Football: Owen makes the difference

Liverpool 3 Grimsby 0
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The Independent Online
Dave Hadfield

Liverpool 3

Grimsby 0

Michael Owen brought an abrupt halt to Grimsby's adventures in the Coca-Cola Cup, his hat-trick at Anfield last night ensuring that Liverpool would not go the way of Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester City.

Owen's incisiveness neatly filleted the visitors last night, as he provided the reminder that, at his current rate of progress, he might not be too far removed from the finished product by the time of the World Cup.

His goals were a mixed catch: a sharp piece of opportunism, a penalty - which he won - and a long-range stunner. By the time he had finished with Grimsby, whose 6,000 travelling fans waved remarkable assortments of marine life aloft, they had been made to look very small fish in a very big pond.

And yet the Second Division side started confidently, their experienced wing men, Kingsley Black and Kevin Donovan, giving them a range of options that a nervous Liverpool lacked in the early stages.

Liverpool's opening goal came when Steve McManaman pounced on the breakdown of a Grimsby move in his own penalty area and took the ball upfield at pace.

Jamie Redknapp's shot came back off the outstretched arms of Aidan Davison, who really should have held it, and there was Owen to punish him.

Liverpool had a significant escape soon after that when David James miskicked the ball to Paul Groves. Caught off guard, Groves tried to drive it through the goalkeeper when a chip would have left him helpless.

Grimsby had even more reason to regret that miss when, with half-time approaching, Peter Handyside brought down Owen for an obvious penalty as he went after Karlheinz Riedle's pass. Owen got up, dusted himself off and put away the spot kick coolly.

Grimsby would have been finished off completely before Owen's third if Oyvind Leonhardsen had not had a penalty appeal turned down and then missed a simple chance.

But the young striker's third was worth waiting for. Again McManaman made the running down the left and Owen's combination of power and precision planted the ball perfectly in Davison's top left-hand corner from 25 yards out.

Riedle almost emulated him with an effort that clipped the bar, but Liverpool and Owen had done more than enough to end Grimsby's admirable assault on the competition.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Jones, Kvarme, Matteo, Bjornebye; McManaman, Ince, Redknapp (Berger, 65), Leonhardsen; Riedle, Owen. Substitutes not used: McAteer, Harkness.

Grimsby (4-4-2): Davison; McDermott, Lever, Handyside, Gallimore; Donovan, Widdrington, Groves (Jobling, 84), Black (Southall, 69); Nogan, Lester (Livingstone, 69).

Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).

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