With eight minutes remaining and the match drifting towards a 1-1 draw, the Sheffield United striker transformed the proceedings with a highly contentious goal. Nick Montgomerie punted a long ball forward and Alan Quinn flicked it on to Liddell, who looked yards offside. But the referee apparently adjudged a Villa defender to have won the header, because he was allowed to run on and beat Thomas Sørenson with aplomb.
A minute later the tie was over when Liddell got his second and United’s third when Sørenson failed to gather a shot deflected off the legs of Jlloyd Samuel. On paper, this may look like a Cup surprise, but United are on good form and have won four of their past five league games, while Villa, who fielded one of their strongest teams, have won just one in eight.
In a faltering match, it was the home side that produced the better football, their five-man midfield dominating for much of the first half and creating numerous opportunities. Andy Gray could have given United an early lead after good work from Liddell, but was denied by Sørenson, as was Phil Jagielka, who saw his header from a well-worked corner turned around the post.
Villa themselves offered little before the interval. The side are like a box of Black Magic chocolates this season – you never know what you are going to get, though whatever it is, it is liable to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Carlton Cole had three decent chances, shooting over, then wide and when he finally managed to find the target, he also found goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
Villa’s unpredictability was exemplified two minutes after the restart when they took the lead. Lee Hendrie, who endured an anonymous first half, clipped the ball to Gareth Barry who staggeringly outpaced Leigh Bromby before beating Kenny with a quality volley from the edge of the box.
The last time that Barry outsprinted anybody, Showaddywaddy were at the top of the charts and Zammo was a pin up, but if United were shocked, they soon recovered and eight minutes later they were level. John Harley worked a short corner with Liddell before looping a long hanging cross into the box where Danny Cullip poked the ball home after Mark Delaney had missed his clearance.
The match slowed down after the equaliser and looked to be heading for a replay at Villa Park before Liddell’s late double sent Villa tumbling out of the competition at the Third Round stage for the fourth year in succession.