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Press Association report

Glenn Hoddle was treated to an international quality performance from Michael Owen - while Roy Evans can breath a sign of relief after a nightmare month.

The England boss was at Anfield to run the rule over a clutch of England hopefuls, and must have left with a massive smile after young Owen's display.

Owen has lost one strike partner in Robbie Fowler and was deprived of Karlheinz Riedle in the first-half.

His response was to lead Liverpool's attack almost single-handed. His pace, running power and sheer desire for the ball ended with him grabbing thewinner in a tough game against desperate opponents.

For good measure, Hoddle saw a captain's display from Paul Ince, a cameo second-half display from Steve McManaman and impressive performances from fit-again Jamie Redknapp and full-back Rob Jones.

When Hoddle names his squad on Monday week for the Switzerland match at the end of the month, there may just be a few more Liverpool players than usual in the party.

Evans, though, finally saw his misfiring side clinch a victory after a month of anguish. The irony is that Liverpool's title chance has all but disappeared, but they are now back in second place nine points behind leaders Manchester United, who lost at Sheffield Wednesday.

After Alan Thompson had ruined Brad Friedel's first game at Anfield with a breathtaking 30 yarder after just seven minutes, Liverpool pulled themselves together in the second period to grab goals from Ince and then Owen to clinch victory.

Evans also witnessed a determined display from substitute Mark Kennedy, recalled from a loan spell at QPR and wanting either a transfer away from his Anfield nightmare or a fair crack of the whip after months on the sidelines.

The Irishman found himself hurled into the fray, and a string of accurate crosses and passes, plus some intelligent running, could well have given Evans something to think about.

Poor Bolton had dominated the first-half with their abrasive style and were deservedly ahead at the break. But the cracked under pressure and the chance of their first away win since the first day of the season was swept away.

Liverpool's injury nightmare eased somewhat with the return of Jamie Redknapp, Dominic Matteo and Oyvind Leonhardsen, while Bolton chief Colin Todd decided against plunging defender Mark Fish straight back into the side after finally returning from a month away playing forSouth Africa in the African Nations Cup.

He was left on the bench. Liverpool had much of the early play, but wasted their possession and dominance.

Riedle saw an angled chip turned away by Keith Branagan, while the Bolton 'keeper made an excellent plunging save to claw out a Redknapp 20-yard curler.

Branagan was in constant action. He dived to his left to divert a Leonhardsen close-range shot, and then was down by his right hand post a minute later to push away a Stig Bjornebye drive.

Thompson's strike stunned the full house crowd, and drew applause from all round the stadium.

Nathan Blake held off Matteo and nodded a free-kick back for the Geordie midfielder to lash a cracking drive from fully 30 yards that gave Friedel no chance as it powered past him into the top corner.

Liverpool, though, didn't learn. They were not pressuring Thompson and John Sheridan enough, and Thompson popped up again soon after to lash in a 25yarder this time that crashed against the bar.

Then Sheridan chipped a free-kick into the box after 20 minutes, and Friedel was left punching thin air as he failed to stop Blake getting to the ball first and connecting with his head - thankfully for the USA star, the ball bounced well wide.

All of Liverpool's attacking was coming via Owen's inventive running andpace. He cut across the front of the defence in a determined run from 30 yards out, and cracked a right footer inches over the bar.

Then on 28 minutes a Riedle first-time touch in the centre circle sent a long clearance into the path of Owen, who raced clear but drilled his shot into the side netting.

Bolton, as has been their style all season, were snapping and snarling around the ankles of opponents, and referee Keith Burge had to deal with several exchanges.

The worst came when Redknapp was rightly booked for clattering through the back of Blake's legs. Ince clearly felt the Welshman made the most of it, and said so. It provoked an angry bout of finger-pointing from both players before Blake limped off for attention.

Friedel was again left exposed by his defence to a Arnar Gunnlaugsson cross shot, and could only dive to push it out into the danger area before Steve Harkness hacked clear.

Liverpool lost Riedle with a muscle strain after 34 minutes, Kennedy, back from his loan spell at QPR, coming on as substitute.

After 39 minutes Owen was once again the instigator and set up Leonhardsen for an edge-of-the-box curler that shaved the bar.

A minute after the break Gunnlaugsson was clean through the middle and should have put Bolton two up, only for Harkness to race back and produce a critical saving tackle in the box.

It was a costly miss. Kennedy, out to show Evans that he either deserves a big money move or a chance in the side, sent over a stream of excellent crosses.

Two in a minute saw first Owen and then Leonhardsen fail to finish them off.

The Irishman had been pushed into a central role alongside Owen, but theaccuracy of his centres produced the equaliser after 58 minutes. His perfect corner from the right was met by a surging Ince run, and the Liverpool skipper powered home a header.

Seven minutes later Liverpool were ahead. Ince threaded a fine ball into Owen's path on the right, and the little striker sped into the box to drill a low shot inside Branagan's far upright.

Owen was still the focal point. He chased one lost cause, brushed Chris Fairclough off the ball and laid a pass back for Kennedy to drive over the top.

Then Leonhardsen and Kennedy set up Owen, who wanted to be involved in everything by now, and he just failed to add to his tally on both occasions.

Bolton staged a brave comeback in the closing minutes, and Per Frandsen sent a low shot whistling wide through a packed area. Then Blake outpaced Harkness through the middle, cut inside onto his right foot, and lifted a glorious chance to equalise over the top.

It means Bolton, for all their guts and effort, have now gone 12 matches without a league victory, and surely their Premiership place is slipping away again.

Liverpool: (4-4-2) Friedel, Jones, McManaman, Leonhardsen, Redknapp, Harkness, Riedle (Kennedy, 34), Ince, Owen, Bjornebye, Matteo.

Subs not used: James, Kvarme, Carragher, Thompson.

Booked: Redknapp.

Bolton: (4-4-2) Branagan, Cox, Frandsen, Fairclough, Blake, Thompson, Bergsson, Sheridan, Todd, Holdsworth, Gunnlaugsson.

Subs not used: Johansen, Ward, Phillips, Fish, Taylor.

Booked: Bergsson.

Attendance: 44,532.

Referee: K W Burge (Tonypandy).

Copyright - Press Association

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