Liverpool Echo report

MICHAEL OWEN headed home his seventh goal of the season to cancel out Kevin Phillips' brilliant early strike at Anfield this afternoon.

Owen returned to the Liverpool side to partner Emile Heskey up front after missing last week's game at West Ham with a back injury. Bernard Diomede was given his league debut in place of Steven Gerrard who dropped to the bench. Christian Ziege also made his first start at Anfield in place of Djimi Traore while Robbie Fowler had to be content with a place on the bench.

Former Liverpool and Everton star Don Hutchison lined up for Sunderland in midfield with Niall Quinn partnering Kevin Phillips in attack.

Liverpool won the toss and defended the Kop end in the first half. They had an early opportunity after 10 seconds when a long ball from Ziege caught out Jody Craddock, Michael Owen nipped in but the ball ran through to the keeper.

The visitors settled into their stride and in the fifth minute they had their first opportunity after Hamann gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box. Don Hutchison took the free-kick but his shot was charged down by the wall.

Liverpool had their first chance on 10 minutes, Christian Ziege and Bernard Diomede combining well down the left before Diomede flighted the ball across to Heskey on the right. But Heskey's shot was easily saved by Sorensen.

It was to be Heskey's last action of the game and he was substituted with an injury, with Danny Murphy taking his place in the side.

The substitution seemed to unsettle Liverpool and in the 14th minute the visitors opened the scoring. A clearance from the Sunderland defence found KEVIN PHILLIPS on the halfway line. He ran at the Liverpool defence before unleashing a brilliant shot from 25 yards past Sander Westerveld to make the score 1-0 to Sunderland.

In the 17th minute, Diomede launched an attack for Liverpool when he received the ball from Murphy. Diomede found Owen on the edge of the Liverpool box and the striker side-stepped Craddock but Sunderland keeper Sorensen rushed out to smother the ball at Owen's feet at the second attempt.

Midfield battle

Chances were then few and far between and the game became a midfield battle.

Phillips became the first man to go into referee Riley's notebook when he was booked for a late challenge on Nick Barmby.

Two minutes later, Phillips was lucky not to find himself in further trouble when he deliberately blocked a Westerveld clearance on the edge of the box.

Hutchison became the second Sunderland player to be booked after kicking the ball away when he was caught offside.

Liverpool then regained the impetus and equalised in the 33rd minute after Bernard Diomede was fouled.

Christian Ziege whipped in a free-kick from the left and MICHAEL OWEN rose unchallenged to power the ball home with his head to square things up.

Liverpool went looking for a half-time advantage and started attacking the Sunderland goal, inspired by Diomede.

The Frenchman played an excellent ball to Barmby on 40 minutes but his shot was charged down by Craddock on the edge of the box. One minute later, Diomede almost scored a sensational goal.

He met a cross from Ziege with an overhead kick that Sorensen brilliantly clawed out at the second attempt on his goal line.

Diomede was the first Liverpool player in the referee's notebook when he was shown a yellow card for a foul on Williams.

In injury time in the first half Diomede was at the centre of the action yet again. He beat two men before finding Hamann in space.

The German released Rigobert Song down the right but his long range shot was charged out by the Sunderland defence.

Half time: Liverpool 1, Sunderland 1
Liverpool were the first to create a chance in the second half. Ziege and Murphy linked up well and Ziege played Murphy down the left.

But instead of returning the ball to Ziege, who was well placed, Murphy elected to shoot but blasted high and wide.

Sunderland almost had a chance in the 51st minute when Niall Quinn was well placed to shoot but Henchoz took the ball off the big striker's foot before he could hit it and the danger was cleared.

Liverpool continued to press for a goal and in the 59th minute, Owen almost found the breakthrough.

He latched on to a long ball by Westerveld, flicked the ball inside defender Makin before hitting a right-foot volley but it was straight at Sorensen.

Two minutes later, Phillips was lucky not to be sent off. He threw the ball down in disgust at a decision by the linesman and after already being booked, he was fortunate not to receive a red card.

Liverpool made their second substitution when Steven Gerrard was brought on for Dietmar Hamann.

Both sides continued to look for a breakthrough and Phillips had the ball in the net in the 66th minute but his goal was disallowed after Niall Quinn had fouled Henchoz.

Song was booked one minute later for a foul on Arca.

In the 70th minute, Liverpool had an excellent chance to take the lead, Jamie Carragher sliding in at the far post to meet a Song cross but his shot was saved by Sorensen.

One minute later, Phillips had an excellent opportunity to put the visitors ahead. He was sent clean through but sliced the ball horribly wide when he should have found the target.

Robbie Fowler returned to action for Liverpool in the 72nd minute when he was brought on to replace Diomede.

The visitors then had another opportunity and again it was Phillips causing the problems. He ran on to Quinn's flick-on but fired the ball wide from 20 yards.

In the 75th minute, Liverpool had a chance after good work by Murphy and Owen. Murphy found Gerrard on the edge of the box but the Liverpool midfielder's shot was inches wide of Sorensen's left-hand post.

In the 81st minute, Liverpool were awarded a free-kick that Ziege swung into the box. Owen met the ball with another superb header but this time Sorensen was able to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.

Liverpool had another chance in the 85th minute, again from a Ziege free-kick. This time Fowler met the ball but his header curled just wide of the far post.

The visitors then had another excellent opportunity one minute later when the ball fell to Quinn in space in the box but his shot was weakly hit straight at Westerveld.

Markus Babbel went close when he got in front of Quinn to meet a Ziege cross but his header was well saved.

Robbie Fowler almost found a winner in stoppage time when Murphy found him from a corner but his left-foot shot hit the side netting.

But that was to be the last action as Liverpool failed to take advantage of draws for Leeds, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

LIVERPOOL Westerveld, Henchoz, Ziege, Song, Babbel, Heskey, Owen, Hamann, Barmby, Carragher, Diomede. Subs: Fowler, Murphy, Gerrard, Arphexad, Traore.

SUNDERLAND: Sorensen, Makin, Gray, Hutchison, Quinn, Phillips, Kilbane, Craddock, Williams, Arca, Thome. Subs: Roy, Thirlwell, Reddy, Oster, Macho.

REFEREE: Mike Riley, Leeds.

© Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

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