Liverpool show Wright stuff

Liverpool reached the second phase last night with markedly less fuss than the English teams who had gone before them. Needing only a point to join Arsenal and Manchester United in Friday's draw they took three from a comfortable victory to win Group B.

Once Vladimir Smicer had given them an early lead Liverpool were only occasionally troubled by a patchy Borussia Dortmund performance. Lars Ricken hit the underside of their bar late on but by then Stephen Wright had ducked among the defenders to head Liverpool's second goal, and his first for the club, from Patrik Berger's swerving centre.

Dortmund might have lacked a few regulars, including Jürgen Kohler from defence and the suspended Brazilian striker Marcio Amoroso but still looked a team cute enough to punish any lapses of concentration.

The German approach had to be positive. Liverpool's defenders quickly found themselves threatened from the air by the tall Czech figure of Jan Koller while his attendants, all Jan Sorensen, Tomas Rosicky and Lars Ricken, scurried around searching for openings on the ground.

Provided Liverpool could absorb the initial impact of Dortmund's hunt for a quick goal there were always going to be opportunities for them to catch the German side on the break. Indeed the keenness with which Steven Gerrard and Smicer, the latter preferred to Gary McAllister in the starting line-up, sought out Michael Owen and Emile Heskey with long passes behind defenders suggested Liverpool were more likely to score.

So it proved on the quarter-hour, although a striker was the provider and a provider the scorer. A long ball from Stéphane Henchoz on the right was nodded left by Heskey and Smicer's sweetly struck drive caught Jens Lehmann unsighted, the goalkeeper picking up the ball's pace and direction only as it passed him.

As the game went on the more the head of Heskey appeared to dominate the Dortmund area while at the other end Koller leapt in vain. But an occasional threat from the tall Czech remained, such as when he nodded the ball out to Evanilson, whose dipping centre from the right was awkwardly cleared by Henchoz.

Soon after this Smicer, having exchanged passes with Owen, produced an inviting cross for Heskey. But the timing of his jump was all wrong and his header cleared the bar.

In this situation opponents find Liverpool hard to break down. Their centre-backs, Jamie Carragher (again filling in for the injured Sami Hyypia) and Henchoz, stand up well under pressure while Gerrard and Dietmar Hamann diligently cover any space in front of the back four.

Six minutes before half-time Evanilson turned Liverpool's left flank once more and again Henchoz needed to be well positioned to save a dangerous situation, this time blocking a low shot from Sorensen.

Ideally Liverpool needed the cushion of another goal. A glorious crossfield pass by Heskey at the start of the second half found Gerrard surging in from the right only to shoot wide

By now Liverpool were breaking up Dortmund's movements around the halfway line. The German side forced three successive corners but their game was becoming stretched, leaving Liverpool more room in which to press home their attacks.

Owen was seen only in glimpses although just before the hour he spun smartly off a defender to skim the bar with a rising shot. Smicer caught the eye more with his ability to steal into meaningful spaces but for the last 25 minutes gave way to Berger.

After Munich, German defenders had already had enough of Owen and maybe Christian Wörns, after his harrowing experience against him in the World Cup, reckoned fate owed him some luck. Certainly the Dortmund defender was fortunate not to concede a penalty after appearing to hold Owen back as he slid in to meet Gerrard's centre.

Liverpool (4-4-2) : Dudek; Wright, Carragher, Henchoz, Riise; Smicer (Berger, 65min), Gerrard, Hamann, Murphy; Owen (Fowler, 75), Heskey.

Borussia Dortmund (3-3-1-3):Lehmann; Wörns, Reuter, Metzelder; Dede, Evanilson, Oliseh; Rosicky; Sorensen, Koller, Ricken.

Referee: K Milton Nielsen (Denmark).

Copyright - The Guardian

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