Having endured the kind of attention normally reserved for errant Hollywood starlets, normal service, of a sort, was resumed at Anfield last night. Though the end result ensures a place in Europe's premier competition for the first time in 16 years the value of the fixture as a competitive work-out was, of course, diminished by the fact that Liverpool were five goals ahead before a ball was kicked.
Indeed, only three of the starting side from the first leg were selected to open proceedings last night and Robbie Fowler, whose spat with coach Phil Thompson has overshadowed the start of the season, was one of the fresh faces. Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, was true to his word. Once an apology was forthcoming from Fowler the striker would be returned to action. The latter clearly wished to enforce a point and did so emphatically with the opening goal and a clutch of half-chances.
For different reasons Jamie Redknapp also had a case to present. This was his first start in 15 months following a knee injury and he too made it on to the score sheet, though his intelligent all-round contribution was more significant than the goal.
Fowler poached the first with a header after the Haka goalkeeper Andras Vilnrotter parried Bernard Diomède's strike following Redknapp's corner. Peter Kovacs' equaliser may have been unorthodox an error by Djimi Traoré enabled a simple finish but it was far from undeserved.
If the first half was subdued, Liverpool emerged with more intent after the break and both the prodigal and the patient were again involved for Liverpool's second. Fowler found Diomède with a ball threaded through the defence and the Frenchman's pass into Redknapp's path was devoured from twelve yards.
The swagger in the home side's play was now evident and Redknapp slotted a fine ball through the middle for Emile Heskey to easily tuck beyond Vilnrotter. With a trip to Monaco on Friday to contest the European Super Cup with Bayern Munich, Liverpool eased off in the closing exchanges.
The scoring was completed by the former Manchester United player David Wilson, who headed in to his own goal from a Barmby free-kick. Houllier said: "I'm proud Liverpool are back in the élite, it's a good day for the club." It is, and for reasons beyond the result.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Arphexad; Wright, Hyypia (Babbel, 65), Traoré, Vignal; Barmby, Biscan, Redknapp (Gerrard, 71), Diomède; Heskey (Litmanen, 59), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Nielsen (gk), Murphy, Riise, McAllister.
Haka (4-5-1): Vilnrotter; Kangaskorpi, Karjalainen, Okkonen, Aalto; Pogioli (Ivanov, 78), Baic (Koivuranta, 81), Wilson, Ruhanen (Innanen, 65), Torkkeli; Kovacs. Substitutes not used: Toivenen (gk), Halonen, Pasanen.
Referee: T Hauge (Norway).Reuse content