BLACKBURN - Philippe Coutinho produced a moment of magic to earn Liverpool a much-needed 1-0 victory at second-tier Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup quarter-final replay on Wednesday.
The Brazilian fired in an accurate low drive in the 70th minute at Ewood Park to earn Brendan Rodgers' side an FA Cup semi-final date with Aston Villa at Wembley on April 19.
"Over the two games, it was a difficult tie," said Liverpool manager Rodgers. "They are strong and well organised. We knew it would be difficult. But my players were brilliant."
Coutinho seems to enjoy Cup replays in this part of north-western England, having also scored the winner against Bolton in the fourth round.
It was hardly comfortable and it was not pretty, but for Rodgers, this victory was more than welcome.
Since Blackburn held out for a goal-less draw at Anfield in their first encounter a month ago, Liverpool have seen their hopes of a place in the Premier League's top four fade, with two defeats in three matches.
By Rodgers' admission, it had placed extra significance on this competition, which the Reds have not won since 2006, and particularly with the final falling on the day that departing captain Steven Gerrard celebrates his 35th birthday.
"I made the point to the players if we could get through to the semi-final, it could give us a kick on in the league," Rodgers added. "We have had two poor performances and been criticised. Tonight, we performed very well."
Coutinho's poor right-wing corner was volleyed away in the 70th minute, but the ball came back to him.
The former Inter Milan playmaker passed to Jordan Henderson, darted into space to receive the return ball, and arrowed a low drive in off the far post.
Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer waved his arms, urging his side to lift themselves again, and there was time for one last close call in stoppage time.
Simon Eastwood went up to attack Adam Henley's long throw-in and managed to slam in a shot on the turn, but Simon Mignolet denied his fellow goalkeeper a famous equaliser to safeguard Liverpool's place at Wembley.
"Our lads gave it a right good go," said Bowyer.
"They had a taste for it and it was a great atmosphere in the stadium tonight."