|Wednesday 24th September
OLIMPIJA LJUBLJANA 1-1 LIVERPOOL
|MATCH REPORT - Olimpija Ljubljana 1-1 Liverpool|
Michael Owen rescued Liverpool, broke the club's goalscoring record in Europe and showed once again why he is priceless on the big stage for the Anfield side.
Owen equalised with a fine header to claim his 21st European goal here with 13 minutes left, finally eclipsing Ian Rush's record.
It was Owen's seventh goal of the season for Liverpool, and he has also scored twice for his country this term.
His England goals have been against Croatia and Macedonia, and he continued to enjoy playing against Balkan opposition with a goal which shook the Slovenians' ambitions.
Owen led the escape from Ljubljana in a UEFA Cup first round first leg that threatened to leave them very embarrassed after Anton Zlogar had put the hosts ahead after 66 minutes.
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier attempted to rest both Steven Gerrard (ankle) while Steve Finnan (knee) would have played had this been a Premiership match, but Houllier would not take the risk.
The plan failed because the unlucky Danny Murphy, out in the cold in recent weeks, had to limp off after just 14 minutes with an ankle injury and Gerrard was forced into the fray at an early stage.
Salif Diao came into defence and French teenager Anthony Le Tallec made his full debut.
The Slovenians, with former Portsmouth player Mladen Rudonja at the heart of their attacks, started with pace and spirit, and Liverpool's sloppy approach gave the 32-year-old plenty of encouragement.
Liverpool took a long time to get going, and when they did the opportunity fell to Le Tallec when Vladimir Smicer skipped through midfield to find the youngster moving in unmarked on the right.
But the 18-year-old drove over from a good position.
Liverpool's attacks were sporadic, and when they arrived Borut Mavric was on top form, saving when Owen set up Smicer and then when Igor Biscan rose to power in a header.
Owen had a goal disallowed on 27 minutes when he was judged offside after following in a Diao drive that Mavric saved low to his left.
A minute later Olimpija lost the first of three defenders. Enes Handanagic was carried away to an ambulance, the result of getting a boot in the face from Sami Hyypia a few minutes earlier.
Janez Aljancic was the next to limp off, to be replaced by Jalen Pokorn and Olimpija finished the half with 10 men, Igor Lazic the other casualty after a challenge with Emile Heskey.
Dejan Grabic took over from Lazic from the restart, the Slovenians having now lost three of their starting back four.
Dudek needed to be at his best to pull down a Zlogar hook, but Liverpool had clearly upped their game in the second half and Mavric pulled off outstanding saves from Kewell and Gerrard, while Smicer and Le Tallec both went close.
Owen worked his socks off up front and rose at the far post on 64 minutes to head wide from a Le Tallec cross. Heskey was next to go close, heading wide from a Riise free kick.
Then the inevitable happened. After missing so many chances and failing to really impose themselves, Liverpool found themselves one down.
Jusufbeaovic was given too much time to set up a shot that cannoned back off the post on 66 minutes and Zlogar followed up to fire the ball home.
Olimpija coach Suad Besirovic, who had complained once too often from the technical area for Spanish referee Julian Santiago's liking, found himself sent to the stands for another arm-waving outburst.
Liverpool's lack of challenge in front of the back four allowed Grabic to fire in a 20-yarder that fizzed wide.
Then, on 77 minutes Owen, got his record-breaking goal and Liverpool began to breath more easily. Riise's cross from the left found the little striker leaping to send a fine header wide of Mavric.
Gerrard missed a great chance to win the match when Smicer's ball found him arriving late on the far post, but the midfielder bundled his shot wide. Gerrard again, from Heskey's pass, then forced Mavric into another save.
Youngster John Welsh then came on for only his second senior game with three minutes left, replacing Le Tallec, with Liverpool well on top but they could not find that little extra to give themselves a goal advantage to take back to Anfield.
Olimpija: Mavric, Lazic (Grabic 46), Budicin, Handanagic (Mirtic 29), Aljancic (Pokorn 36), Ilic, Zlogar, Barun, Jusufbegovic, Rudonja, Puc.
Subs Not Used: Popivoda, Kreft, Kosic, Kmetec.
Liverpool: Dudek, Diao (Finnan 69), Hyypia, Biscan, Riise, Murphy (Gerrard 15), Smicer, Le Tallec (Welsh 87), Kewell, Owen, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Luzi Bernardi, Henchoz, Traore, Sinama Pongolle.
Ref: Julian Rodriguez Santiago (Spain).
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BBC Sport 'Owen rescues Liverpool'
|Match Report filed: 2nd October 2003|