Houllier: Win was just
what we needed
Gerard Houllier breathed a sigh of
relief after Michael Owen's record-breaking goal ended Liverpool's worst
run for two years.
Owen's first-half strike against Vitesse Arnhem was his 15th away goal in
Europe for the club and meant the Reds will take a slender 1-0 lead back
to Anfield for the second leg of this Uefa Cup third-round tie.
Houllier had presided over four games without a win before this result,
and he said: "I'm very, very happy with the result.
"When you are going through the sort of patch we have been in you need
results like this to rebuild confidence.
"This sort of performance will work in our favour in the games ahead. We
had gone four without a win and it was good to see the side back on the
right winning track again.
"I want to emphasise just how much effort the players put in, they were
all prepared to go that extra bit for the team. It may not have been a
flowing performance, but we won and that's all that matters at times like
"Considering the adversity we have suffered, a win away from home in
Europe will do much to build our confidence.
"And it could easily have been three or four, the number of chances we
had. Michael Owen could have gone home with the match ball on another
occasion had he not found their keeper in such good form."
Houllier, whose side take on Manchester United on Sunday, added: "The
players showed resilience, commitment and a great attitude.
"But we can't get carried away; the cliche is that it's only half-time and
we are very aware of that.
"Arnhem are a good side, they put Werder Bremen out in the last round and
they (Bremen) are among the top sides in the current German league.
Vitesse showed skill and they have shown they can produce it in away games
successfully in Europe."
Owen seals Liverpool win
By Paul Walker - PA Sport, Arnhem
Michael Owen's first-half goal gave
Liverpool an away victory in the UEFA Cup third round, first leg in
But the England striker missed three other gilt-edged chances when clean
through which would have given Liverpool a comfortable lead.
Instead they were on the backfoot for most of the game as they looked to
cure themselves of a Champions League hangover.
Manager Gerard Houllier rested several players ahead of Sunday's showdown
with Manchester United as his side ventured reluctantly into the UEFA Cup
Out went Dietmar Hamann, Emile Heskey, Jamie Carragher and John Arne Riise
- and only the latter could consider he was suffering because of poor
The surprise was Stephane Henchoz returning in central defence after just
45 minutes' action in eight weeks following his calf operation.
Bruno Cheyrou and Salif Diao were given their chances in midfield while
Milan Baros partnered Owen up front, a reward for six goals in 15
appearances this season, mostly from the bench.
The futuristic Gelredome, a half-size version of Cardiff's Millennium
Stadium, complete with roof, removable pitch and 30,000 seats, rocked with
noise with Liverpool probably the biggest draw here since U2 and Britney
Spears filled the venue for concerts.
Vitesse included 19-year-old Dutch youth international Theo Janssen, who
is likely to be the next big sale from the club.
The home side had Liverpool pinned back in the early stages. Markus Babbel
struggled early on, giving the ball away, while Henchoz was instantly
forced into a string of challenges and the Anfield men looked unsettled to
say the least.
Then on eight minutes Cheyrou limped off the pitch with what looked like a
hamstring injury, and Vladimir Smicer was sent into the fray.
Liverpool's midfield looked unbalanced. Steven Gerrard, making his first
start since being publicly rebuked by Houllier, was operating on the right
with Smicer playing in an advanced role. It left a gaping hole in front of
Diao, who had acres of space to cope with.
Baros' sliced header from Murphy's corner was the nearest Liverpool came
to scoring in the opening exchanges.
Murphy drilled a 17th-minute free-kick straight into the wall but Arnhem's
defence - marshalled by former Sheffield Wednesday man Dejan Stefanovic -
were coping well against Owen and Baros.
Gerrard showed something of his former self with a surging run at the
heart of the home defence before being bundled down by Evgeniy Levchenko.
It may have warranted a booking but Spanish referee Mejuto Gonzales did
not get his yellow card out until the 22nd minute when Diao brought down
After 32 minutes Liverpool struck with a goal of real class. Smicer
bravely won possession in midfield, Gerrard found Owen who pushed the ball
back to his England team-mate and scuttled off towards the box.
Gerrard's ball in was controlled and shielded expertly by Baros, who then
rolled the ball into Owen's path for the striker to coolly slot home from
It could have been two after 34 minutes when another accomplished passing
move ended with Owen retrieving the ball from the byline, tricking Tim
Cornelisse and laying the ball back for Murphy to fire over from 12 yards.
A minute later Murphy stole in as a free-kick dropped into the box and
sent a neat looping header agonisingly onto the roof of the net.
Vitesse were now the side looking troubled and Purrel Frankel was booked
for cutting down Gerrard after 35 minutes. Liverpool were exposing
Vitesse, and from another move involving Owen, Baros and Murphy, Gerrard
powered a 25-yard dipping shot over the crossbar.
Sami Hyypia received a nasty kick in the face from Matthew Amoah's boot,
and it was a relief for Liverpool fans to see him emerge from the dressing
room for the second half.
Just as in the first half, Vitesse started the second period quicker to
the ball. One lofted cross into the box forced Djimi Traore into a high,
looping header which Jerzy Dudek had to pull down from beneath his own
Owen could have given Liverpool some breathing space when he broke into
the box from the right, but Jevric smothered his 59th-minute shot.
However, Vitesse were getting closer to an equaliser, with Frankel and
Emile Mbamba both getting clear shooting chances but failing to hit the
Then Claessens had a close-range stab, but the shot was deflected enough
for Dudek to claim the ball.
Henchoz had to hurl himself at Cornelisse's low cross after a flowing move
by the home side.
Liverpool broke in the 66th minute and again Owen should have scored.
Baros got away and found the England striker racing through the middle.
Jevric saved his first effort but could only sit on the ground and pray as
Owen's follow-up effort crept an inch wide of an open goal.
It got worse for Owen after 68 minutes when he was through on goal again -
but saw Jevric save again. In the ensuing scramble Gerrard's chip towards
an empty net was headed away by Stefanovic.
Claessens headed over from Rahamat Mustapha's cross and the game was on a
knife-edge with Liverpool escaping on the break but Vitesse searching for
Heskey came on for Baros after 74 minutes, with the home side throwing on
Kalle Sone and Eldridge Rojer for Frankel and Mbamba three minutes later.
Eight minutes from time Liverpool somehow survived when Mustapha hit the
post and Sone found himself with an open net to roll the ball into - but
somehow contrived to miss from six yards.
Dudek made another excellent save from Claessens from close range in
injury-time as Liverpool held on to their slim first-leg advantage.