|Wednesday 17th March 2004
LIVERPOOL 3-0 PORTSMOUTH
|After this game: Pos 5th Pl 28 Pts 42|
|MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 3-0 Portsmouth|
Liverpool clawed their way into fifth spot in the Barclaycard Premiership - with Michael Owen instrumental.
The England striker has suffered of late with successive missed penalties - one against Portsmouth in the FA Cup - and a string of missed chances and off-colour displays.
But he responded tonight with two goals - and also had a hand in the other - as Liverpool worsened Pompey's plight at the bottom of the table.
Owen's name was the first the Kop chanted at the beginning of the match and their last as the England hitman trooped off at the end more than satisfied with his night's work and waving his gratitude to the fans for their support.
Boss Gerard Houllier's reaction to Liverpool's defeat at Southampton on Sunday was to leave out Stephane Henchoz, El-Hadji Diouf and Milan Baros and bring in Emile Heskey, Danny Murphy and John Arne Riise.
Jamie Carragher switched from left to right-back to let the Norwegian into defence, while Igor Biscan played in the middle of defence.
Portsmouth had Svetoslav Todorov in their side for the first time this season, the Bulgarian damaging his knee ligaments two days before the campaign started having been top scorer in the side's Nationwide championship year.
Liverpool needed something quick and impressive to settle them - and it came in stunning style in the sixth minute from Dietmar Hamann.
Owen retrieved an overhit cross on the left and spun to drop a pass invitingly for Hamann, who hit his right foot drive perfectly on the rise and past Shaka Hislop into the top corner of the net.
Pompey hit back when Lomana Lua Lua clipped a pass inside Sami Hyypia for Todorov to race into the box, but Biscan hurled himself across the striker's path and put the ball behind for what was then a wasted Lua Lua corner.
But it was an isolated break as Liverpool piled on the pressure, Portsmouth conceding vast acres of the pitch as they strung all 10 outfield players in their own half.
The home side kept coming forward and a weaving run from 40 yards out by Owen ended with a low drive to the near post which Hislop kept out, before the keeper blocked a fierce Riise drive.
Liverpool's defenders had clearly been told to get forward and shoot.
Biscan was next to try, with a twisting run to the edge of the box and drive just wide of the far post before Hislop saved an acute angled volley by Harry Kewell.
Then it was Owen's turn.
He started a move deep in midfield by sweeping the ball wide to Carragher on the right and then arriving perfectly in the box when the ball broke off a defender to take control and sweep it past Hislop.
Alexei Smertin's return ended when he was replaced at the break, with Todorov going off as well. Steve Stone and Matthew Taylor, scorer of Portsmouth's FA Cup equaliser on this ground last month, came on.
The changes sparked a Pompey surge, and when Hyypia was penalised for a foul on Stone on the edge of the box, Stefanovic curled the free-kick onto the bar.
Murphy saw a 20-yard effort touched just wide by a sprawling Hislop, before Owen put an end to any faint hopes of a Pompey revival in the 58th minute when he met a curling Gerrard corner with a flicked header from close range to make it 3-0.
Heskey then robbed Primus on the edge of the box and Owen snapped up the lose ball to move into the area and strike a low drive wide of the far post.
Owen then almost created another - his turn in from the line and neat pass into Murphy's stride saw the midfielder fire in a shot which Hislop touched onto a post.
Heskey was next to hit woodwork when he flicked a 79th-minute header against a post from Kewell's cross.
That proved to be the Australian's last involvement, being replaced by Diouf a minute later.
A Murphy free-kick was met by Hyypia on 88 minutes, and Hislop was again forced into a flying tip over as Liverpool - rarely - finished in cruise control.
Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Biscan, Hyypia, Riise,
Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Kewell, Owen, Heskey.
Portsmouth: Hislop, Stefanovic, Primus, De Zeeuw,
Curtis, Smertin, Faye, Hughes, LuaLua, Todorov, Mornar.
Referee: B Knight (Kent)
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|Match Report filed: 17th March 2004|