Houllier happy with point
Gerard Houllier felt Newcastle deserved their draw
which secured a place in the Uefa Cup for The Magpies at
The Magpies were forced to hang on for a draw after
Michael Owen cancelled out Shola Ameobi's first half
Houllier was pleased with the effort of his players for
fighting hard in the second half even though they had
already booked a place in the UEFA Champions League, but
was sad Emile Heskey did not net on what could prove to
be his final game for the club.
"The first half they looked better than us," said
Houllier. "They did not have a lot of chances, but
created one good one and scored a good goal.
"We needed to improve our passing and movement, which we
did. And we looked more lively and penetrating. On view
of the second half performance the draw was deserved.
"They wanted to win and were working hard and then
seemed to settle for a draw when learning of the score
at Aston Villa.
"They did not have a lot of chances, but credit to Jimmy
Carragher he kept us in the game with a wonderful
clearance (from Darren Ambrose).
"I am just sorry for Emile that he did not score
today. I wish he would have scored on what could be his
last game for us."
It appeared Houllier was pleased Sir Bobby Robson was
able to salvage something from the season as he had
words of sympathy for his opposite number.
"The strength of your team is dependent on your top
players and when you have too many top players missing,
you can get away with it for one or two games but not
for long periods," said Houllier.
"I feel the fifth place was probably deserved by
Newcastle who have been around us for some time."
Houllier believes his team can improve, but is looking
to bring in new faces.
"We will sit down and talk because there are some areas
we need to work on," he added.
"I know this team can make progress. They have already
won medals and have finished close behind some great
teams, but we will keep going.
"We have maybe raised the expectation too early, but
they showed today how proud we can be of them."
seals final day point
By Chris Smith - LFC Official Website
A magnificent second-half goal from Michael Owen
secured a point for the Reds in their final game of the
season against Newcastle at Anfield.
After securing the coveted fourth spot on Wednesday,
Owen's 68th minute strike ensured Liverpool's campaign
would end on a relative high, after Shola Ameobi had
given the visitors an unexpected first-half lead.
Gerard Houllier named an unchanged team from last week's
3-0 demolition of Birmingham City, hoping to end the
season on a continued high after the final Champions
League place was conceded in midweek when today's
visitors failed to beat Southampton.
The big news was a place on the bench for 19-year old
goalkeeper Paul Harrison, who lost his father and uncle
15-years ago at the Hillsborough disaster. Stephane
Henchoz also returned to the bench after injury.
Newcastle, who needed to better Aston Villa's result in
order to secure UEFA Cup football next season, made two
changes from Wednesday, with Andrew Griffin and Andy
O'Brien replacing Steve Caldwell and Olivier Bernard.
The game kicked off amid an intense Anfield atmosphere.
"Champions League we're having a laugh," chanted a rowdy
Kop that had displayed a mosaic celebrating the great
history of the original stand, ten years after it was
knocked down. "YNWA The Kop," it read.
The team started in an equally confident mood, after
three straight wins, with some nice interchanging
passing in midfield. A superb move involving Gerrard and
Murphy set up Didi Hamann for the first shot in anger,
on 17 minutes. The former Newcastle man stung the palms
of Shay Given with a well-struck 25-yard effort.
An exquisite flick from Murphy, set up Emile Heskey on
24 minutes but the Reds number 8 scuffed a difficult
chance on the volley. It was all Liverpool at this
A minute later, though, Shola Ameobi gave Newcastle a
shock lead. The England U21 international found himself
free on goal after a slip by Sami Hyypia, and drove an
unerring shot past Jerzy Dudek to send the travelling
Toon Army into a state of delirium. Their UEFA Cup
dreams remained intact.
The Geordies were forced into a change five minutes
before the break, as goalscorer, Ameobi was replaced by
Welsh speed demon Craig Bellamy. The Reds stayed in the
ascendancy but their probing had failed to impregnate a
usually porous Newcastle defence as the half-time
Less than two minutes into the second-half, some
outstanding work from Gerrard presented Heskey with a
glorious chance to level the scores. However, as in the
first-half, the striker made minimal contact with the
ball after a wild right-footed swing.
Gerrard continued to force the attacking momentum as a
fine one-two with a quiet Harry Kewell gave the skipper
a chance of his own. He poked the ball wide as it
arrived very quickly at his feet.
Jamie Carragher cleared off the line for the Reds, to
keep them in the game, on 55 minutes. Shearer's downward
header travelled across the goal-line and the
Bootle-born defender was there to save the day from deny
Darren Ambrose a certain goal.
As the Reds pushed forward in search of an equaliser,
Newcastle set about exploiting the gaps. A dangerous
cross from Owen was followed immediately by a similar
centre from Bellamy as both sides realised that the next
goal would be the most telling of the encounter.
Harry Kewell was booked for diving on 63 minutes as a
mini-melee broke out, before the outstanding Gerrard
drove a shot straight at Shay Given from a tight angle.
Gerrard again made the difference, crafting a
magnificent Liverpool equaliser for Michael Owen.
Standing just inside the Newcastle half there appeared
to be little threat, but a beautifully curled pass found
the run of Owen, who slotted past Given with a delicate
finishon 68 minutes.
It was Owen's 19th goal of the season, and as for the
captain? There seem to be few superlatives left to
describe his contribution to Liverpool's season. He was
by far the star performer here again today.
Newcastle introduced Lauren Robert and Steven Caldwell
in a bid to cling onto the result, knowing that defeat
would see them miss out on European qualification next
season. Robert's swerving drive almost caught Dudek out
with five minutes to go, but the Reds eased home, while
threatening to take all three points themselves.
This superb finish to the season gives Liverpool a great
platform to build on in 2004/05, and with the
acquisition of some world class talent and the continued
application of the likes of Gerrard, who received a
richly-deserved standing ovation when taking a corner
late on, and Owen, they can surely pose a greater threat
to the top three next season.