Liverpool Echo report

BRAZIL have Ronaldo. Liverpool, and now England, have Michael Owen.

It's not unreasonable to compare the Reds' young striker with the brilliant Brazilian. Nor is it unreasonable to suggest our man will make any less an impression in the World Cup.

True, Owen does not possess the physical strength which, at the moment, makes Ronaldo the globe's finest player, but he has enough other attributes which, I feel, will one day allow him to inherit his throne.

Ronaldo made his name as a goal-machine in the Dutch League before his talents took him to Spain and Italy. Owen is shining in the English championship which, while certainly not the best, is certainly better than Holland's.

What's more, he will appear in the World Cup finals as a teenager - something the South American was unable to do.

Owen's hat-trick at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday - his first in the Premiership and definitely not his last - not only rescued a point for a Reds side which trailed by two goals in the 69th minute, it also earned him a standing ovation from both sets of fans.

In fact, Owen would have fared even better if his brilliant late chip had not been matched by Kevin Pressman's exploit.

Yes, this guy is REALLY special. Indeed, he has become Liverpool's most precious performer and, quite simply, their saviour.

Like Ronaldo, Owen is a "give it to him and he'll score" player; someone who provides relief to his team-mates and who terrorises the opposition.

Not that Wednesday were particularly brave at the back. Such was their defensive incapability that Tiddles the cuddly kitten would have given them the jitters, so you can imagine how they felt when Owen came along.

Put him alongside Robbie Fowler and you wonder how Roy Evans' men didn't win this match. In truth, they should have breezed it.

Fowler has been overshadowed by his striking partner this season but, to his credit, he worked hard and was set to share the glory with a 91st minute goal-winning blast but for a save by a keeper who had a blinder.

Without Pressman to thwart them, the Reds would have finished comfortable, convincing winners. Yes, this draw lifted them to second place, and they deserve praise for reacting so positively to their second half deficit. But let's not kid ourselves that this was a good result. That's two points out of nine now...

Wednesday are poor, and at the back they are atrocious.

Of course, if Liverpool are going to commit similar defensive errors, though nowhere near as many, then they will have to settle for draws or defeats. Even with Owen doing his bit.

Steve McManaman who, like Owen and Paul Ince had a fine game, exposed Wednesday's frailty with an early shot which brought a tip-over save out of Pressman. This, however, came after Rob Jones' goal-line clearance from Paolo Di Canio.

But the Reds were hit with a sixth minute bolt from the blue when Andy Hinchcliffe's long ball enabled Di Canio to draw Bjorn Tore Kvarme in his chase for possession.

That freed the supporting, but shamefully unmarked Benito Carbone, whose expert chip from outside the box sailed into the net.

Di Canio later nodded off the line from Fowler, but when McManaman's forward pass sent Owen clear for a 27th minute equaliser, the fixture adopted a more realistic appearance.

Despite David James' difficult save from Mark Pembridge's dipping 35-yarder, the Reds did enough in the remainder of the first period to suggest that they would win it in the second, as Pressman twice denied the dangerous Owen.

Flying save

Evans' team re-started knowing that victory was there for the taking, pinning Wednesday into their own territory in an enthralling, error-ridden encounter.

If Des Walker had not cleared off the line from Jamie Carragher or Pressman not made another flying save from Ince's excellent volley, then the Owls would have been finished.

Instead, to general stupification, they finally managed to find their way upfield to regain the lead when Di Canio bulleted home a 62nd minute header from Ian Nolan's cross.

Not deserved, but not too much of a worry, either, considering Liverpool's dominance.

I honestly still thought the Reds would find a way back even when the stretching Hinchcliffe increased that advantage seven minutes later, after Pembridge's drive had been too fierce for James to hold.

Manager Evans, knowing that his troops faced embarrassment if they lost, and aware of the need to salvage at least a point, gambled heavily by replacing Kvarme and Jones with Patrik Berger and Karlheinz Riedle for all-out attack.

And how it paid off! The pair had barely entered the action when the alert Owen fired home the rebound from Fowler's 72nd minute shot, which had struck a post.

Wednesday were rattled, as rattled as the woodwork from Berger's drive on yet another Liverpool raid. But 13 minutes from time, and not unexpectedly, this incessant pressure paid off as Owen collected Ince's perfect pass to slot home superbly for his hat-trick-making equaliser.

Carbone may have forced James into three saves, but only Pressman's late heroics from Owen and Fowler prevented Liverpool's most exciting match of the season becoming arguably their most glorious.

BOOKINGS: Hyde, Rudi, Harkness (fouls).

REFEREE: Mike Reed (Solihull).



SHEFF WED (4-4-2): 1 Pressman 3 Nolan 5 Newsome 6 Walker 20 Hinchcliffe 25 Rudi 2 Atherton 12 Hyde 4 Pembridge 11 Di Canio 8 Carbone. Subs: Magilton for Hyde (46), Whittingham for Pembridge (82); not used: Clarke, Mayrleb, Oakes.

LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): 1 James 2 Jones 3 Kvarme 21 Matteo 12 Harkness 7 McManaman 23 Carragher 17 Ince 8 Leonhardsen 18 Owen 9 Fowler. Subs: Berger for Jones (71), Riedle for Kvarme (71); not used: Bjornebye, Murphy, Friedel.

Goals : Carbone (7 mins), Owen (26,72,80), Di Canio (63), Hinchcliffe (69)

League position: 2nd (46 points after 26 matches)

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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