Real Liverpool on show
Gerard Houllier believes we are now seeing "the real
Liverpool" as they battle it out for the final Champions
The 4-0 hammering of an admittedly poor Blackburn on
Sunday was their biggest win of the campaign and their
most fluid attacking display in months.
But with just seven highly charged games left, the
Anfield chief insists "there is no margin for error
Considering the tension in the battle with Newcastle for
fourth place, Liverpool's display was their most relaxed
and entertaining in months of stilted, worried
Houllier said: "We have seven games to go and we will be
up for it. It is not a matter of pressure, I have told
them it is a matter of enjoying ourselves.
"A lot of players would like to wear the Liverpool shirt
and a lot of teams would want to be in the position we
"And with the number of injuries we have had this
season, I just take my hat off to the players that we
are still competing at this level. Since everybody has
been back, just look at the results."
Liverpool have lost just two of their last 15 in the
league -and taken 10 points from the last 12 against
teams in the relegation zone - as their injured stars
have slowly returned to what has been a painful,
Houllier said: "We have seen something of the real
Liverpool recently, but even now it is not always there.
Michael Owen didn't play at Leicester last week but
showed how much we have missed him with those two goals
"So often we have been without the right players, and we
have suffered from that."
Liverpool and Newcastle both scored four at the weekend
and swapped places in 24 hours, with Liverpool taking a
precious one-point lead into the tough Easter programme
where both clubs have to meet champions-elect Arsenal.
Houllier said: "I still do not see it as just a battle
between two clubs. Aston Villa have good fixtures to
come and we still have to go to Birmingham right at the
end of the season and that will be a very interesting
"We have some difficult games to come, but we will be
all right. Each of our final games now has the pressure
of a knock-out fixture, where there is no margin for
error and when one result can shape the course of the
entire season. Cup finals are like that, that is why we
must win them all."
Liverpool seemed to have overcome the anguish of their
UEFA Cup exit last month, with the French coach saying:
"After the exertions when we lost with 10 men in
Marseille, our draw last weekend at Leicester was not a
"I will not try to kid the fans by pretending the result
was good because we missed opportunities to have won it,
but with it being so tight between ourselves and
Newcastle, that point could be decisive in the end.
"We now must take advantage of the four home games left
in our last seven because if we win them we are in a
position to dictate our future."
One relief for Houllier will have been the successful
reunion of the Owen-Emile Heskey partnership up front.
Heskey has had an awful time of late but produced his
best display of the campaign against Blackburn, scoring
and taking his tally to 10 for the season. He also won
praise from Houllier, along with full-back Jamie
Houllier said: "Emile did very well. He made the third
for Michael and scored one. His performance was very
good. But both Michael and Emile, because of the way
Blackburn play, needed to do other things for the team.
"You always need one of your strikers to drop and to
challenge Tugay, their playmaker, who plays behind the
"Our attitude and focus pleased me. The game had tension
but we also showed true grit out there to stop them and
work hard for everything we wanted.
"Carragher was also outstanding. He had played a full
game for England in Sweden and still performed like
that. The boy has totally changed, he is looking after
himself, he is focused in his work and is technically
"He is always going forward now as well as defending
well. He epitomises the way the side are now performing.
"I have said that when everyone is back we will have a
totally different side and that is what is happening."
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
If everyone with doubts about their future responds
like Emile Heskey did yesterday, Liverpool will finish
fourth with points to spare.
The Liverpool striker has deserved a lot of the
criticism which has come his way, but there's no doubt
he has admirable qualities too.
Perhaps one of the most worthy is the way he ignores
whatever's said or written about him, never holds
grudges and simply gets on with his job.
He's not someone who you'll ever hear using the good
days to justify the bad ones.
Heskey was ordered to use the imminent arrival of
Djibril Cisse as motivation to save his Anfield career.
Given the way he responded against Blackburn, perhaps it
won't do any harm to parade the French striker at the
stadium before the next home game too.
Indeed, maybe a string of world class players ought to
be interviewed, declaring their love for the club before
'officially' signing. If it will give a few others the
necessary kick up the back-side to keep this standard
up, everyone will be happy.
