Liverpool Echo report

MICHAEL OWEN scored twice at The Dell today but Liverpool threw away a three-goal lead and came away with just a point.

The 20-year-old striker scored his first of the season after 23 minutes and added a second after the break.

Skipper Sami Hyypia joined in the goalscoring when he headed in on 53 minutes but then it all went wrong for the Reds.

Marian Pahars struck twice, either side of El Khalej's goal, as the Saints came back to claim a point in dramatic circumstances.

Injury-hit Liverpool had Emile Heskey and Titi Camara ruled out yesterday and there was a surprise before kick-off when Gary McAllister was also ruled out.

Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen were able to return to the starting line-up.

Gerrard recovered from a stiff groin to replace McAllister while Owen took Heskey's place up front.

Southampton dropped goalkeeper Paul Jones, replacing him with Neil Moss.

Saints player of the year Dean Richards returned at centre half for the home side.

Liverpool made a bright start and lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Smicer playing alongside Owen in attack.

Gerrard played on the wide right of midfield with Barmby on the left.

The Reds were dominating possession in the early stages but had a scare on five minutes when Kachloul fired a shot at Henchoz, the Saints appealing for a penalty.

Referee Jeff Winter pointed for a corner instead, and ironically it almost led to the opening goal for Liverpool at the other end.

Barmby broke clear and found Owen before the ball fell loose to the rampaging Gerrard on the right flank.

However, the youngster sliced his shot wide from a good position.

Owen was close to giving Liverpool the lead on nine minutes when Barmby crossed from the left and Owen controlled the ball with his back to goal before turning and swerving narrowly over the bar with his right foot.

Owen had the ball in the back of the net on 18 minutes but a linesman's flag ruled it out, much to the youngster's dismay as he burst through and buried the finish.

Another excellent move seemed to send Barmby through three minutes later but again the linesman had his flag up before the midfielder could apply the finish.

However, there were no problems on 23 minutes when OWEN beat the offside trap to give Liverpool the lead with his first goal of the season.

A brilliant pass by Smicer, who was having another excellent match, sent Owen through and he delicately placed the ball beyond Moss with his left foot and the ball crept in off the far post.

Westerveld had to produce a great save to deny Southampton an equaliser on 27 minutes.

Pahars headed to Tessem, who volleyed from the edge of the box, but the Dutch keeper pushed the ball wide for a corner.

From the set-piece, Pahars had a free header but his effort was woefully wide.

The home side were very unlucky not to be level after 33 minutes when Kachloul found space in the Liverpool box and volleyed with his left foot against the crossbar, leaving him holding his head in his hands.

Barmby was close to doubling Liverpool's lead on 37 minutes when another Liverpool breakaway ended with a shot which Moss had to dive to his right to save.

But this had been an even first half in which Southampton were rueing some wasted opportunities.

Tessem could have done better with a header on 39 minutes and Richards had a free header six yards from goal after Pahars' cross.

Somehow the centre half headed wide.

A minute before half time, Liverpool were furious as Michael Owen looked set to race clear through on goal only to receive a shove in the face from Tessem blocking his path.

However, referee Winter dismissed the claims of the Liverpool striker.

Half-time: Southampton 0, Liverpool 1.

There was an early scare for Liverpool at the start of the second half as Southampton's wastefulness in front of goal continued.

Draper sent Rosler clear in the box and he went round Westerveld but was faced with a tight angle.

With players supporting him in the box he overhit his cross to the back post and it went tamely out for a goalkick.

Liverpool had a chance to double their lead when Smicer was fouled on the edge of the box on 53 minutes.

Hamann struck the setpiece with venom but it hit the wall and went out for a corner.

However from the set-piece, SAMI HYYPIA headed Liverpool into a 2-0 lead.

Smicer took the corner on the right flank and the Liverpool skipper rose majestically to head the ball into the top corner beyond Moss.

Gaps were now appearing all over the Southampton defence and they were punished again on 64 minutes when MICHAEL OWEN grabbed his second and Liverpool's third.

Smicer who was having a superb match yet again was the creator, sending Owen clear in the box.

Owen still had to hold off the challenge of Dean Richards but he took the ball in his stride, waited for goalkeeper Moss to commit himself and then clipped the ball over the keeper with the outside of his left foot to give the finish a mark of class.

© Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

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