Football: Reds End That Home Hoodoo; LIVERPOOL...........2 Diouf 44, Owen 67 BOLTON................0

Sunday Mirror (London, England), March 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

Football: Reds End That Home Hoodoo; LIVERPOOL...........2 Diouf 44, Owen 67 BOLTON................0


Byline: Simon Mullock

LIVERPOOL finally brought an end to their Anfield depression, but once again Gerard Houllier will be left trying to argue that the ends justify the means.

As with last week's Worthington Cup Final triumph over Manchester United, the Reds were left relying on resolute defence at one end and the quality of Michael Owen at the other.

Owen set up the first goal for El-Hadji Diouf just before half-time after Bolton had threatened to give the Reds more grief on Merseyside soil.

And the England striker finished off Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened side himself by hitting the net for the fourth successive game with a typically crafted 67th-minute second.

The win lifted Liverpool up to sixth place in the table and ended a woeful run which had seen the Kop go seven home Premiership games without celebrating victory.

Now Houllier will be looking for his men to push on into the top four to grab a ticket for the Champions League.

Effective it certainly was, but pretty it will never be as long as Liverpool rely on these smash-and-grab methods.

But if Liverpool are to answer their manager's call for a late-season push into the top four then there's little doubt that Houllier's philosophy must change.

Manchester United apart, teams have wised up to Liverpool's lightning breaks - especially at Anfield.

And even last week's triumph in Cardiff hasn't signalled a change of emphasis.

Bolton were allowed to dominate for long spells, especially in the first half and Allardyce and his men travelled back down the M62 arguing they were worth much more than this defeat - and that Diouf's opener should have been ruled offside.

And for all Houllier's arguments about the merits of Liverpool's style, the bottom line is that he doesn't possess a single player with the technique or imagination of Wanderers pair Youri Djorkaeff or Jay-Jay Okocha.

Certainly if Owen had either the Frenchman or Nigerian operating alongside him, he wouldn't be left to live off the long-ball scraps that have become his staple diet.

Bolton would have been out of sight if they had possessed someone with Owen's killer instinct even before Liverpool posed anything resembling a threat to the visitors.

Houllier was forced to make two changes to the team that started last week's Worthington Cup Final in Cardiff.

Emile Heskey was out with a hamstring strain and Stephane Henchoz will be missing for a six weeks after undergoing surgery for a calf problem.

That prompted the Frenchman to push El-Hadji Diouf alongside Owen in attack, with Vladimir Smicer coming into the team in midfield.

Djimi Traore replaced Henchoz alongside Sami Hyypia in the heart of the Reds' defence and the young Frenchman, who has so often been found wanting at the highest level, was to be the home side's most impressive performer at the back. He grew in confidence from the moment he produced a brilliant early interception to cut out Okocha's pass just as it looked to be arrowing onto the boot of Djorkaeff as he ghosted into the Liverpool box.

Liverpool escaped again when Bernard Mendy outpaced John Arne Riise down the right only to see his cross bounce off Hyypia and across the six-yard box to safety.

And as both Liverpool and Bolton fans looked on in some disbelief, it was Allardyce's strugglers that continued to hold the upper hand.

Maybe they shouldn't have been surprised. Bolton's last outing was also against Manchester United - and only a late equaliser from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a fortnight earlier prevented Allardyce's men from racking up a prize double over Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

The Bolton manager made one change to his team, with Salva Ballesta - a beat-the-deadline signing from Valencia - coming in for his debut in place of the injured Henrik Pederson.

The Spaniard looked a little short of both fitness and confidence, though, and much of Bolton's excellent approach work was wasted. …

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