This was probably Heskey's most accomplished home
performance of the season as he became both goalscorer
He used his strength, his pace, his power and his
willingness to run to cause havoc.
If his bid to ensure he stays a Red this summer is
already doomed, at the very least he'll ensure rich
praise for his professionalism and conduct if he
performs to the best of his ability in the season's
finale. He could yet leave a hero.
The irony of Heskey hitting a rich period of form at a
time when he looks most vulnerable will not be lost
although, like his team, he's got to play like this
consistently before the pats on the back are frequent
enough to allow any 'I told you so' speeches to have
After all, it didn't go unnoticed that although the
horses were at Aintree, the donkeys were wearing blue
and white at Anfield yesterday.
Never has the chant 'can we play you every week' seemed
Whenever Liverpool meet Blackburn they look a different
side to the one struggling to secure fourth place.
Whether it's down to extra motivation when facing an
ex-manager, or simply because Graeme Souness' team is so
poor, the men from Lancashire seem to bring out the best
For the third time this season, the Reds took Souness'
men to the clean-ers. His quest to inflict further
damage on the club's Champions League ambitions failed
It's a few seasons since the Reds scored four times in a
Premiership game at Anfield and after just 25 minutes it
was a safer bet than Amber-leigh House they'd repeat the
The goal spree here was timely. So tight is the battle
for fourth, goal difference may yet prove decisive.
The only bad news is Birmingham and Fulham have to play
Rovers as well and on this evidence they'll get a hiding
wherever they go.
That said, it was refreshing to see Liverpool demolish
the opposition, even if the 9-0 result depicted on the
scoreboard was a little over-enthusiastic.
It could have been nine though, given the number of easy
chances Liverpool created.
The feel good factor was established early.
Michael Owen may not have been playing had this game
been on Saturday. The Grand National worked to
Liverpool's favour as Owen was declared a runner and he
showed how important he is with the first half double
which made the game safe.
Liverpool were straight out of the traps. Steven
Gerrard's rampaging run was blocked by Craig Short on
three minutes and Heskey could have finished the
skipper's cross from six yards a minute later.
The imagination and confidence which flowed through the
team was in stark contrast to the Walkers Stadium last
Heskey's act began early with the unselfish pass which
allowed Owen to drive the ball beyond Brad Friedel on
After Andy Todd deflected El-Hadji Diouf's cross beyond
his own keeper, Diouf turned supplier, providing more
ammunition for Owen with a clever pass which was
volleyed home in stun-ning style.
Just 25 minutes had been played. The most surpising
feature of the next 65 minutes was the Reds added just
one more to their tally.
Heskey shot over the bar, Riise came close and subs
Milan Baros and Danny Murphy will still be trying to
work out how they didn't get in on the scoring act in
the second half.
Fortunately, the second period surpremacy was rewarded
when Heskey received Baros' pass and blasted in the
The most comfortable home victory of the season was
complete. For the first time in a while, relegation
strugglers were ruthlessly exposed and the supremacy
Liverpool possess in terms of talent was visible.
There were good performances all over the park. Gerrard,
as usual, led the midfield while the forward partnership
of Owen and Heskey worked in tandem for the first time
The recalled John Arne Riise is also showing signs of a
steady return to the kind of form he showed when he
first signed and Harry Kewell displayed some magical
fleets of foot.
Even Diouf, who seems to enjoy playing Blackburn, earned
At the back, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher and Igor
Biscan snuffed out the young Blackburn strikeforce.
If Liverpool dominate opponents in their next seven
Premiership games as they did yesterday, there'll be no
last minute nerves as they seek to protect fourth.
Clearly, it's going to be a lot tougher than this,
however. It's much too early for anyone to claim the
critics, or the fans or even the least important people
of all, the Press, have been wrong to be worried for the
last 18 months.
Still, as morale-boosting, confidence instilling, belief
inspiring and hope restoring victories go, this wasn't
Houllier hails rampant Reds
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier was delighted with his
side's performance in the 4-0 destruction of Blackburn.
The Reds moved back into fourth place ahead of Newcastle
following their most comprehensive win of the season to
"Yes I am happy we created many more chances like we
have in other matches, but have not sealed the game as
we did today in the opening 25 minutes," beamed
"We had a very good first half, passed the ball around
well with a lot of movement and interchange.
