Football: Fowler typifies Liverpool's new spirit: Fastest hat-trick in Premiership history hints at Anfield revival

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The Independent Online
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CONSIDERING that Liverpool's supporters harboured grave pre-season doubts about their team beating anyone, even Everton, there has been a remarkable transformation in nine days. Two victories, nine goals and a 100 per cent record into the new Premiership campaign and there is a new-look Anfield and a radical new opinion about the players.

Beating Crystal Palace 6-1 on the opening day could be put down to old lags giving the new boys a lesson in Premiership life, but to reduce Arsenal's defence, a back four of seasoned internationals, to a shambles like they did yesterday is something else. Liverpool's optimism, like the new Kop, is rising from the wreckage of last season.

Liverpool demolished a team commonly considered to be among the championship favourites with a triple- pronged assault from Robbie Fowler that lasted four minutes 33 seconds and yielded the fastest hat-trick the Premier League has ever seen. It was deadly finishing from the 19-year-old, who could add yesterday's haul to a hat-trick against Southampton and a five-goal destruction of Fulham last term.

'The boy has immense talent,' Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager said. 'It's frightening. He has to appreciate the work that Ian Rush and Steve McManaman put in for his three goals, though, and learn from it. He has to make the same runs for them as they did for him today.'

It was a slow burner start for Liverpool, who were the inferior team in the first 25 minutes. However, they burst out of their shell with devastating effect in the 26th minute. Martin Keown needlessly pushed Rob Jones on the visitors' left - for which he was booked - and from the free-kick the ball rebounded from Rush to Fowler eight yards out. With icy aplomb, the youngster found the corner of the net with his left foot.

Two minutes later Fowler struck again when McManaman burst through the middle and then passed to him on the left of the area. Fowler's first touch was not perfect and the chance appeared to have gone, but he hooked his low shot below David Seaman.

For the third goal John Barnes chipped a ball to where the visiting centre backs ought to have been but which found Fowler racing beyond them. His shot was saved by Seaman, but bounced off Keown and settled near the post, where Fowler scooped the ball in from a narrow angle.

Arsenal, their parsimonious image in tatters, had to improve and they did after the interval, when they again had a monopoly of possession. Ian Wright and Campbell both had opportunities but then so did Fowler, whose attempt on a fourth goal was hooked over the bar in the 70th minute.

By the end Arsenal's ideas and energy had run out and they were a comprehensively beaten side. It has been an unhappy week for the Gunners, who lost to a late goal at Leeds on Tuesday.

'We looked like a team who had a long journey and a hard match in midweek, which we did,' George Graham, the visiting maanger, said. 'They scored three and could have got more. The whole performance was below par. It was way, way below what we've come to expect.'

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Jones, Nicol, Ruddock, Bjornebye; McManaman, Redknapp, Molby (Thomas, 57), Barnes; Rush, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Matteo, Stensgaard (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Keown, Winterburn; Campbell, Jensen (Davis, 73), Schwarz, Merson (Linighan, 73); Wright, Smith. Substitute not used: Bartram (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

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