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Shearer's late stunner

Liverpool had the top of the Premiership in their sights last night when they lost Alan Shearer in the penalty area with just two minutes left. It was only for the briefest of moments but, even after barely a chance all match, the former England captain thudded his header past Jerzy Dudek for an unlikely share of the points.

There must be something about the black and white of Newcastle that focuses Michael Owen's thoughts on goal. As if any invitation were needed. The Liverpool striker had not scored this season but before last night's match had struck 12 times in seven games against Newcastle. Gerard Houllier was never likely to rest his European Player of the Year with a record like that.

It took him only 13 minutes to turn Nikos Dabizas, spinning to race the retreating Newcastle defender and setting off at pace towards the away end. It must have been a familiar sight for Greece's most famous defender, fleeting glimpses of Owen as he looked over one shoulder and then the other in a desperate attempt to second guess which way the Liverpool striker would turn.

With Dabizas in his slipstream Owen went wide of Shay Given in Newcastle's goal and was denied only when Aaron Hughes clipped his goalbound shot off the line. From the corner Shearer seemed to plough through his former England strike partner as the ball broke loose to Owen in the box. But for the next five minutes Newcastle's defence completely lost track of Liverpool's No 10.

With Dabizas, Given and Titus Bramble meeting on the far left of their box to deal with a crossfield pass from Djimi Traore, Owen was barely visible among the crowd. Yet he emerged from among the knees and ankles of his markers with the ball and, after a few steps across the face of the area, was denied only by Given, who had scrambled back into position.

There had not been much to register Newcastle's presence by midway through the half. Sir Bobby Robson, who had visited Anfield 28 times as a player and a manager, had never won there. Dietmar Hamann's ninth-minute shot that zipped wide after an exchange with Steven Gerrard was the signal for the attacks to begin. This Liverpool team look in rather more of a rush to get forward than last year's slow-burners.

They have recalled Traore, the young French left-back, from a loan spell at Lens last season to form a raw, if slightly guileless, partnership with Emile Heskey down the left flank. They have pace, they do occasionally lack direction. There were 24 minutes gone when Traore was caught the wrong side of Shearer but Kieron Dyer could not convert the cross.

Owen's best chance to open the scoring came 10 minutes from the break when Bramble slipped into one of the dream-like states of inertia that sometimes affect his game and passed the ball straight to Gerrard. The England midfielder lured out the defence and released Owen. He stepped inside Hughes, and struck a left-footed shot high into the Anfield Road end.

Gerrard spent a while taking treatment 10 minutes before the end of the first half. But he returned for the second half and the problems were all in the Newcastle midfield. Dyer was infuriated by some slight from Gary Speed and lunged towards his team-mate in the middle of the pitch. Referee Graham Poll and Bramble, Dyer's old mate from Ipswich, intervened. Unsettled in the centre, minutes later Newcastle let in Hamann for a fine solo goal.

The German wrestled the ball off Nolberto Solano with no great difficulty and picked his way through the Newcastle defence with only the slightest acceleration. The finish past Given was immaculate. A minute later and Owen's shot from Heskey's pass missed by inches.

Robson sent on Jermaine Jenas, Laurent Robert and Craig Bellamy to try to stop the flood of red shirts attacking the Kop end but the respite was only brief. After 66 minutes Robert's shot hit a post and with just one player on the line the away support gasped as Shearer could only send his shot wide.

He had never quite been allowed to settle all night with Owen on his shoulder, but Dabizas should surely have known better than clamber all over Sami Hyypia in front of the Kop. Referee Poll awarded the penalty as Newcastle prepared themselves for Owen and the inevitable. Almost inevitable. He missed against Aston Villa from the spot but Owen scored decisively last night.

It was to his estranged team-mate Speed that Dyer squared the ball after 81 minutes for Newcastle's first goal. With Bellamy's blistering pace troubling Liverpool's back four for the first time all night, it was from Robert's corner that Shearer headed the equaliser.

Match details

Liverpool: Dudek, Xavier, Henchoz, Hyypia, Traore, Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard (Cheyrou 83), Smicer (Diouf 67), Owen, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Riise, Carragher.
Booked: Hamann.
Goals: Hamann 53, Owen 73 pen.

Newcastle: Given, Hughes, Bramble, Dabizas, Bernard, Solano (Jenas 63), Dyer, Speed, Viana (Robert 63), LuaLua (Bellamy 63), Shearer.
Subs Not Used: Harper, O'Brien.
Booked: Bernard, Speed.
Goals: Speed 80, Shearer 88.

Att: 43,241
Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Copyright - The Telegraph

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