Gerrard 45' (pen)
It should be illegal to complain when Liverpool score five, including firsts for Shelvey and Downing and a cameo from Carroll off the bench, no matter the opposition or merits of overall performance.
But after 44:59, Liverpool did not look capable of scoring five, let alone winning anywhere near comprehensively, having conceded first after starting the match as the worse side. Whether due to multiple changes to Tuesday's XI, fatigue, or the different shape, Liverpool couldn't get or keep possession, with a deep back-line and far too many misplaced passes when going forward.
Oldham should have taken the lead long before Simpson's wonder strike in the 28th. 137-year-old Shefki Kuqi out-muscled Coates before gliding past Carragher only to blast into the side-netting in the 10th; Adeyimi headed a corner just over four minutes later, far too similar to the second goal conceded at City; and Taylor shot wide in 24th after cutting in and around Aurelio. Simpson's back-to-goal turn and bazooka in the 28th was a formality, no matter its singular brilliance.
But, as the correct cliché goes, goals change games. Two minutes later, Liverpool were level, albeit fortunately. Bellamy released Shelvey on the right; firing after cutting in, the midfielder's shot deflected off Bellamy's chest, wrong-footing Cisek. Liverpool were ascendant for the final 15 minutes of the half, and Maxi, Shelvey, and Bellamy had chances to snatch the lead. Maxi and Shelvey's opportunities three minutes after the equalizer were the best, with the Argentinean's free shot from the spot saved and Shelvey comically slipping just as the rebound presented itself. But Liverpool's second came just before the interval, a quick counter-attack leading to Maxi barged over by Adeyimi when attempting to reach Gerrard's cross. With the captain stepping to the spot, Liverpool broke this season's penalty voodoo, his strike unstoppably hammered in off upper corner of the frame.
A one-goal lead is never safe, and Oldham had off-target chances through goal-scorer Simpson and substitute Parker, but Liverpool were far better in the second half, mainly due to a formation change during the break. Rather than the initial 4-4-2, Bellamy dropped off to the right, with Kuyt up front alone and Shelvey roaming between the lines. The Welshman was a constant danger, presenting cross after cross to Maxi and Kuyt, all spurned. Then, the sadly expected opposition keeper heroics in front of the Kop, as Cisek somehow kept out Kelly's header on a 58th-minute corner.
But in the 68th, someone was finally on hand to convert a Bellamy set-up. In fact, two were. Kuyt released Bellamy down the right, and both Gerrard and Shelvey ran onto his cut-back cross, Shelvey reaching the ball first and slotting past Cisek.
Two goals to the good, Liverpool were on cruise control, and Flanagan and Downing replaced Aurelio and Bellamy with 15-20 minutes left. Carroll's entrance in the 87th appeared to give the birthday boy little time, but ended up opening the floodgates. The striker scored with his second touch, a left-footed rocket from the top of the box reminiscent of his first goal for the club. He should have gotten a second in the 94th when Downing put a cross on a dinner plate only for Carroll to head over. But in karmic retribution, Downing got his first Liverpool goal seconds later, a sweetly volleyed rebound after Cisek saved Flanagan's effort.
Hopefully, this is what Liverpool needed. A bit of adversity, then a goal deluge, including strikes from key players who have notably gone without. What could have been another 2-2 against Northampton turned into another 5-2 against Havant & Waterlooville. Bellamy was absolutely brilliant, even when Liverpool weren't at its best in the first half, then was crucial to Liverpool's better play in the second half. Gerrard surprisingly played 90 minutes, capable of both the rampaging and the sublime, as per usual. Shelvey did more than enough to earn more appearances, impressive in a free role as against Villa.
Yes, passing was wayward and casual at times, Kuyt and Maxi both struggled to finish chances, and Liverpool's second-string defense looked exceptionally rickety, especially in the first half. Having Carragher and Aurelio on either side clearly didn't help Coates, and the back four played notably deeper than in the 11 consecutive matches with Johnson-Skrtel-Agger-Enrique.
But Liverpool scored five, and Liverpool are on to the fourth round. No complaining, and no Homers, allowed. Carling Cup semifinal at City on Wednesday.