Hyypia punishes Auxerre

Sami Hyypia popped up to emerge as Liverpool's unlikely match winner as the Finn's cleverly taken goal gave Gerrard Houllier's side a narrow Uefa Cup fourth-round first-leg win over Auxerre.

Hyypia calmly slotted home following a series of quick passes involving Michael Owen, Salif Diao and Danny Murphy to give Liverpool the win as well as a crucial away goal.

That a defender should decide the game summed up a match where defences were on top for much of the time as well as providing evidence of a continuing lack of confidence in Owen and Emile Heskey.

Now with just one goal in 15 appearances Owen could at least claim he was denied by some brave goalkeeping by Fabien Cool.

Less so Heskey, whose first touch continues to let him down.

We're not yet through and there's another 90 minutes to come but we will do our best
Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia

More positively, Liverpool's performance was also marked by a couple of superb one-handed saves from Jerzy Dudek, who looked back to his best after his pre-Christmas blip.

Nearly an hour had passed before either goalkeeper had to make a serious save.

Dudek made it - a superb one-handed stop from a Yann Lachuer shot.

Liverpool's workmanlike performance was typified by El-Hadji Diouf, who up against a couple of his Senegalese international colleagues and on his first return to French football, gave a hugely committed performance.

The opening period was marked by defensive excellence rather than attacking invention.

Jean-Alain Boumsong intervened to deny Heskey and soon after Philippe Mexes was equally alert to thwart Owen.

Liverpool also had to produce a number of last-ditched tackles to remain on level terms.

Diouf tracked backed diligently to concede a corner when his Senegalese international teammate Khalilou Fadiga broke clear.

Jamie Carragher also did well not to be shrugged off by Lionel Mathis, whose shot was hurried by the attentions of the England international.

On the other flank Djimi Traore had to clear after Yann Lachuer, Mathis and Benjani Mwaruwari combined to pierce the Liverpool defence.

A minute before the interval Owen ghosted away from Mexes and Johan Radet, but his cross was cleared by Jean-Sebastien Jaures before it reached Heskey.

Soon after the restart Heskey went one-on-one with Cool, but the England international's poor first touch let him down.

Hyypia showed how it should be done when he stroked the ball home after Murphy's pass opened up the Auxerre defence.

Almost immediately Dudek had to come to Liverpool's rescue when he got down quickly to stop Benjani's fierce shot.

Copyright - BBC

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