Football: Loko blocks Liverpool's route to Rotterdam final

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The Independent Online
They were still going loopy over Patrice Loko in the French capital yesterday when the news came through that the inmates from Anfield will be the next visitors to Paris St-Germain in the semi-finals of the Cup- Winners' Cup.

The striker with a history of psychiatric problems scored a hat-trick in Athens on Thursday night and now stands between Liverpool and their first European final since the Heysel disaster of 1985.

After disposing of the flaky SK Brann, Roy Evans is well aware of the threat posed by the 27-year-old Frenchman. The holders can also call on the Brazilians, Leonardo and Rai.

"One thing for sure if that we will be watching them several times between now and the game," the Liverpool manager said. "French football is going through a renaissance and to get a result like they did in Greece is no mean feat."

The 3-0 win against AEK Athens completed a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of Loko, who needed a psychiatrist's couch two years ago after suffering a mental breakdown brought on by the pressure of his transfer to PSG and domestic difficulties.

Evans will take Liverpool to Paris on Thursday 10 April, with Loko and Co delighted to be at a "mythical" Anfield a fortnight later. "For us it is great. The stadium in Liverpool has such history and such atmosphere," Jean Francois Domergue, the PSG general director, said.

If they overcome PSG, Liverpool, will meet Barcelona - coached by the former England manager Bobby Robson - or Fiorentina in the final in Rotterdam on 14 May.

Alex Ferguson was granted his wish of an away first leg against Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final of the European Cup. "I am quite happy with that," the Manchester United manager said. "If we do our job properly and play as well as we have done in away games, then we are going to give ourselves a great chance."

The Dortmund coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, said the fact his team were at home on 9 April was irrelevant. "It doesn't matter at all whether we play at home or away in the first leg. We're just as strong away as at home. Our 1-0 win at Auxerre proved that. We're not afraid of English football."

Waiting for the winners in Munich on 28 May will be either Juventus, the holders, or Ajax, whose semi-final pairing is a repeat of last year's final.

Monaco, who had little trouble sending Newcastle United packing from the Uefa Cup, have been drawn aginst Internazionale, while Tenerife face Germany's Schalke 04 in the other semi-final.

n Manchester United and Liverpool are to be given a TV breather. In order to ease the clubs' heavy programme, Sky will televise United's Premiership game at Leicester City (kick-off 11.15am) and Liverpool's home match with Spurs (6.15pm) on 3 May instead of exercising their option to switch the games to Sunday or Monday.

Fowler's show of solidarity, page 3

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