Fowler finally finds the extra gear for Liverpool

Click to follow
The Independent Football

It was the sight all Anfield wanted to see, that of Robbie Fowler scoring and it was enough to send Liverpool through a gruelling, sometimes bad-tempered third-round Worthington Cup tie, marred by Emile Heskey's sending-off for two bookable offences.

It was the sight all Anfield wanted to see, that of Robbie Fowler scoring and it was enough to send Liverpool through a gruelling, sometimes bad-tempered third-round Worthington Cup tie, marred by Emile Heskey's sending-off for two bookable offences.

For Fowler, who had not scored since December, it was the end of a period of quite desperate frustration. Since making his latest comeback in September, the Kop's favourite son had endured a miserable run of form, culminating in a missed penalty in the Uefa Cup against Slovan Liberec.

Last night it seemed the ghosts would not be exorcised. A quarter of an hour from the end of normal time, he had sprinted at Ed de Goey and struck the post, while the first half had seen him shoot inches wide and fail to connect with several clear chances.

Then, in the 104th minute, it happened. Patrik Berger flicked on and Fowler drove his shot past De Goey to see the side he captained through to a fourth-round tie away to Stoke.

For the Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, this was another blow and another away defeat for a side whose results go to pieces the moment they encounter the northern reaches of Hertfordshire.

True, they battled hard, but, already out of the Uefa Cup, their only routes back intoEuropean football are to finish in the top four of the Premiership or retain the FA Cup. They played with some pride and passion, although virtually all the best chances were Liverpool's.

Late on, De Goey had to punch away a fierce drive from Heskey, who had started on the bench, and Berger, who had hammered several glaring opportunities wide, again failed to find the target with the rebound.

Heskey had been temporarily replaced as Fowler's partner by Vladimir Smicer, although it was Danny Murphy, on Liverpool's books as a striker but played as a midfielder, who opened up Chelsea's defence with the game 10 minutes old. Dietmar Hamann's pass, as precise as anything fashioned by German engineering, found Murphy on the left-hand edge of the area and his shot was calmly driven into the right corner of the Chelsea net.

However, as they proved when collapsing at Stamford Bridge last month, Liverpool do not deal well with Chelsea's forwards and Gianfranco Zola, one of four strikers Ranieri had on the field at the final whistle, was entirely unmarked as he met Celestine Babayaro's cross.

Nevertheless, it was the dismissal of a Liverpool striker, Heskey, that, Fowler's celebrations apart, would be this game's aftertaste. The way he took Mario Melchiot's legs might have merited a red card on its own, although the second booking deep into extra time was for an innocuous incident with Winston Bogarde. The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, did not dispute the decision, however.

Such were Fowler's travails that it seemed particularly apt that the second half should have been delayed by a streaker, who took the ball from the centre circle and then dribbled it past De Goey and into the net. At least by the end, Fowler knew how he felt.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Arphexhad; Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Traoré (Ziege, 84);Barmby (McAllister, 94), Hamann, Berger, Murphy; Smicer (Heskey, 72), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Song, Westerveld (gk).

Chelsea (3-4-1-2): De Goey; Bogarde, Terry (Morris, 87), Desailly; Babayaro (Gudjohnsen, 65), Wise, Jokanovic, Melchiot; Zola; Flo (Poyet, 80), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Dalla Bona, Cudicini (gk).

Referee: R Harris (Oxford).

Comments