Steven Gerrard scored on his first start in more than two months as Liverpool came from behind at Anfield on Friday to beat third-tier club Oldham 5-1 and advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Following three substitute appearances after his recovery from an ankle infection, the England midfielder dispatched a penalty just before halftime to put his team in front against opponents 52 places below Liverpool in the league.
Oldham's Robbie Simpson gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead through a spectacular half-volley from 30 yards, but a deflected equalizer by Craig Bellamy within two minutes drew the hosts level.
Jonjo Shelvey struck his first Liverpool goal in the 68th minute, before substitutes Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing wrapped up the victory late on.
“The scoreline is a bit flattering really,” said Liverpool manager Kevin Dalglish. “Oldham did their club and their manager proud. They created one or two threatening situations for themselves, especially in the first half, so getting back as quickly as we did with the equaliser helped us.
“But the scoreline does not reflect the distance between the two teams on that performance.”
Gerrard also scored in October in his first start after six months out following a groin operation. But he will be hoping history doesn't again repeat itself as he played only one more game before picking up the ankle injury which sidelined him until Boxing Day.
The team is sixth in the Premier League standings and needs Gerrard to help fill the void left by the suspended Luis Suarez ahead of the two-legged semifinal against Manchester City from next week.
It was only Liverpool's fifth win in all competitions at home this season following a disappointing run at Anfield in which numerous points have been dropped in the league, and an upset looked possible when Simpson smashed the ball into the top corner.
After receiving a pass, Simpson took one touch before unleashing a left-footed half-volley which flew past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
But Bellamy's lucky leveler and Gerrard's penalty put the Reds on the way to retaining their unbeaten home record this season.
Shelvey cut in from the right and speculatively aimed for the far post only for the shot to take a huge deflection off Bellamy's chest and leave goalkeeper Alex Cisak helpless.
Gerrard put his side ahead just before the interval when, after Maxi Rodriguez was pushed by Tom Adeyemi, he converted only the second of six penalties the Reds have been awarded this season.
Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Martin Kelly all had chances early in the second half before Shelvey smashed home Bellamy's cross.
Late in the second half Adeyemi appeared to take offence to something shouted from the crowd. Despite reassurance from his teammates, Kuyt and Gerrard, the right back seemed visibly upset.
In the 89th minute, Carroll smashed in a low shot from outside the area two minutes after coming on, before Downing also found the net.
“For us there were a lot of positives to come out of it: Stewart Downing scoring, Andy getting a goal, Jonjo scored and Steven got a penalty,” Daglish said. “They just need games. Every single one them will be better for it.”
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