Sunday 17th August 2003 (4pm)
Anfield, Liverpool

Kewell fails to take one of Liverpool's better chances

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After this game: Pos 16th Pl 1 Pts 0
MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea

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Veron 25
Owen 76 pen
Hasselbaink 87

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Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink grabbed the late winner which got Chelsea's Russian revolution under new owner Roman Abramovich off to a flying start.

Juan Sebastian Veron had given them the lead in the first half before Michael Owen equalised with a twice-taken penalty, only for substitute Hasselbaink to drill home the winner in the dying minutes.

Abramovich arrived at Anfield with security minders to watch his new-look Chelsea, assembled at a cost of almost £75m.

However, manager Claudio Ranieri could not field £15.8m signing Adrian Mutu because international clearance from the Italian Football Association had not arrived in time.

It meant five of the new buys started - Glen Johnson, Damien Duff, Geremi, Wayne Bridge and Juan Sebastian Veron. Joe Cole was left on the bench while Jesper Gronkjaer of the old guard got a run-out.

Harry Kewell played for Liverpool but Gerard Houllier's other new signing, Steve Finnan, was on the bench.

Houllier preferred Jerzy Dudek in goal despite Chris Kirkland's England call and played Igor Biscan and Bruno Cheyrou in a midfield missing Steven Gerrard (suspended) and the injured Dietmar Hamann and Vladimir Smicer.

Abramovich, who had a front-row seat in the directors' box, signed autographs and applauded his players as the names were announced. Then he settled back to see whether his money had been well spent.

But his side should have been a goal down after just two minutes. Igor Biscan played the ball forward, Emile Heskey laid it back and Danny Murphy's measured shot from the edge of the box was pushed away by Carlo Cudicini.

Kewell, playing just behind the front two, had one impressive run and on three occasions Marcel Desailly had to cut out passes aimed at Michael Owen.

Chelsea needed to get possession and keep the ball, and when they finally did their movement and passing were hugely impressive.

Liverpool will always, by nature, be more direct and it was a clash of styles which continually saw the ball given back to the visitors.

Owen's pace almost caught out Cudicini after 20 minutes when he scampered onto a Danny Murphy pass and the keeper had to twice dive at his feet to force the ball away.

Kewell was next to test Chelsea for pace, getting clear of John Terry and sending a cross-shot fizzing in front of the visitors' goal.

But with Chelsea's first genuine opening they scored. Gronkjaer got away on the right and flashed a pass back across the box. Crucially Sami Hyypia slipped and the ball ran on for Veron to clinically sweep it home from 10 yards.

Two minutes later, Liverpool's response was to play Owen in on the right and the England striker - watched by national coach Sven-Goran Eriksson - fired in a fierce, rising drive which Cudicini beat away for a corner.

Frank Lampard had been booked for a foul on John Arne Riise, and Biscan was also cautioned for clattering into Gronkjaer.

Eidur Gudjohnsen should have made it two after 37 minutes when he raced onto a Veron pass as referee Steve Bennett ignored pleas for offside. The Icelandic striker was on his own but his shot was too close to Dudek, who stood his ground.

Chelsea almost punished Biscan for getting caught in possession when he should have released Murphy and the speed of Chelsea's moves were testing Liverpool to the limit.

Riise squandered possession and Veron found Gronkjaer, with Stephane Henchoz booked for bodychecking the winger after 44 minutes.

Liverpool lacked Chelsea's flair and pace in attack, but Kewell almost grabbed the equaliser with a rising 20-yard shot.

HT: Liverpool 0 Chelsea 1

At the interval Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink came on for Gudjohnsen with the Icelandic striker's one-on-one miss with Dudek summing up an indecisive performance.

Kewell went down in the box but Bennett waved away penalty claims.

Then the Australian was played in on the right behind Bridge and his cross was met by Heskey's header, which was scrambled away by Veron.

Kewell's reluctance to track back and help out in defence was exposing Liverpool.

Heskey, with another header from Murphy's cross, went close before El-Hadji Diouf took over from the patchy Cheyrou after 54 minutes.

Kewell was at last coming into the game, playing centrally with Diouf out wide, and Liverpool were asking questions of Chelsea's defence.

John Terry responded, cutting out Owen, hurling himself at Diouf who was chasing a Kewell pass, and showing what a good defender he has become.

Chelsea were content to hold now, soaking up Liverpool's pressure and they broke on 65 minutes when Bridge got away and Duff just failed to connect with the cross.

Two appeals for handball against Bridge in as many seconds were both ignored, much to the anger of the Kop.

But Chelsea's danger was still evident when Frank Lampard saw a 20-yarder tipped over by Dudek.

Liverpool made a double substitution with Steve Finnan and Milan Baros coming on for Henchoz and Biscan, which meant Jamie Carragher switched to central defence and Heskey went wide on the right.

William Gallas and Cole replaced Johnson and Duff moments later as Liverpool's pressure mounted.

Then Bridge's luck ran out when he brought down Diouf after 79 minutes to concede a penalty.

But that was just the beginning of the drama.

Owen rolled his penalty hopelessly wide, but to Chelsea's fury a linesman's flag indicated Cudicini had moved off his line.

When the uproar had finally died down, Owen stepped up to blast the retake into the roof of the net for an equaliser which Liverpool deserved.

But with two minutes left Chelsea found something extra. Veron fed Lampard and his lofted pass sent Hasselbaink in to the box where he fired into the far corner with his right foot.

Press Association

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Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Henchoz (Finnan 70), Hyypia, Riise, Kewell, Murphy, Biscan (Baros 70), Cheyrou (Diouf 55), Owen, Heskey. Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Le Tallec.

Booked: Biscan, Henchoz, Diouf.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Johnson (Gallas 73), Terry, Desailly, Bridge, Gronkjaer, Geremi, Veron, Lampard, Duff (Joe Cole 75), Gudjohnsen (Hasselbaink 45). Subs Not Used: Ambrosio, Forssell.

Booked: Lampard.

Attendance: 44,082

Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

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Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton

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BBC Sport 'Hasselbaink sinks Liverpool'

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Match Report filed: 17th August 2003