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The Observer match report

As end-of-season meaningless fixtures go, this was a prime example. A scrappy game appeared to lack anyone who could convert a chance until Wednesday substitute Cresswell came on ten minutes from the end and won his side the points with a fine header. But the general impression remained of two rather ordinary sides playing out time and hoping for better things next season.

Liverpool need to finish their season with a flourish. The club who dominated European football for so long regard a mid-table position as unacceptable. The midweek draw with Manchester United restored some pride but the Liverpool of old would have wanted nothing less than victory.

Wednesday, too, have had a season they will be glad to finish. The Di Canio saga has been compounded by a run of generally poor form, taking them perilously close to the relegation zone. Their personable manager, Danny Wilson, is well aware he needs a quality striker and someone to dominate midfield. For too long Wednesday have been a team seemingly without passion or ambition.

Before the game, the Bishop of Sheffield led a minute's silence in memory of the 96 people who died ten years ago in the Hillsborough disaster. Trevor Hicks, who lost two teenage daughters in the tragedy, laid a wreath at a new memorial commemorating the event at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

The game started brightly, and was barely four minutes old when the referee reached for his yellow card after Gerrard's scything tackle left Carbone needing treatment.

Liverpool, without Owen and Fowler, had Riedle up front on his own battling against Walker and Thome. It left a lot of men in midfield and Liverpool enjoyed considerable possession which set Wednesday on the back foot. Leonhardsen's intelligent running to the byline set up a decent chance for Berger but the finish was sloppy.

But after 20 minutes it was the home side who came closer to a goal. A corner reached Atherton unmarked at the far post. He drove the ball across goal, and if Booth had connected with his attempt at a header he would surely have scored.

But as the interval approached Ince missed Liverpool's best chance to take the lead, heading over the bar from close range.

Song replaced Gerrard and with almost his first touch centred to the feet of Berger who, in this game of missed opportunities, managed to spurn a simple chance. At the other end Jonk hit a 25-yard drive over the bar.

But the goal the game needed didn't come until the 87th minute. Sonner hit a long corner from the left and substitute Cresswell rose in some style above Staunton and Matteo to head the ball convincingly home. It wasn't so much that Wednesday deserved the victory, but that Liverpool didn't seem to care whether they won or lost.

Goals: Cresswell (87 mins).
Half-Time : 0-0.
Booked: Gerrard (4 mins).
Attendance : 27,383.
Team (4-4-2) : Friedel, Staunton, Matteo, Carragher, Gerrard (Song 46), McManaman, Ince, Berger (Thompson 66), Leonhardsen, Redknapp (Ferri 82), Riedle.
Substitutes (not used) : James, Babb.
Referee : P. Jones (Loughborough).
League position: 8th (51 points after 37 matches).

Copyright - The Observer

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