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The Sunday Telegraph match report

Robbie Fowler faces a further run-in with the Football Association after his controversial celebration of a goal during Liverpool's derby victory over Everton yesterday.

After scoring with a 15th- minute penalty to make the score 1-1, Fowler fell on all fours and sniffed the goal-line in a gesture most onlookers presumed was intended to mock the taunts of Everton supporters over his alleged social habits.

As Fowler is due to appear before the FA on Friday to explain his recent contretemps with Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux, it was scarcely the brightest way to prepare for the hearing.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, insisted afterwards that the gesture had nothing to do with drugs, but was merely a joke used by French club Metz and introduced to Liverpool players by Rigobert Song, who played for Metz last season.

"It was really nothing," said Houllier. "Rigobert said they did this at Metz and the players were doing it in training. Robbie was just pretending to eat the grass. I spoke to Robbie about it and also to the referee, and he said he would not be putting it in his report. You can say it was inadvisable in the circumstances but when your heart is going at 180 these things happen. It was certainly not a response to the Everton fans."

Fowler's antics raised the temperature of what was already a hectic derby. Having fallen behind to a goal scored after 41 seconds by Olivier Dacourt, Liverpool went in front and survived a nervous finale to record their first win over their Merseyside neighbours in 10 meetings.

There was a minute's silence, impeccably observed, before the start to mark the 10th anniversary later this month of the Hillsborough disaster but the noise levels were soon rising.

Everton, giving debuts to new signings Kevin Campbell and Scot Gemmill, had the best possible start. Steve Staunton headed out a long throw but the ball fell to Dacourt some 30 yards out, who marked his derby debut with a ferocious volley that skimmed off Staunton's head and soared over David James into the top corner.

The tackling was ferocious. Gemmill was booked for clattering into Fowler, and Michael Ball and Paul Ince were lucky not to follow after two clashes in as many minutes.

Then Nicky Barmby was cautioned for sending Jamie Redknapp spinning into the air after 14 minutes. But a minute later Liverpool were level from the spot after Marco Materazzi had tripped Ince.

Fowler drilled home the penalty, and then caused uproar with his celebration. Everton fans had taken great delight over the past couple of years in goading Fowler. It came to a head last season when Fowler made a public denial of drug-taking allegations.

This latest incident caused uproar behind the goal and police had to move in to quell furious Everton fans.

Fowler gave Liverpool the lead six minutes later. Steve McManaman stretched Thomas Myhre to a fingertip save with an angled volley, then flicked on the subsequent corner, delivered by Patrik Berger, for Fowler to head in at the far post from inside the six-yard box. This time there was no attempt to taunt the fans.

A Staunton foul on Michael Branch after 28 minutes almost produced an Everton equaliser. Materazzi's free-kick, a swerving effort from 25 yards, crashed against James's right-hand post. Then Michael Owen almost made it three after Berger had driven through three strong tackles and his pass had bounced into his path. Owen was forced wide, but the snap shot forced Myhre into desperate action.

Berger's volley eight minutes from time, which seemingly stifled the last flickering life in Everton's game, was worthy of any stage but the sheer determination of the visitors' late rally lifted the spirits of everyone not committed to the Liverpool cause.

Francis Jeffers reduced Liverpool's advantage with six minutes left and Danny Cadamarteri would have snatched an improbable equaliser had Steven Gerrard not swept his shot off the line with David James stranded. Gerrard, a second-half substitute, made another goal-line clearance in the pandemonium of that closing act.

When at last referee David Elleray signalled the end, Houllier leapt from the dug-out and punched the air with two fists in near delirium. It meant that much.

"We badly needed the win for the fans," said Houllier. "It was a reward for them. We were more shaky in the last 10 minutes than in the rest of the match, which was silly. But I hope this will boost our confidence."

His opposite number, Walter Smith, expressed himself content with the performances of debutants Gemmill and Campbell, but rued his team's continued struggle for points. This defeat compounds an already serious plight for the club.

Smith said: "I felt we should have got something out of it. The referee was quick enough to give them a penalty in the first half. And I felt it was a definite spot-kick when Danny Cadamarteri was pulled back in the box. We could have had another one too. The result was frustrating and the goals we conceded came from two corners and a penalty. That was very disappointing."

Goals: Dacourt (1 min), Fowler (15 mins pen, 21), Berger (82), Jeffers (84).
Half-Time : 2-1 to Liverpool.
Booked: No Liverpool players.
Attendance : 44,852.
Team (4-4-2): James, Heggem (Gerrard 71), Song, Staunton, Matteo, McManaman, Redknapp, Ince, Berger, Owen, Fowler (Riedle 85).
Substitutes (not used): Friedel, Bjornebye, Thompson.
Referee : David Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill)
League position: 8th (42 points after 29 matches).

Copyright - The Sunday Telegraph

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