|Saturday 4th October 2003
LIVERPOOL 1-2 ARSENAL
|After this game: Pos 7th Pl 6 Pts 11|
|MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal|
It took Arsenal a long time to quell the Liverpool fire, but when they did they purred to victory and stamped their quality and class all over this Anfield showdown.
Harry Kewell put Liverpool ahead in a first half they dominated, and only an unfortunate Sami Hyypia own goal gave the worried Gunners parity at the break.
But Liverpool were treated to a master class in the second period, lost Michael Owen with a leg injury and then saw Robert Pires crown Arsenal's day with a brilliant curling winner.
Both managers produced surprises in their team selections. Gerard Houllier relegated Emile Heskey to the bench and opted for another midfielder in Salif Diao, while Chris Kirkland returned to the bench after a groin injury.
Arsene Wenger gave French youngster Jeremie Aliadiere his full debut, while Sol Campbell returned to defence following a spell out because of the death of his father.
Liverpool's one change meant Steven Gerrard had a more forward midfield role, while Harry Kewell was playing off Michael Owen in a central position.
And the Merseysiders produced an impressive display for the first half hour and should have been further ahead before the Gunners struck with a fortunate own goal.
Jens Lehmann was tested twice early on, by Owen and Steve Finnan from long range as Liverpool got to grips with the league leaders from the start.
Liverpool's pace, width and enterprise had given them the upper hand and on 14 minutes they grabbed the lead.
John Arne Riise's cross from the left was hammered into Owen's face from close range by Edu and cannoned invitingly for Kewell to strike from 18 yards into the far bottom corner.
Arsenal were struggling to get a foothold on the game at this point and almost conceded a second to Kewell when Finnan's cross was nodded down by Riise, but the Australian hooked high over from 12 yards.
Jerzy Dudek was forced into a diving save to turn round a Thierry Henry drive, while Liverpool were still fuming by a tackle from behind by Aliadiere on Diao that referee Graham Barber failed to penalise.
Kewell's pass then found Owen 20 yards out and his attempted lob over Lehmann finished on the roof off the net, before Gerrard whipped in a free-kick and Owen lunged forward to send a near-post header wide.
Arsenal's response came when Smicer fouled Ray Parlour on the right, Robert Pires curled the free-kick into the box and Edu emerged from a mass of players to make contact. But the effort was going wide until it bounced in off Sami Hyypia.
It was tough on Liverpool, and more misfortune struck three minutes from the break when Smicer limped off to be replaced by Anthony Le Tallec.
Liverpool's response was to bounce back with more attacking play, Diouf and Finnan combining to give Owen a chance that he headed just over three minutes after the break.
Diouf's continued attacks down Ashley Cole's flank severely tested the England full-back, while Kewell's ability to keep finding space was a constant worry for Campbell and Kolo Toure.
Henry's influence was growing, and on 59 minutes be worked his way across the box to force Dudek into a low save to his right.
Owen had to be taken off for treatment on his right leg after landing awkwardly, and there was considerable concern for him as 10-man Liverpool were clearly distracted by the incident.
Owen returned, but still limping, Arsenal by now having gained the initiative.
And the Gunners struck with a classic goal on 68 minutes. Gerrard and Finnan both conceded possession 20 yards out and Edu was able to find Pires, the Frenchman curling a stunning shot into the far top corner to claim the lead.
Owen was eventually withdrawn on 71 minutes, Heskey taking over, while Arsenal replaced Aliadiere with Sylvain Wiltord.
Liverpool kept going despite Arsenal's dominance, and Cole had to hook off the line from Diouf on 77 minutes. Then Heskey broke down right and fired in a cross that Edu scooped away from Kewell.
Le Tallec curled a shot just wide before youngster John Welsh came on for his Premiership debut in place of Diao. Welsh's first act was to be booked for a foul on Parlour.
Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Biscan, Hyypia, Riise, Diouf, Gerrard, Diao (Welsh 83), Kewell, Owen (Heskey 72), Smicer (Le Tallec 42).
Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Henchoz.
Booked: Biscan, Welsh.
Arsenal Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Parlour, Edu, Silva, Pires, Henry, Aliadiere (Wiltord 73).
Subs Not Used: Stack, Keown, Cygan, Kanu.
Booked: Cole, Parlour.
Ref: G Barber (Hertfordshire).
Liverpool's Gerard Houllier comments on Arsenal's luck
All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.
BBC Sport 'Owen injured in Arsenal win'
|Match Report filed: 6th October 2003|