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Liverpool 2 Chelsea 2 - Prem (May 8 2001)

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LIVERPOOL 2 Chelsea 2

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield



Scorer(s) – Michael Owen (2)

Half Time - 1-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Tue 8 May 2001

Star Man – Michael Owen











We should have known really shouldn't we? Victory over the 'Village People' would have secured a champions league place with a game to spare, but Liverpool wouldn't be Liverpool without doing things the hard way. Before I launch into a full blooded assault on Chelsea and their spiteful, whingeing, crying petulant, cheating players, I have to say that on that showing the Londoners were the best team I've seen at Anfield this season.


If they had been playing like that every week then they'd have given the mancs a run for their money this season, but obviously they've been up and down. Hasselbaink is up there with Thierry Henry when it comes to the best striker we have faced, and it's just a shame that he's such a cheating, horrible little scumbag.


If there was one thing I knew before this game, it was that Chelsea would be niggly, provocative and downright despicable. They always are, and are the only serious rivals to Leeds when it comes to the dirtiest team in the Premiership award. In Wise, Le Saux, Hasselbaink, Morris, Desailly, Le Boef, Bogarde, Poyet and others, Chelsea have a collection of players who are fine when things are going their way, but are prone to spitting the dummy when they're not.


Hasselbaink's actions were a disgrace. I couldn't have been any further away from the incident when he hit the deck after confronting McAllister, but even I could tell from where I was that there was no contact. I'm told that it looked really bad on TV, and that Hasselbaink will probably be feeling a bit of a dickhead for looking like such a shitbag. Personally, I doubt if he's bothered, as if he was he wouldn't be carrying on like that in the first place. For me, the two lowest things a footballer can do is to spit at an opponent, or feign an injury to get someone sent off.


Diving for free kicks is one thing, but collapsing in a heap and indicating that you've been butted when nothing of the sort happened is another entirely, and I'd like to see the FA start clamping down on that in a big way. I don't believe I'm being over the top when I say that such an offence should carry a minimum 10 match ban, as there's simply no place for that type of thing. People will say it's something that's crept into our game with the introduction of so many foreigners, but that's too convenient an excuse.


I remember Mark Hughes doing the exact same thing in a European match against Montpellier years and years ago when he was at United. I was quite young at the time and remember thinking that I'd never seen such blatant cheating. I was absolutely furious, and it's something that has stuck with me ever since. I hate seeing it, and I'll not rest until it's stamped out of our game for good. So forget about the ten match ban, that's too lenient. It should carry a six month ban. They'd soon stop doing it then.


There's been other examples of it too. Neil Redfearn got Vieira sent off a couple of seasons ago, Danny Mills did it a couple of weeks later (both of them were at Charlton at the time, and it's something that Alan Curbishley obviously condones as Richard Rufus did it at Anfield this season to try and get Emile sent off). There's no place for it, and the offenders need to have the book thrown at them or it will never stop. Sorry to have gone off on one there, but I needed to get all that off my chest.


Right, back to the game. As disappointing as it was not to win, we have to acknowledge that Chelsea probably did enough to earn a draw. It was a great game, and both keepers needed to be on their toes, as chances flowed for both sides. Sander was at fault for Hasselbaink's first, but to be fair to the keeper he also made a couple of outstanding saves in the second half.


Owen was magnificent. I wrote in my Newcastle report that as good as he was that day, he was still not at his best as he wasn't running at players, he was just running in behind them. This was the closest to his best I've seen from Michael in about two years. There's still a bit more to come in terms of running at defenders and beating them, but he's almost there now. He was electric against Chelsea, and Desailly had to be at his very best to stop Michael running amok. Against lesser opposition, there's no telling how many Owen would have scored on this form. He now looks like he may actually pip Heskey as the clubs top scorer, which given his injury problems and the rotation policy, really would be a measure of how good he really is.


It should also be mentioned how good Stevie G was. He was absolutely sensational, and it was only the brilliance of Owen that prevented me from giving Stevie the star man. Some of the things he produced in the game were almost beyond belief, and one sublime piece of skill almost resulted in the goal of the season when he dummied to volley before bringing the ball down and firing a shot just over the bar. There was also a fabulous scissor kick from Mickey O that would also have been a goal of the season contender, and going into two cup finals (three if you count the Charlton game) it's great to see our two brightest stars on top of their game.


Luckily for Chelsea, they had an in-form player of their own in Jimmy Floyd. As despicable as he is, it has to be said that he's a hell of a player. The way he took both of his goals was unerring. His shots always seem to find the corners, and he hardly ever seems to miss to the target. Hopefully the rumours linking him with a move back to Spain with Barca are true.


I've done nothing but slag Chelsea players off so far, but I'm going to end by singing the praises of one of them. No, not Dennis Wise (the less said about that spiteful little shit the better), I'm talking about Zola. He is the only person connected with Chelsea (and by that I mean staff, directors and players) that has got any class. An absolute footballing genius, yet he's also modest, unassuming, and a true gentleman. Nothing like his team-mates. The warm ovation he received from the home fans when he left the field was well deserved, and once again proves why as a group of supporters, we're still the most sporting. Shame we never get the credit for it really.


So although in the end we could have sneaked the three points, it wasn't meant to be, and we now have to go to the Valley and win. A draw may be enough, but I doubt if both Leeds and Ipswich will slip up, so I think we'll need to win. It won't be easy, especially coming so soon after the two cup finals, but hopefully we can avoid a repeat of what happened on the last day last season. I don't think I could take it if Leeds pipped us again.



TEAM: Westerveld; Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Gerrard, Hamann (Murphy), McAllister, Berger (Smicer); Owen, Heskey (Fowler):

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