|Saturday 13th September 2003
Ewood Park, Blackburn
BLACKBURN 1-3 LIVERPOOL
|After this game: Pos 7th Pl 5 Pts 8|
|MATCH REPORT - Blackburn 1 -3 Liverpool|
Michael Owen provided the cutting edge with two goals to finish off 10-man Blackburn and secure a dramatic victory for his Liverpool side.
One brilliant strike by Matt Jansen followed by a penalty, a sending-off, rival managers swapping fiery words then Owen's decisive winner - this match truly had it all.
There was even an element of tragedy as young Czech striker Milan Baros suffered a suspected broken leg before Jansen's stunning strike had even the neutrals in Ewood Park on their feet.
Then came the controversy as Owen equalised from the spot, before Lucas Neill was sent off for dangerous play.
Blackburn held out manfully but had no answer when Owen popped up with 22 minutes left to grab the winner for his fifth goal in five league games and Harry Kewell's late strike ended the contest.
What a baptism of fire for Barry Ferguson, making his debut for Blackburn following his £7.5million transfer from Rangers, and what a blow early on for Liverpool when Baros left the field on a stretcher following what looked a completely innocuous challenge by, of all people, Markus Babbel, who is on loan from the Reds.
Eight minutes in, Blackburn took the lead with an absolutely stunning goal by Jansen.
Andy Cole did excellently to head on Vratislav Gresko's searching long pass against Sami Hyypia, and the ball fell to Jansen 20 yards out.
There was still plenty to do, and he steered the ball over Jamie Carragher first one way and then the other before burying a tremendous left-foot shot past Jerzy Dudek.
The lead did not last long. Shortly after Brad Friedel had thwarted Hyypia with a point-blank save, El Hadji Diouf tricked Gresko into conceding a penalty. Owen put it away - but only just as Friedel was just a millimetre away.
There was more drama to follow as Neill was sent off in the 14th minute for a foot-up challenge on Carragher. Referee Neale Barry immediately showed a red card, though the Australian walked off protesting his innocence.
Tempers were getting frayed on the bench too and Graeme Souness was involved in some angry finger-pointing at rival manager Gerard Houllier after Emerton and Steve Gerrard became involved in a minor scrap.
David Thompson tried his luck from 30 yards but Dudek was never troubled then Friedel, another old Liverpool hand, made his second point-blank save this time to keep out Heskey who had been picked out by Vladimir Smicer's deep cross.
Kewell started to exert more influence and as a result Liverpool's threat on the Blackburn goal intensified.
He looked well positioned to score on the half-hour but Emerton, his friend and fellow Aussie, made an important block with his legs.
In the 33rd minute Owen broke free on goal after a mix-up between Babbel and Lorenzo Amoruso. He looked odds-on to score but tried to chip Friedel and the keeper stood up well to block with his chest.
Kewell drove wide after Ferguson had given away possession in the middle of the park, then the Australian teed up Gerrard who bent in a curling effort that Friedel was forced to tip over.
There were more angry exchanges as David Thompson and his namesake Phil, the Liverpool assistant manager, swapped not-so-niceties before Souness and Houllier became involved in another exchange.
In first-half injury-time Friedel came to Blackburn's rescue again to keep out Heskey's header, then Gresko took the ball off Owen's toe when he looked certain to score.
Blackburn had the first chance of the half after Cole won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Thompson curled it straight into Dudek's arms. Liverpool broke straight down the other end and Diouf held off Gresko well before firing straight at Friedel.
Garry Flitcroft was then only a whisker away from restoring Rovers' lead after some neat play involving Jansen and Cole.
Diouf gave Blackburn a going-over down the right all game and it was his twisting run which saw Owen get the ball in the penalty area and shoot on the turn, but it was a poor effort and drifted over.
The Senegal player created another chance and this time it was Heskey blasting wide when he should have scored.
In the 68th minute Liverpool finally made the breakthrough. Smicer was given a second chance by some sloppy defending and he found Owen unmarked who finished with ease from 12 yards.
Substitute Dino Baggio had an opportunity to make his debut of the dream variety but he skied a good chance when Dudek had flapped a cross to him.
There were three gilt-edged chances for Owen's hat-trick but on all occasions Friedel had the last word with superb saves before he was finally beaten by a fierce low drive by Kewell from the left hand-side of the penalty box.
Blackburn Friedel, Neill, Amoruso, Babbel, Gresko, Emerton, Flitcroft (Tugay 70), Ferguson, Thompson (Yorke 64), Cole, Jansen (Baggio 64).
Subs Not Used: Johansson, Kelly.
Sent Off: Neill (13).
Booked: Amoruso, Baggio.
Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Biscan, Hyypia, Carragher (Riise 18), Diouf, Gerrard (Le Tallec 85), Smicer, Kewell, Owen, Baros (Heskey 5).
Subs Not Used: Traore, Luzi Bernardi.
Booked: Finnan, Smicer.
Ref: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).
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BBC Sport 'Owen brace sinks Blackburn'
|Match Report filed: 15th August 2003|