Football: Houllier sees the crisis deepen

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Liverpool 1 Leeds United 3

Fowler pen 68 Smith 79, Hasselbaink 81, 86

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 44,305

LIVERPOOL ARE under new management, but the crisis at Anfield is a long way from being solved. To the dismay of a full-house crowd drawn to witness the start of the Gerard Houllier era, the team that Roy Evans handed over last week suffered a third consecutive home defeat as Leeds overturned the deficit of a penalty midway through the second half to score three goals in the space of seven minutes.

Leeds, themselves trying to rebuild after the departure of George Graham, chalked up their first away win of the season and only their second at Anfield in 19 visits, bouncing back from their midweek Worthington Cup defeat at Leicester to win with a debut goal from the 18-year-old substitute Alan Smith and two from their Dutch striker, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Like his teammate, the defender Jonathan Woodgate, Smith was available only because the Uefa Under-18 tournament due to have taken place in Israel this weekend was cancelled.

Houllier will point to the absence through injury of Michael Owen and Steve McManaman as making his task more difficult, but the presence of neither would have made up for the defensive deficiencies that again let Liverpool down. Having led after 68 minutes, their confidence was shattered when Leeds scored twice in the space of little more than 60 seconds.

Houllier said: "The game changed completely in those seconds. I had been pleased with the way we were playing, but our confidence is thin and I had a feeling the equaliser could have dreadful consequences, especially since we thought we should have had a penalty just before Leeds scored. I now have ahead of me a football job and a pyschological job, both to strengthen the team and to restore their mental strength."

Houllier, who replaced Brad Friedel in goal with David James and recalled Jamie Redknapp, Patrik Berger and Karlheinz Riedle, took his place in the dug-out from the start, his assistant Phil Thompson alongside him a considerably more animated figure, shouting and gesticulating, jumping to his feet from time to time. The atmosphere into which they stepped was not, perhaps, as they would have liked it.

Anfield was in shock, still trying to come to terms with the week's developments. There was no great welcome for the new regime. In one corner of the ground, a banner read: "Thanks, Roy." Many did clamour for Evans to go but now it has happened there is sadness that an honourable man with Liverpool in his soul has had to acknowledge his failure.

In the first half, the football was as subdued as the audience. Only once did Liverpool produce a threatening moment, the Leeds defender Martin Hiden whipping the ball away from Riedle's feet after Berger, released by Redknapp's precision pass, pulled the ball back from the byline on the left.

Tactically, Liverpool had been getting nowhere. Long passes towards the front pair were mopped up easily by the three Leeds centre-backs, even when one of them, Hiden, had to leave the field for the last few minutes of the first half after a clash of heads with Riedle.

Liverpool began the second period with fresh ideas and invigorated motivation, working the ball through the middle more. In 20 minutes of Liverpool pressure, Riedle and Redknapp both went close as the home side won a string of corners before Redknapp, jinking his way into the penalty area on the left, beat Nigel Martyn with a curling shot that almost crept inside the far post. Then Martyn pulled off a memorable save to turn a powerful effort by Fowler around the post.

After 68 minutes Liverpool went ahead through a penalty converted by Fowler. The adjudged offender was Martyn, harshly perhaps. He and Riedle jumped for David Thompson's ball and, though the Leeds goalkeeper appeared to make a legitimate attempt at a punched clearance, he flattened the German striker and the referee Dermot Gallagher pointed to the spot. Riedle was helped off in a daze as Fowler slid his penalty to Martyn's left.

But Liverpool's joy lasted only 10 minutes before it was overturned amid acrimony. Liverpool claimed another penalty when Woodgate brought down Thompson but as Gallagher waved away their appeal, Leeds broke swiftly and when a shot by David Hopkin was blocked, the ball sat up for Smith, who had just come on, to push it wide of James.

Moments later, Liverpool were incensed again when a challenge by Hopkin on the substitute Oyvind Leonhardsen went unpunished and again Leeds took advantage. Now the ball ran for Hasselbaink, the home defence freezing before him, the Dutchman driving the ball home from just inside the penalty area.

Now Leeds, sensing the opposition's disarray, went for the jugular and Hasselbaink, fed by Harry Kewell, skipped through for his second goal five minutes from time.