Liverpool squander their chance

by the "Press Association"

Liverpool squandered their chance of a place in the European cup next season as they were held to a dramatic 1-1 FA Carling Premiership draw at Hillsborough.

The Merseysiders needed to win to make sure of second in the table and the extra place in the competition next season.

But they could only manage a draw this afternoon after O'Neill Donaldson's second goal of the season put Wednesday 1-0 up after 74 minutes.

Liverpool then equalised with just eight minutes to go in extraordinary fashion as substitute keeper Matt Clarke was sent off on his premiership debut for handling the ball outside the area.

From the resulting free kick Jamie Redknapp curled a delightful shot past stand in Andy Booth to set up a dramatic last few minutes.

But despite throwing everyone forward including goalkeeper David James, Liverpool could not find the crucial goal they needed as Booth pulled off a series of excellent saves.

The result means a desperate disappointing end to the season for the Reds and puts added pressure on manager Roy Evans.

Several pundits have already questioned Evans' ability to get the results required from his team in the big matches and this afternoon's result will give the critics extra amunition.

Evans had given 17 year old striker Michael Owen his premiership debut in place of the injured Patrick Berger and Owen was desperately unlucky not to have given Liverpool the lead before Donaldson's heartbreaking goal.

Owen was a handful all afternoon for the Wednesday defence and with the introduction of John Barnes as a second half substitute for Stan Collymore the teenager was given many more chances to find the net.

Barnes vastly improved the Liverpool performance in the second half as he prompted Owen and Steve McManaman in front of him with some delightful through balls.

One such ball sent Owen clear on 70 minutes and the young striker did everything right as he beat Pressman with a powerful low drive only to see his shot come back off the far post.

Liverpool had completely dominated the second half but were then caught out with a classic punch just four minutes later from the substitute Donaldson.

Mark Wright appeared to have covered a long ball but somehow managed to let the ball slip under his feet and Donaldson pounced to slip the ball under DAvid James.

That prompted a frenzied last 15 minutes as Liverpool threw caution to the wind and piled forward in a desperate search for the two goals they needed.

Barnes again played a decisive ball this time finding Thomas clear in the penalty area but Clarke saved well at the midfielder's feet.

Barnes himself then drove another shot just wide of the far post before Liverpool were handed a last lifeline just eight minutes from time.

Clarke raced to the edge of his area to collect a long ball as Owen chased it in, but as the keeper gathered his momentum took him outside the penalty area and referee DAvid Elleray had little choice but to send off the unfortunate keeper.

Redknapp then curled the resulting free kick wide of Andy Booth to give Liverpool a fighting chance to salvage second spot.

But in a frantic last five minutes, Booth held firm and made a series of fine saves worthy of any proper goalkeeper.

With just two minutes left Owen was again through on goal but shot just wide and with 90 minutes showing on the clock, McManaman had the last chance for Liverpool only to see Booth produce an excellent save with his feet.

Copyright - Press Association

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