STEWART DOWNING is desperate to avoid an unwanted semi-final final hat-trick – after admitting Wembley has kickstarted his Liverpool FC career.
Downing booked Kenny Dalglish’s side a second appearance at the national stadium inside six weeks with the winner in Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final win over Stoke City at Anfield.
The 27-year-old is now in line for a third appearance in the last four of the competition, having lost twice while at Middlesbrough.
And the England international has revealed the pain of falling at the penultimate hurdle has made him determined to avoid another failure when either Everton or Sunderland line up in opposition.
“I have lost a couple of semi-finals and it’s the worst place to lose,” said Downing. “If you get to the semi-final and lose, I always say that you may as well have got knocked out in the first round because all the hard work means nothing.
“I played against West Ham (for Middlesbrough) in 2006. How we lost that one I will never know. And I was on the bench (in 2002) when Arsenal beat us 1-0 with an own goal.
“But I’m confident whoever we get, we can go there and get a result. You can see the confidence in the team, there is competition for places and everyone is on their toes, itching to play well.”
The Football Association confirmed yesterday that Liverpool’s semi-final will take place on Saturday, April 14 so not to clash with the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster the following day.
Dalglish’s men will hope for a Wembley repeat after their Carling Cup final triumph against Cardiff City last month.
Downing produced a man-of-the-match performance and scored in the decisive penalty shoot-out that afternoon, and the winger believes it has proven the turning point of his season after indifferent form following his summer arrival from Aston Villa.
“The Carling Cup final was a decisive moment for me,” he added. “It was a good performance and I was pleased with everything, from the penalty right the way through."