Season | 2003-04 |
Matchday | #26 |
League Game | #21 |
Premier League Match-week | #20 |
Manager Game | #26 |
Saturday, 10 January 2004
Premier League | Away | Liverpool | Anfield | 43,711 |
Manager | David O’Leary |
KO | 15.00 |
Referee | Graham Barber |
HT Score | 0-1 |
FT Score | 0-1 |
FT Result | Lost |
Last 5 Games | DWLWL |
League Position | 10th | -1 |
Line Up |
GK Thomas Sörensen |
RB Mark Delaney |
CB Olof Mellberg |
FB Jlloyd Samuel |
M Gareth Barry |
M Lee Hendrie | SUB OFF | 68' |
M Gavin McCann | BOOKED | 34' | SUB OFF | 40' |
W Peter Whittingham |
CF Juan Pablo Ángel |
F Darius Vassell | SUB OFF | 46' |
CF Dion Dublin |
M Thomas Hitzlsperger BOOKED | 87' | for M Gavin McCann | 40’ |
F Stefan Moore for F Darius Vassell | 46’ |
CB Ronny Johnsen for M Lee Hendrie | 68’ |
Unused Substitutes |
GK Stefan Postma
RB Ulises de la Cruz
Yellow | Gavin McCann | 34’ |
Yellow | Thomas Hitzlsperger | 87’ |
Team Stats |
Starting XI Average Age | 25.99 |
Oldest Player | CF Dion Dublin | 34.74 |
Youngest Player | W Peter Whittingham | 19.35 |
Sunday, 11 January, 2004
Match report Ian Whittell
Delaney helps Reds cause
A 1-0 victory, which may not have matched the import or impact of the midweek win at Chelsea by the same scoreline, kept Liverpool heading in the right direction in the increasingly unpredictable contest for fourth place and an invitation to Champions League football next season.
It is a sign of lowered expectations at Anfield that such a goal is now acceptable, thoughts of league titles apparently consigned to the history books, but at the end of a week in which Gérard Houllier’s long-term employment was again questioned, three points were needed and duly delivered.
Those two victories should not detract from the problems at Liverpool, or the gulf between them and the division’s three leading clubs at present. But given the patent mediocrity of the clubs outside those places this season, Liverpool have as good a chance as any of claiming that fourth spot.
Certainly, even allowing for the fickle nature of football supporters, this morning’s league table will in no way silence those shareholders who voiced their concerns about Houllier at Monday’s annual general meeting. But the manner of Liverpool’s goal yesterday may suggest that that most valuable of sporting allies, lady luck, is at least on the beleaguered Frenchman’s side.
An uninspired opening to an underwhelming game culminated in the 36th-minute goal. Harry Kewell’s right- wing cross was met by Emile Heskey, whose wayward header struck defender Mark Delaney, under pressure from Danny Murphy, and was deflected into the Villa goal.
‘Danny told me he was going to score then the defender came across him and it hit him on the backside,’ said Houllier. “I don’t think we’re playing particularly well at the moment, but we’re scrapping for results.
‘This was a game of mental stamina after our game against Chelsea and I expected the start to be exactly as it was. When you have been on an emotional high, as we were at Chelsea, you can expect a bit of a dip and I told the boys to be aware of that.
‘Maybe that’s why it was difficult at the start, but I thought the second half was much better and we created enough chances to kill the game off. We just lacked a bit of accuracy and a bit of a spark, in front of goal.’
Despite the flat opening, Liverpool should still have taken the lead through Michael Owen, the indirect source of another of Houllier’s headaches last week, when the England striker’s representatives issued an unsubtle warning that their client needs to be playing Champions League football next season. With summer, at which point the England striker will be a year from free agency, the crucial time for contract negotiations, the subtext was clear.
Thus, Owen starting his first game for six weeks after overcoming a series of shin, ankle and thigh injuries, seemed timely, at least until his astonishing miss.
El-Hadji Diouf’s right-wing cross was met by a strong challenge from Heskey, beating Thomas Sorensen to the ball. After Kewell had turned it back into the six-yard area, Owen somehow contrived to strike it on to the crossbar from his position practically on the goalline. It will be difficult for Liverpool to achieve the Champions League place Owen apparently covets if their best player
continues to squander such chances.
Perhaps Liverpool would have been more relaxed and the game more entertaining had that gone in. Instead, as Villa manager David O’Leary noted: ‘They looked edgy, even in the first half. I got the impression that at half-time they would have liked the game to be over. They would have settled for 1-0.’
An impressive second-half display from Diouf, including an audacious trick, where he flicked the ball over his head and that of Jlloyd Samuel to beat the defender, was behind the improvement mentioned by Houllier, but it was hardly scintillating stuff.
Heskey shot wildly over the bar; Dietmar Hamann likewise from a long free-kick; Heskey then bulldozed half the length of the field before being stopped by Dion Dublin’s well-timed tackle; Kewell shot into the side-netting from a promising position; and substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle ran around aimlessly.
‘Liverpool have a different agenda to us,’ added O’Leary. ‘They’ve got to be winning home games like this if they’re Champions League stuff.
‘Today, it took a flukey goal, but we got one in the week, so good luck to them.’ Houllier will wish likewise.