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Owen's double gives Liverpool fresh hope

Anfield has seen it all down the years and last night this famous ground witnessed one of the oldest adages in football: form is temporary, class is permanent and Michael Owen will always be a class act. Shaking off the demoralised look of recent weeks, England's premier forward put woeful Portsmouth to the sword, striking twice to take his season's return to 14 from 28 games.

It was no surprise that it was two of his friends, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, who made the goals for Owen, who himself had created Dietmar Hamann's opener as Liverpool leapt back up the Premiership table to fifth.

The only surprise of the first half was that Liverpool were not completely over the horizon such had been their dominance. Only with a second from the sparkling Owen just before the hour-mark, making it 3-0, could Anfield truly relax.

Assisted by Portsmouth's suicidal tendency to sit deep, Liverpool had poured forward to their heart's content in the first half, making hay down the right where Dejan Stefanovic struggled desperately. Constantly exposed, Stefanovic somehow escaped dismissal for an ugly lunge at Owen.

Liverpool's striker was soon on his feet, clearly enjoying terrorising Portsmouth's defence. Owen, full of busy running, always offering himself for a pass, had made an impact after five minutes, creating Liverpool's first. Seizing on indecision in Harry Red knapp's back-line, Owen wriggled into space on the left and lifted the ball back to Hamann, who was lurking centrally 20 yards out.

The German's response was marvellous and instantaneous, the ball volleyed expertly into the back of the net.

Anfield breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that belief would flood through Liverpool. Having negotiated a momentary panic when Svetoslav Todorov's rustiness caused him to pause in front of goal, Liverpool were soon flooding forward in numbers again.

Owen, inevitably, was to the fore, gliding through and forcing a corner. Then came the energetic John Arne Riise cutting in from the right, his curler bringing a superb save from Shaka Hislop. Even Igor Biscan was getting in on the act, strolling upfield, deceiving Amdy Faye twice to send a shot just wide.

Now it was Harry Kewell's turn, the Australia international unleashing a wonderful volley from Gerrard's steepling cross which Hislop somehow clawed away. The Portsmouth goalkeeper's noble defiance could only rescue his team for so long and Hislop was beaten again in the 28th minute. And how Anfield loved the goal.

It was not simply the speed, confidence and touch that coloured the build-up, the ball being moved by Owen in the middle to the overlapping Carragher down the right. What delighted Anfield was the identity of the man racing on to Carragher's low cross; it was Owen, chesting the ball down and burying it - and with it all the doubts - past Hislop.

Frustratingly for Liverpool's fans, a touch of nerves briefly stained Liverpool's play as the second half unfolded.

Portsmouth, stirred up by Redknapp at the break, began far the livelier. The switch from Christmas tree formation to more orthodox 4-4-2 gave the visitors a more robust look while Matthew Taylor's inclusion afforded Stefanovic greater protection, much to the delight of their wonderfully noisy support.

Stefanovic's mood also lifted and he promptly bent a free-kick against the crossbar. Then Lomana LuaLua miskicked with the goal at his mercy. Liverpool rode the momentary storm and settled the game after 58 minutes, Owen meeting Gerrard's corner with a flashing header that burrowed into the net and brought the Kop to their feet in sustained applause. Owen was back in business.

Match details

Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Biscan, Hyypia, Riise, Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard (Cheyrou 74), Kewell (Diouf 80), Owen, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Henchoz, Baros, Luzi Bernardi.
Goals: Hamann 6, Owen 28, 58.

Portsmouth: Hislop, Stefanovic, Primus, De Zeeuw, Curtis, Smertin (Stone 45), Faye, Hughes, LuaLua, Todorov (Taylor 46), Mornar.
Subs Not Used: Wapenaar, Sheringham, Pasanen.
Booked: Stefanovic.

Att: 34,663

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