Miles ahead, but no cigar
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
This was one of those rare Anfield nights.
kind of recently infrequent occasion when Gerard
Houllier could have been forgiven for lounging back in
the dug-out, lighting up a king-sized Cuban and cracking
the kind of beaming smile Donny Osmond made his
Didi Hamann scored an early goal - and what a goal - the
craved-for security of a second came just 20 minutes
later, then talk of a Michael Owen (pictured) confidence
crisis was swept away when England's best striker topped
an excellent personal performance with a second goal.
While you would not have expected an Eric and
Ernie-style song and dance from the boss, a post-match
smile might have been anticipated.
But, no. Houllier seemed distracted, irked even.
Poor Shaka Hislop took one barbed comment. "He was man
of the match again, which he wasn't against Arsenal,"
said the Reds boss, pointedly.
Then he reasserted the accepted wisdom that his side had
been unfortunate against Southampton. "Paul Sturrock was
honest enough to admit that, which is very rare," he
added, "maybe Harry Redknapp will come in and say
Portsmouth deserved to win."
Of course, he didn't. Portsmouth barely deserved to win
Maybe that explained the seeds of Houllier's
Liverpool's performance was not all that different from
their Anfield FA Cup display a month ago. Nor was
But while Fred Dineage's favourite side somehow escaped
with a draw that afternoon, last night they were
If the pattern is followed, Wolves, who escaped with a
last-gasp draw at Molineux, will be just as
comprehensively walloped and the Reds will again look
likeliest for the fourth spot everyone seems reluctant
Of the sides chasing that prize, Liverpool look easily
best equipped to achieve it.
They could even afford to 'rest' Milan Baros and
Stephane Henchoz. But while Igor Biscan did enough to
suggest Henchoz may have to cool his heels a little
longer, Emile Heskey's efforts had Milan Baros chomping
at the bit.
The explanation for recent lacklustre was that the Reds
were 'leggy' after midweek exertions.
Last night's stroll should have helped, not hindered
A similar show on Saturday and we may even witness a
smile again from their usually affable manager.
may need eight more wins
LFC Official Website
Dietmar Hamann reckons Liverpool may still need to
win eight of their remaining matches to secure a place
in next season's Champions League.
Liverpool have ten league games to play before the end
of the season and the Reds' German midfielder believes
as many as 24 points may be necessary to win the race
for fourth place.
Speaking to Liverpoolfc.tv following last night's
comfortable victory over Portsmouth at Anfield, Hamann
said: "It's hard to say what we need to do because the
other teams are dropping points as well. We have hard
games left, including trips to Old Trafford and Arsenal.
"With 30 points to play for I think we definitely need
to get in the 20's. 20 points may be enough, but then we
may need 24. We need to get at least six, seven or eight
wins before the end of the season, starting against
Wolves on Saturday."
Victory over Portsmouth last night was never in doubt as
Liverpool turned in one of their best performances of
the season to cruise to three precious points.
Hamann opened the scoring with a brilliant volley inside
six minutes before Michael Owen ended his mini goal
drought with a well taken double either side of the
"It was important to take advantage of our game in hand
and win the three points tonight," said Hamann. "We're
closer to the top four now as well.
"We played well from the start. We pressed them from the
first whistle, created chances and scored three good
"We wanted an early goal and it was great to see my
volley go into the top corner. It's possibly the best
goal I have scored for Liverpool and certainly one of
the most important.
"Michael got the ball on the left and when he crossed it
to me I connected with a perfect volley. There was no
time for me to think about what I was going to do. I
just took the shot in my stride and fortunately the ball
ended up in the back of the net.
"It was also very important that Michael got onto the
scoresheet. They were two fantastic finishes. He
hasn'thad a great time of late but we know what he is
capable of and those goals will give him a little boost
for the rest of the season.
"We have never doubted him. Everyone at the club and in
the city appreciates what he has done for us and how
important he is. Strikers go through bad spells but
hopefully he is over his now."
happy as Owen repays faith
Gerard Houllier praised Michael Owen
(pictured) after the
Liverpool striker hit back at the critics with two goals
in the 3-0 defeat of Portsmouth.
Liverpool have moved into fifth, one point away from the
coveted fourth spot which would earn them a crack at
Champions League football.
Owen has now hit 14 goals in an injury-disrupted season
for Liverpool - and the two against Pompey took his
tally to five in the last nine games.
And Houllier said: "Michael is so special. He made one
goal, scored two, and showed he is not only a star
player he a great team player.
"Michael did not only score goals but he worked
"The effort our front two put in to shut down defenders
and win the ball back was hugely important. Defending
starts at the front.
"In fact Michael did not have too many opportunities,
but he scored two.
"His confidence will now improve - because goals do that
Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp was keen to defend
Owen, who has suffered so much criticism of late.
Redknapp said: "You always expect Owen to score, he is a
great player. People criticising him are so unfair
because he is a top player.
"It did not help that they scored first, but if we had
got one back even at 2-0 they would have got really
"But Owen's header finished us off, there was no coming
back from that.
"We know it will be tough right to the end and I accept
we must win five of our last ten to really have any
chance of surviving."
Owen double sinks
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool revived their bid for a Champions League
spot with a convincing victory over Portsmouth.
A stunning volley from Dietmar Hamann and two goals from
Michael Owen lifted the Reds into fifth place, a point
adrift of Charlton.
Owen tucked away his first from six yards before sealing
a welcome return to form with a second-half header.
Emile Heskey might have made it four late on when he
headed against a post, while Portsmouth offered little.
Liverpool, knowing victory was vital to keep pace with
Charlton and Newcastle in the fight for fourth spot, got
off to a flying start.
Owen, foraging effectively down the left, picked out
Hamann on the edge of the area, who lashed home a
stunning right-foot volley.
Owen might have scored himself 10 minutes later as he
turned his marker and let fly from 25 yards, but Shaka
Hislop was equal to the effort.
But for their goalkeeper, Portsmouth might have been 5-0
down by half-time.
Hislop reacted quickly to punch away a stinging drive
from John Arne Riise after 16 minutes, then parried
Harry Kewell's close-range effort.
He also palmed away a header from Igor Biscan as
Liverpool threatened to put the match to bed before the
As it was they were merely two goals to the good, Owen
neatly controlling Jamie Carragher's cross in the 28th
minute before tucking the ball into the far corner.
Liverpool's attacking verve was in stark contrast to
Portsmouth, who were bereft of any confidence or belief.
Svetoslav Todorov, starting his first game of the
season, dallied too long with their best chance of the
first half, and was replaced at half-time by Matt
Pompey boss Harry Redknapp also introduced Steve Stone
for Alexei Smertin and the visitors rallied briefly.
Dejan Stefanovic hit the woodwork with a free kick
before Lomana LuaLua missed a glorious chance from six
yards out after 51 minutes.
Owen made him pay for his profligacy with his second
before the hour, stealing ahead of his marker to head
home Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner.
The England striker showed his renewed confidence with
another effort across goal before teeing up Danny Murphy
for a shot well saved by Hislop.
Heskey, restored to the starting line-up, directed a
header against a post from Kewell's cross as Liverpool
pressed for more goals late on.
Defeat left Portsmouth in the bottom three, still two
points adrift of safety.