Football: Berger finds new relish

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 0

Liverpool 2

Berger 56, Owen 57

Attendance: 20,000

LIVERPOOL served notice of their intentions for the coming season with a surprisingly comfortable win over Leeds United in the final of the Carlsberg Trophy at Lansdowne Road. It will come as no surprise that Michael Owen scored but, perhaps more significantly, Patrik Berger got his second goal in 24 hours. If last season was disappointing for the Czech international, the signs are that the coming campaign could be more fruitful.

With a new work permit, luckily secured, Berger seems to have rediscovered his zest for football. He was only brought into the action as a half- time substitute for Karlheinz Reidle, whose contribution up front was disappointingly negligible in comparison with Owen.

Within 12 minutes of his introduction, Berger had scored. Collecting a pass from Steve McManaman near the right touchline, he moved inside and beat the Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martyn from 25 yards. As the 24-year- old was still being acclaimed, Liverpool put the game out of Leeds' reach with a second goal within 60 seconds.

Berger, again, was involved. He won the ball in the centre circle and gave it to Paul Ince. The Liverpool captain spotted Owen in space on the left and passed to him. All that remained for the teenager to do was to weave his magic. He dismissed Robert Molenaar's attempted challenge, cut inside and shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Leeds' attempts to fight their way back into the game were feeble and a shot on the turn from Gary Kelly was their only effort on goal to cause undue concern.

Owen, who came on in the second half against St Patrick's Athletic, the Irish champions, was one of six changes for yesterday's final. Also brought into the starting line-up were the Norwegian signing Vegard Heggem, Dominic Matteo, Steve Harkness and American goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The inclusion of Friedel was no surprise as David James had a game he would wish to forget on Friday night and, with Liverpool reportedly negotiating with the French keeper Richard Dutruel, James' days at Anfield would appear to be numbered. Friedel proved a more than adequate replacement and did well to keep out Leeds' only shot in anger in the opening period, from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

In the 29th minute, Phil Babb threaded the ball through to Owen who turned and embarrassed Lucas Radebe and Martin Hiden before Martyn ended his menacing run. Radebe was then fortunate not to concede a penalty after hauling down Owen inside the area but the referee Hugh Byrne waved away Liverpool's appeal. Shortly before the interval, Owen again made Leeds look ordinary when he pushed the ball beyond Molenaar and darted round the Norwegian to collect his own pass. If the shot was poor, the lead-up had the crowd off their seats.

In the earlier game, the Serie A side Lazio, without the injured Marcelo Salas, claimed third place in the competition with a 4-1 win over St Patrick's Athletic. Goals from Dejan Stankovic and Pavel Nedved gave Lazio a 2-0 lead at the interval and further strikes by Alessandro Iannuzzi and Guerino Gottardi in the second half came either side of a consolation header from Ian Gilzean.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Friedel; Heggem, Carragher, Babb, Matteo; McAteer, McManaman (Thompson, 68), Ince (Murphy, 68), Harkness; Riedle (Berger, h-t), Owen (Dundee, 76).

Leeds (4-4-2): Martyn; Hiden, Molenaar, Radebe, Harte (Ribeiro, 87); Halle (Kelly, h-t), Haaland, Bowyer (Hopkin, 71), McPhail (Granville, h-t); Hasselbaink, Matthews (Lilley, 71).

Referee: H Byrne (Dublin)