d rather forget (Kieron Dyer and Newcastle fans probably share that sentiment). The tie would take place at Anfield in front of almost 37,000 spectators.
Charlton grabbed the first real chance of the game due to Jason McAteer’s poor clearance off Mark Robson’s cross falling to Bowyer’s feet but he failed to strike with any real conviction.
McAteer would then make his mark down the other end, forcing a punch clear by Charlton ‘keeper Salmon and the goalkeeper managed to impressively save Fowler’s rebound. He leapt like a salmon, if you will.
Fowler would continue to trouble the Charlton defence early on and got his reward in the 12th minute, superbly getting onto the end of a McAteer cross. Liverpool should have doubled their lead before the half was up as Collymore squandered two good chances to put the game to bed, the second the result of smart linkup play by Fowler and McManaman.
15 minutes into the second half and finally the goal came for Collymore. He made no mistake this time, getting on the end of Michael Thomas’ through ball and bagging his 14th of the season.
Sensing blood, the Liverpool attack created chance after chance but Charlton keeper Salmon was determined to prevent his side from conceding any more. Ian Rush almost made it three after coming off the bench to a rousing reception from the Kop with just over 10 minutes to go.
It was revealed that he’d be leaving at the end of the season, so a strong cup run would be very ideal as a send off for the legendary striker.
Very much unexpectedly and against the run of play, substitute Kim Grant beat David James from 20 yards out, looping the ball over the Liverpool keeper to give Charlton the belief they could muster a result out of nothing.
It would be a nervy ending to the game but Liverpool had the quality to keep the score at 2-1 and see the game out, securing their place in the quarter final against Leeds United.
Though Charlton didn’t win the tie, they did manage to win Liverpool manager Roy Evans’ admiration. Evans stated “I like the way Charlton play. They are entertaining and adventurous. We didn’t kill the game off like we should have done but Charlton are a team that never give up”