"Our key players played at a very high level and there
was a good feeling of togetherness among the players
before they went onto the pitch.
"We knew Newcastle had won to go into fourth place which
is also our target and the boys showed good intent
"We could have won by more as we created a lot of
chances and Milan Baros, Danny Murphy, John Arne Riise
and Jamie Carragher all could have scored.
"I am pleased with the attitude and commitment of the
players and I am really pleased we kept a clean sheet as
well as the goals scored.
Houllier had special words of praise for Michael Owen
after he marked his return from injury with two goals.
"I thought he was fantastic, he worked extremely hard
after coming back from injury," added Houllier.
"That's why I substituted him as I did not want to take
any risks with his fitness as the games are coming thick
and fast, but I probably deprived him of a hat-trick.
"It will be battle right to the end with seven games to
go and as I have said before we need to play them as
seven cup finals and hopefully we will be as good as we
run Rovers ragged
Liverpool moved back into fourth place in The
Premiership with a convincing 4-0 win over Blackburn
Rovers at Anfield.
Michael Owen marked his return from injury with two
goals with an own goal from unfortunate Rovers defender
Andy Todd and a late Emile Heskey strike giving
Liverpool all three points to lift them above Newcastle
into the coveted fourth spot.
Liverpool tore into Rovers from the first whistle with
Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey testing Brad Friedel in
the opening five minutes.
The hosts did go in front on seven minutes with Owen
marking his return from injury with the goal.
Harry Kewell fed Heskey and he unselfishlessly squared
the ball for Owen on the edge of the box to curl his
shot past the despairing dive of Friedel.
Biscan congratulates Owen with the opener.
Owen should have doubled the lead just two minutes later
when he raced clear onto Heskey's flick-on from Igor
Biscan's long ball, but he got his shot all wrong
blazing wildly over the top.
Gerrard should have done better after 11 minutes when
the ball broke to him unmarked wide on the left, but the
Reds captain dragged his shot well wide.
Blackburn were struggling to get out of their own half
and it took them until 20 minutes for them to register
their first real effort at goal with Jon Stead heading
Brett Emerton's cross well wide.
Liverpool doubled their lead two minutes later when El
Hadji Diouf broke down the right and sent a dangerous
cross into the six-yard box which the unlucky Todd
diverted into his own net.
The hosts were enjoying themselves and they added a
third on 24 minutes with Heskey heading down a ball into
the path of Owen and he smashed his shot on the half
volley past a startled Friedel.
Heskey was causing the Rovers defence all sorts of
problems and he went close on 33 minutes latching onto a
mistake by Garry Flitcroft before firing a powerful shot
just wide of the upright.
On-loan defender from Liverpool Marcus Babbel almost
pulled a goal back for Rovers on the stroke of half time
when flashed a header wide from Emerton's corner and
there was still time left in the first half from Sami
Hyypia to head a corner from Gerrard into the ground and
over the crossbar.
Rovers came out in determined fashion for the second
with Graeme Souness's words probably still ringing in
their ears after a disappointing first period and
substitute Steven Reid dragged a shot well wide when
Liverpool understandably took the foot off the gas, but
Kewell went close with a shot from the edge of the area
Owen, who was looking for a hat-trick, was denied his
treble on 64 minutes by Friedel when he fired a powerful
free kick from the edge of the box towards goal, but
Friedel tipped the effort over the crossbar.
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier decided to take Owen off
on 75 minutes with his job done and it was Owen's
replacement Milan Baros who was the creator of the
fourth goal after 79 minutes playing in Heskey to drive
home under Friedel from 12 yards.
John Arne Riise missed a glorious chance four minutes
from time to make it five when he burst clear on goal,
but Friedel did well to keep out the Norwegian's shot
with his legs.
Substitute Danny Murphy had two chances to add to the
score within the space of a couple of minutes, dragging
his shot from the edge of the area just wide and then
somehow blazing over from eight yards with the goal at
Baros also watsed a fine chance in the dying seconds to
grab the fifth firing well over the top after racing
clear on goal.