Barmby lifts Liverpool

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The Independent Online

Liverpool's England internationals last night gained some measure of revenge on Romania. Twice in recent years the eastern European country have beaten England in international tournaments - the most recent being this summer's European Championship.

Liverpool's England internationals last night gained some measure of revenge on Romania. Twice in recent years the eastern European country have beaten England in international tournaments - the most recent being this summer's European Championship.

It was fitting, then, that two England players - Michael Owen and Nicky Barmby - constructed the goal that gave Liverpool's latest European adventure the right start in this Uefa Cup first-round first-leg match. Owen set off on a stunning first-half run to beat three men and set up Barmby to fire home the goal which separated the sides.

Liverpool's heroes were Owen - who had an outstanding game up front despite missing two glorious chances - Barmby, for his running and industry, and Dietmar Hamann for a combative game in midfield. But towards the end, when the game should have been a stroll, Liverpool found themselves with their backs to the wall and hanging on for a victory they should have already had wrapped up.

Liverpool's injury-ravaged side included Christian Ziege and Bernard Diomÿde, making their first starts for the club. The Anfield side were soon on top and Barmby sent a 20-yard shot against the angle of post and bar.

The Romanian defenders were doing their best to kick Emile Heskey out of the fray. One tackle, by Dorel Mutica, left the big England forward limping and after 35 minutes he was replaced by Danny Murphy.

By then, though, Liverpool were ahead. After 29 minutes Owen took a pass from Ziege on the half-way line and set off on a run that took him past three bemused defenders into the heart of the Rapid defence, before coolly laying the ball across the box for Barmby to score.

Liverpool missed several chances in the second half to finish off Rapid. After 62 minutes Murphy's shot was tipped onto the bar and over by Razvan Lucescu at full stretch.

Gérard Houllier, the Anfield manager, paid tribute to Owen: "Sometimes you think that strikers are obsessed by goal scoring but his fine work was unselfish and gave us our win.

"It was difficult for us. The Romanians raised their game and this tie is far from over yet. We were under pressure at the end but the experience of our senior players got us through some difficult spells."

Rapid Bucharest: Lucescu, Stanciu, Frasineanu, Buta, Iftodi (Buga, 73), Constantin (Radu, 60), Maldarasanu, Pancu, Mutica, Iencsi, Isaila, Buga (Schumacher, h-t). Substitutes not used: Radulescu (gk), Chirita, Constantinovici, Bundea.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Song, Henchoz, Babbel, Ziege (Traoré, 84), Barmby, Carragher, Hamann, Diomÿde, Owen (Fowler, 80), Heskey (Murphy, 35). Substitutes: Arphexad (gk), Heggem, Meijer, Kippe.

Referee: N Volquartz (Denmark).

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