Saturday 25th October 2003 (12.30pm)
Anfield, Liverpool

Michael Owen caps his return to the side with a goal

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After this game: Pos 10th Pl 10 Pts 14
MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 3-1 Leeds United

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Owen 35
Smith 42
Murphy 57,
Sinama Pongolle 84

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Gerard Houllier is able to breath a little easier after this controversial victory over Leeds.

Liverpool looked nervous after three successive defeats but goals from Danny Murphy and Florent Sinama-Pongolle secured victory after Alan Smith had cancelled out Michael Owen's opener.

But the turning point of the match was Murphy's freekick which bounced in off 'keeper Paul Robinson, and was allowed by referee Jeff Winter who chose to disregard a linesman's flag signalling Liverpool men offside in the box

Owen's comeback perhaps underlined Houllier's desperate desire to give his confidence shattered side a boost.

Owen has barely trained for three weeks because of a shin injury and was not expected to be available for this crunch clash with the equally desperate Yorkshiremen.

But Houllier made a last minute decision to risk the England hitman, and also had Danny Murphy back on the bench after injury.

Houllier also left out Stephane Henchoz, who played last week in the defeat at Portsmouth, restoring Igor Biscan to the heart of defence.

Leeds boss Peter Reid retained the same side that lost narrowly to Manchester United last week, and the visiting fans wasted no time in abusing Harry Kewell, the Aussie who quit Elland Road so controversially in the summer.

Kewell had a succession of scampering early runs as Liverpool sought a quick breakthrough. But the potential for damage came from the right wing where El-Hadji Diouf's cross was met by Emile Heskey, the header being deflected wide.

Then Diouf set off on a charging run before unleashing a 25 yarder that Paul Robinson had to beat away.

Liverpool were constructing their moves well and Heskey impressed with his link-up play and a succession of headers that tested Robinson.

Leeds had both Smith and Mark Viduka sparking up front and both could have scored from breakaways while Gary Kelly saw a low free kick almost surprise Jerzy Dudek.

But Liverpool were almost constantly on the attack with John Arne Riise shooting wide and then Kewell seeing a near post drive touched round by Robinson at full stretch.

It was Riise who played a major part in breaking the deadlock on 35 minutes. He was up in the box to nod back a neat Biscan chip, and there was Owen to spin and lift a fine shot into the top corner from eight yards.

Riise was having his best game in months and after Vladimir Smicer had surged 50 yards to set up the Norwegian, the resulting cross shot slid inches wide of the far post.

But the full back was caught out by Pennant's pace when Leeds equalised on 42 minutes - and it all came from a decision by Winter not to award Diouf a free kick after he had been sent tumbling by Salomon Olembe.

The Senegal star's dramatic, theatrical dive convinced referee Winter to wave play on. The ball was switched to the right where Pennant skipped to the bye-line before pulling the ball back for Smith to drill home.

Smicer, who had received an early whack from David Batty and never really recovered, was taken off on 49 minutes to allow Murphy to return.

Liverpool were a bag of nerves and almost went behind on 52 minutes when hesitancy throughout their defence let in Viduka, dead centre, for a 12 yard drive that Dudek saved with his legs.

But Liverpool then regained the lead in controversial manner on 57 minutes. Murphy watched a low free kick from the left bounce into the far corner after Robinson half-stopped the effort.

But a linesman's flag was raised clearly spotting Liverpool men offside in the box. But after a long discussion with his colleague, Winter awarded the goal, much to Reid's disgust who had to be led back to his touchline seat by the fourth official.

Before the re-start, Owen was taken off and replaced by Florent Sinama-Pongolle.

Tackles were flying in now from enraged Leeds players and Batty was booked for sending Gerrard flying after 62 minutes. Three minutes later Seth Johnson was cautioned for clattering through Pongolle from behind.

But with five minutes left Pongolle's pace settled the points. Dudek's goal kick was flicked on by Heskey and the little French striker out-ran Zoumana Camara into the box before hooking his first goal for Liverpool past Robinson.

Press Association

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Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Biscan, Riise, Diouf, Gerrard, Smicer (Murphy 49), Kewell (Le Tallec 87), Heskey, Owen (Sinama Pongolle 58).

Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Henchoz.

Leeds Robinson, Kelly, Camara, Matteo, Olembe, Pennant (Lennon 82), Seth Johnson (Barmby 80), Batty, Milner (Sakho 75), Viduka, Smith.

Subs Not Used: Carson, Roque Junior.

Booked: Batty, Matteo.

Att: 43,599

Ref: J Winter (Cleveland).

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» Audio/Video Reaction

BBC Sports' Alan Green post-match verdict

Liverpool's Michael Owen's comments

All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.

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» Other Media Reports

BBC Sport 'Liverpool see off Leeds'

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Match Report filed: 28th October 2003