Press Association match report

Steve McManaman struck a priceless goal in the dying seconds of the Battle of Britain to give Liverpool an escape route on a night when Celtic believed they deserved a famous victory. The fleet footed striker, left out by England boss Glenn Hoddle last week, contrived a gem of a strike at Parkhead to send Liverpool back to Anfield in a fortnight now favourites to go through to the next round of the UEFA Cup. McManaman picked up the ball in his own half, sped goalwards past desperate defenders, before unleashing a classic strike inside the far post.

It got Liverpool off the hook. They had dominated the first half, but been blitzed after the break by a Celtic side that dug themselves out of the depths of despair to surge into the lead.

Michael Owen struck a brilliant early goal, and Liverpool were cruising until Jackie McNamara, with a 53rd-minute blockbuster, and Simon Donnelly, from the penalty spot 16 minutes from time, sent Parkhead into ecstasy.

The pace of young Owen was constant problem for Celtic's back line, with Tommy Boyd alongside Alan Stubbs frequently being exposed.

And Liverpool strolled through much of the first half with controlled, possession soccer that had Celtic baffled and their fans dishing out plenty of stick because their heroes were finding life so tough.

Liverpool almost scored in the third minute when a Stephane Mahe clearance only went as far as McManaman, and the England ace produced a curling, dipping drive from the edge of the box that just cleared Jonathan Gould's bar. Celtic's well documented defensive frailties were cruelly exposed three minutes later when Liverpool cruised into the lead. Karlheinz Riedle, so often in the past few years a thorn in the side of the Scots at club and international level, almost contemptuously clipped the ball away from a lunging tackle by Boyd, and sent 18-year-old Owen scampering away through the middle. He outpaced Stubbs and, as Gould came out, the new darling of the Kop coolly flipped the ball away from the onrushing 'keeper and into the net.

Just the start Liverpool wanted. It left a packed Parkhead dazed, and their opponents equally shattered.

Next it was McManaman who outran Boyd in a 50-yard dash, when the Liverpool man, with the ball at his feet, started off five yards behind the Scottish international. Celtic barely had a look in at this stage, and only an opening for Danish international Morten Wieghorst when he pulled his shot across the box, ruffled Liverpool's back line.

Celtic were attempting to man mark Liverpool by now, but Riedle cleverly pulled away to the right of the box before angling a shot back across Gould but wide of the far post.

The derision of their own fans finally stung Celtic into action, Henrik Larsson pushed into the middle to help young Donnelly, and some much needed passion was injected into the home side's play. Donnelly saw a long range shot held by David James, and it was the Liverpool defence's turn to look uncomfortable. But still Liverpool were the sharper on the break. Their high speed attackers gave Stubbs and Co nightmares. Three times before the break, Owen was sent chasing long balls through the middle, and each time Gould only just managed to get their first to hack the ball away. McManaman should have put the game out of reach when he tore down the left, cut inside, but, having left the defence for dead, allowed them to get back at him salvage what looked a lost cause.

Celtic were beginning to really get at Liverpool now, and Donnelly set up Burley to screw his shot wide, before the former Chelsea ace struck a shot that hit Dominic Matteo on the chest before he cleared, with loud appeals for a penalty ringing in his ears.

Celtic lost Regi Blinker when he fell heavily fouling Rob Jones, and theDutchman was carried off. The warning signs had been there towards the end of the first half for Liverpool, Celtic were discovering their heart, drive and passion.

The second period could not have been a been a greater contrast. Celtic went for the throat. Where Paul Ince and Michael Thomas had ruled in midfield, the combined threat of Burley, David Hannah and Wieghorst took control. McManaman, never the greatest tackler in the world, was just lost in the midfield battleground.

To show how much they were rattled, both Ince and Thomas were booked in this phase, but nothing could stem the tide that was Celtic's pride and their fanatical fans roaring them on.

Liverpool visibly wilted under the combined power from pitch and terraces. The equaliser came after 53 minutes. Jackie McNamara played a neat one-two with Burley, and unleashed a stunning, soaring drive into the far top corner. There was no hint of a challenge, and not a flicker of movement from James. Donnelly's movement unhinged Mark Wright, and the little striker saw a savage drive smash against the underside of the bar and down, again James did not flinch.

Liverpool rocked and rolled at the back. They lived dangerously when a tackle by Bjorn Kvarme on Donnelly looked a penalty all the way, only for the Italian referee Cesari Graziano to wave away frantic appeals. It was not going to happen a second time. When Donnelly put Larsson clear, James threw himself and the Dutchman went flying. Penalty this time, with James booked. Donnelly smashed the spot kick home.

Only then did Liverpool raise themselves for one last challenge, and there was McManaman skipping away from defenders to glide a fine low drive into the bottom corner with a minute left.

Copyright - Press Association

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