Owen worthy of cup chance
By PA Sport Staff
Gerard Houllier reckons Michael Owen is fresh and ready for
the Worthington Cup final after his priceless strike sent Liverpool into
the last eight of the UEFA Cup.
Owen scored the crucial first goal in the 2-0 second-leg win over Auxerre,
the first time in four months he has scored in back-to-back matches.
The England striker netted in Sunday's defeat at Birmingham, now has 18
for the season, has equalled Ian Rush's European club record of 20 goals -
and, perhaps more importantly, kept Liverpool's season alive.
Houllier, who has constantly backed Owen to come out of his mid-season
barren spell, rested the striker to the bench at Birmingham.
"He was rested there because I knew we would need his freshness for this
European game and Sunday's final against Manchester United," revealed
"I feel that has worked and you will now know that he will play in Cardiff
The Liverpool manager added: "When Michael scored his goal, it freed the
whole side. It was always going to be hard for Auxerre after that."
Now Liverpool face Celtic in the quarter-finals aware that it was at
Parkhead that Owen scored his first European goal when they sides last met
in this competition.
Houllier said: "For Michael to break Ian's record, we knew we had to win
this tie and get into the next round. I have no doubt that he will set a
new record very soon.
"He has scored most of his goals in Europe away from home, maybe that's an
On the Celtic encounter, the Frenchman added: "I'm not surprised that
Celtic have got through, it is an exciting tie for both clubs.
"The fans are friends, they have the same passion for the game and this is
a great match for both clubs. But we relish such games, we will certainly
be giving our best."
Auxerre boss Guy Roux insisted: "We started the game well, looking
very positive and played some good football and created several chances.
"We even started the second period the same way, it looked to me as if it
would be us who would break the deadlock.
"But then we made our first real error in defence and Michael Owen was
through to score.
"It was then going to be very difficult, 2-0 down at that point was very
tough to recover from.
"The two legs were very similar, we played well at home too. But Liverpool
have a very fine defence and it showed in both matches and was why we have
failed to score."
Roux also forgave striker Djibril Cisse, who threw his shirt into the dug
out after being substituted.
The Auxerre coach said: "His reaction shows how much he loves football and
hates to lose."
can't wait for Battle of Britain
LFC Official Website
Michael Owen has spoken of his satisfaction at Liverpool
securing their place in the last eight of the UEFA Cup and revealed he
can't wait for the 'Battle of Britain' clash with Celtic.
Owen equalled Ian Rush's European scoring record when he scored in the 2-0
Reds victory over Auxerre and he said afterwards: "It's satisfying to get
into the next round.
"The second half performance was totally different from the first half
performance. We ran out comfortable in the end. You can't ask for more
than to win the game."
Owen and Jamie Carragher are Liverpool's only survivors from the last
meeting with Celtic in 1997 and the Reds number ten is expecting another
"We hear that Celtic got through as well so that should be another
memorable game," he adds.
"Me and Jamie Carragher both agree that it was mindblowing. When they came
down here their fans didn't shut up all through the game. It was a great
to play Liverpool
Martin O'Neill is relishing a Uefa Cup quarter-final with
Liverpool even though he believes Celtic will be underdogs.
The Hoops gave their fans a few anxious moments as they recorded a 5-4
aggregate win over Stuttgart despite going 2-0 ahead.
They will face Liverpool at Parkhead in two weeks' time and O'Neill is
excited at the prospect.
O'Neill said: "We have played before (in 1997-98) - but to be in the
quarter-final is the most important thing.
"Closer to the time I will give it plenty of thought. I suppose there will
be all sorts of comparisons made. They are a talented side and we will
give it our best shot.
"Michael Owen is a top class player and it will be nice to see Emile
Heskey, who did wonderfully well for me at Leicester, again. I will
concern myself with that closer to the time.
"It's a great tie for us and we will try and defend a wee bit better than
we did in the last 10 minutes or so.
"Liverpool are a top-class side and I am surprised with the way they fell
away in the league especially after being in a wonderful position early
"They are definitely coming back to form and they have quality players all
over the field. We will be underdogs but we will give it everything."
He added: "I'm obviously delighted to be in the quarter-final of the Uefa
Cup. I knew the game would be very difficult.
"We got off to a wonderful start. It was our intention to try and score a
goal and I was delighted to get two.
"Over the two games we deserved to win, but I have to say that in the last
20 minutes Stuttgart showed why they are lying third in the Bundesliga."
Reds set up
Battle of Britain
By James Dart - Sportinglife.com
Liverpool set up a mouthwatering UEFA Cup quarter-final
with Celtic after second-half goals from Michael Owen and Danny Murphy
secured a 2-0 win on the night over Auxerre, sending the Reds into the
last eight 3-0 on aggregate.
Having been frustrated after a poor first period, Liverpool were indebted
to a cool Owen finish on 67 minutes, before Murphy wrapped up the win when
his speculative drive deceived French goalkeeper Fabien Cool just six
Murphy had created the best chance of the opening half for Liverpool just
before the break, when his astute cross picked out Emile Heskey, who
headed tamely over the bar from 12 yards out.
But the half-time introduction of substitute Vladimir Smicer revitalised
the home side and Owen eased their nerves with a record-equalling strike.
Murphy's delightful flick sprung the Auxerre offside trap to send Owen
clear and the England striker made no mistake with just Cool to beat,
keeping his head with a tidy finish. The goal brought Owen's European
tally to 20, tying Ian Rush's club record.
And Liverpool nerves were eased further in the 73rd minute when Murphy's
swerving shot from 30 yards embarrassed Cool as he turned the ball into
his own net off his hip.
Relieved Liverpool fans were left to chant 'Bring on the Celtic' ahead of
the quarter-final first leg, scheduled for Parkhead in a fortnight's time.