ROVERS bowed out of the FA Cup with their heads held high after losing their quarter-final replay at a sold-out and electric Ewood Park.

Gary Bowyer’s boys have done the club proud in their thrilling run to the last eight and, with the stunning fifth-round success over Stoke City and the 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the initial tie between the teams at Anfield, have given their supporters memories that will live with them for a long time.

And while they were unable to claim a third top-flight scalp, after Stoke and Swansea City, they were still given the standing ovation their efforts so richly deserved at the sound of the full-time whistle.

There is no disgrace in losing to a Liverpool side who, thanks to Philippe Coutinho’s moment of magic, will now take on Premier League rivals Aston Villa in the semi-finals at Wembley on Sunday week.

And whereas there was a feeling of shame the last time Rovers exited the competition at this stage – to Millwall, two years ago, on a soul-destroying night in front of just 8,635 fans – here there was honour in defeat.

But it could so well have been different had it not been for Simon Mignolet.

His superb save denied Alex Baptiste a winner on Merseyside last month and he repeated the trick in East Lancashire with stunning stops from Tom Cairney, Ben Marshall and, incredibly, his opposite number Simon Eastwood at the death.

The paucity of options available to Rovers boss Bowyer came clear before kick-off when he was able to name only 14 established first-teamers in his matchday squad.

But backed by a magnificent support, fired-up by a pre-match soundtrack including 'Underdog' by Kasabian and 'Heroes' by David Bowie, his team held their own in the first half.

And, had Jordan Rhodes snapped up the one true opening that came Rovers’ way, they would have taken a lead into half-time.

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That said it was Liverpool who had more of the opportunities before the break.

The first of which came in the fifth minute when Joe Allen dragged wide of the upright before Raheem Sterling, marshalled expertly by man-of-the-match Adam Henley, rippled the side-netting.

But a moment of hesitancy nearly cost the Reds dear in the 14th minute.

With Mamadou Sakho sleeping, Craig Conway latched on to Rhodes’ flick on. However Sahko recovered in time to block the fit-again winger’s effort behind.

Then it was the turn of Daniel Sturridge to go close, curling a shot that dipped just over the bar.

Eastwood had it covered but Mignolet should have been given no chance in the 27th minute.

The tenacious Lee Williamson sent Marshall scampering away down the left and he cut inside before whipping the ball into the area.

Rhodes’ movement was too good for centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Sakho but his header was poor and over the bar.

Liverpool then seriously tested Rovers’ goal for the first time as a corner was cleared to Coutinho whose scuffed attempt was pushed past the post by Eastwood.

Rovers ended the opening period on the back foot but they burst out of the traps after the restart with Mignolet flying to his left to turn behind a 25-yard strike from Cairney.

And the Belgian international then made an even better save from Conway’s resulting corner as he somehow turned Marshall’s powerful header on to the post after it appeared to clip Allen’s hand

Rovers were unable to maintain the momentum but they were lifted by the arrival of Rudy Gestede in the 65th minute.

The talisman was fit enough only for a place on the bench after hurting his hamstring in Saturday’s 3-0 Championship win at Leeds United.

But he was straight into the action, out-muscling Lovren and playing in Rhodes, whose left-footer was deflected behind by Toure.

It came against the run of play, then, when the Reds went in front 20 minutes from time.

A corner broke back to Coutinho and he played a sharp one-two with Jordan Henderson before driving the ball in off the far post.

And it could have got worse had Sturridge, Ricky Lambert and Sterling not wasted good opportunities.

That gave Rovers a chance and in the final minute of injury-time Eastwood came up for a Tommy Spurr long throw and fired in a shot that Mignolet gathered at the second attempt.

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