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A STUNNING goal by Robbie Fowler put Liverpool ahead

A STUNNING goal by Robbie Fowler put Liverpool ahead against Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday.

Fowler's eighth minute goal from 30 yards out was the highlight of a magnificent opening by the Reds as they produced some great football.

Michael Owen's much anticipated comeback began on the bench as Gerard Houllier kept faith in the players who performed magnificently at Leeds.

Rigobert Song kept his place at right back ahead of Vegard Heggem while both Thompson and Gerrard continued in midfield.

For Arsenal, Kanu was missing due to injury but Marc Overmars, Nigel Winterburn and Tony Adams returned to their formidable line-up.

It was a great start to the game with Arsenal moving the ball around with confidence while the Reds looked equally sharp with their passing and movement.

The first scare for the Reds came on two minutes when Thompson fouled Bergkamp on the edge of the box and the Dutchman took the free-kick himself forcing Carragher into a volleyed clearance. The Reds first sight on goal came after five minutes when Gerrard struck a 25-yard shot over the bar.

But if that was close the crowd were sent into a frenzy three minutes later when ROBBIE FOWLER scored what will surely be a contender for goal of the season to put Liverpool ahead.

Fowler took a Patrik Berger pass 30 yards from goal and then struck a magnificent left-footer which gave Manninger absolutely no chance and flew in off the underside of the bar.

The Reds could have gone further ahead on 12 minutes when Berger broke free on the left and crossed for Redknapp who sliced his shot wide.

The pace at which Liverpool were playing and the work-rate was hugely impressive in the opening stages.

Fowler almost hit a second after another piece of wonderful skill on 15 minutes but this time his right-footed shot from the edge of the box was just wide.

The game's first booking came on 19 minutes when Berger tripped Vieira in midfield.

Two minutes later Redknapp wasn't far off with another long range effort which was over the bar. The crowd were on their feet again on 24 minutes when Michael Owen began warming up as he had his first taste of the Anfield atmosphere this season.

Arsenal were having plenty of possession and with so many quality players, carried an obvious threat whenever they had the ball, but Liverpool were working so hard the Gunners were struggling to create any opportunities of their own.

The Gunners first real attempt on goal came after 31 minutes and that was an ambitious volley by Lee Dixon from 25 yards which was well off target.

Fowler was in sensational form for the Reds and produced another sublime piece of skill on 33 minutes when he took Camara's pass, dribbled into the six yard box and forced Manninger into an exceptional save.

Liverpool thought they should have had a penalty after 37 minutes when Adams challenged Fowler in the box and the Reds striker claimed the centre half used his arm to clear the ball. As the Kop showed their derision at referee Dermot Gallagher, Bergkamp was sent racing clear at the other end, touched the ball past Westerveld but was denied by a great recovery from Song who forced the Dutchman wide and eventually won himself a free-kick at Bergkamp's expense.

Liverpool ended the half in magnificent form and could have doubled their lead but for some excellent last ditch defending by the Gunners.

First Redknapp's free-kick on the left was brilliantly headed clear by Vieira and seconds later more skill by Fowler was only stopped by some good work by Tony Adams.

With the crowd on their feet, Berger then went clear and pulled the ball back for Fowler whose shot was destined for the corner of the net only for Keown to make a vital block. In first half injury time, Berger also hit a left-footed shot from distance which beat Manninger but was also just an inch wide.

When the referee blew for half time, the Reds received a fully deserved standing ovation for their performance.

Half Time: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 0.

Arsenal threatened after just 60 seconds of the second half when Ljungberg shot wide with his right foot from just outside the box.

As in the first half, the visitors were again having plenty of possession but Liverpool were continuing to work so hard the Gunners knew they would have a tough task creating any opportunities.

When the Reds had the ball they looked dangerous every time they attacked and Fowler almost connected with a Matteo pass on 52 minutes but he miss-kicked just inside the box. After an hour the Reds again came to life and only bad luck and great goalkeeping stopped them from doubling their lead.

First Redknapp hit a powerful 25-yard free-kick which Manninger did well to push away. And then seconds later Berger found Fowler free in the box and he beat Manninger with another sweet left-footed shot but it hit the post and deflected to safety.

In what was becoming a classic game, Arsenal then went straight to the other end where Henry forced Westerveld to save low to his left.

The Gunners made a change on 65 minutes when Davor Suker replaced Overmars.

Liverpool were forced into a substitution after 70 minutes when Thompson broke down with cramp and was replaced by Heggem.

The Gunners made another change when Silvinho replaced Parlour on 75 minutes.

The Reds finally got the second goal they deserved on 76 minutes thanks to PATRIK BERGER'S deflected free-kick.

Redknapp had been brought down 30 yards from goal and the Czech midfielder blasted a left-footed shot which hit the Arsenal wall and left Manninger stranded.

The second goal sent the home crowd delirious and regardless of the scoreline it was a long time since Liverpool had produced a performance of such breathtaking quality against a world class side of Arsenal's calibre.

Arsenal almost grabbed a lifeline two minutes from time when Henry headed over Ljungberg's corner.

But seconds later, the crowd were on their feet again as Michael Owen made his return to the first team after his six months absence, replacing Camara to a standing ovation.

Westerveld rounded off a great afternoon when he saved a Davor Suker penalty in the last minute after a controversial decision by the referee involving Song.

Report by Chris Bascombe

LIVERPOOL

Westerveld, Song, Fowler, Redknapp, Hyypia, Berger, Matteo, Camara, Carragher, Thompson, Gerrard, Subs: Staunton, Owen, Heggem, Meijer, Friedel.

ARSENAL

Manninger, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Keown, Adams, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Overmars, Henry, Parlour, Subs: Vivas, Suker, Silvinho, Upson, Lukic.

REFEREE: Mr Dermot Gallagher, Banbury

Attendance: 44,886.

©Liverpool Daily Post & Echo 1999 | [email protected]

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