Liverpool flattered by Hyypia's finishing touch

Liverpool 1 Wolves 0
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The Independent Football

After all the bold talk that followed their return to winning form against Portsmouth last Wednesday, another relegation candidate exposed Liverpool's shortcomings at Anfield, where Gerard Houllier's side laboured until stoppage time to break down a defence that had conceded 56 goals in 28 games before yesterday.

Sami Hyypia's goal spared the manager the need to explain another costly loss of points but could not disguise a disjointed, unconvincing performance, even though the Finn's winning deed, an unstoppable far-post header from Steven Gerrard's left-wing corner, lifted them at least temporarily into the Champions' League places.

The most disappointing aspect was the poor form of Michael Owen whose touch was scratchy and could not be put down entirely to the blustery conditions. Poor Wolves, ready to celebrate only their fifth away point, deserved better than to suffer a blow so cruel.

The contentious moment of the first half came after 25 minutes when Emile Heskey, picked ahead of Milan Baros as Liverpool opted for a muscular approach up front, charged down Jody Craddock's attempt to move the ball forward. Heskey gave himself a clear run on goal and, though Craddock recovered well to launch a retrieving tackle, the home crowd was of a single voice in demanding a penalty as their man crashed to earth. Houllier was on his feet but referee Rob Styles emphatically dismissed their appeal, deciding the defender had stretched out a foot to play the ball quite legally.

It was just as well for Wolves that Styles saw it that way because a penalty would have had to be accompanied by a red card, which would hardly have improved the odds for the visiting side in a stadium where they last won a top-flight match in 1984. Coincidentally, it was the last away game they had won in either the old First Division or the Premier League. How they needed history to repeat itself.

Owen was the man to whom Houllier was looking to advance his cause, the England striker having rediscovered his scoring touch with two goals in midweek. But 40 minutes had elapsed before Liverpool managed to carve out a real opportunity for him and then, having been set up by Danny Murphy's through ball, he dragged his shot wide.

Moreover, there was a lack of security in the Liverpool defence that made them far from immune to counter-attacks when Wolves did manage to break forward. Jerzy Dudek took no chances with a long-range effort from Kenny Miller that whistled past his left-hand post just before half-time and had to scramble to concede no worse than a corner when Henri Camara tested him early in the second period.

By now, the voices of dissent from the Kop were growing louder, punctuated with demands, mostly, for Baros to be introduced. The request was answered after an hour when the Czech replaced Heskey and immediate encouragement followed when the new man set up Owen for a shot that rippled the side netting.

But little in Liverpool's disjointed performance suggested that their troubles are diminishing. Wolves have the most porous defence in the Premier League yet Houllier's team laboured. Alex Rae and Paul Ince were strong in midfield while the giant Paul Butler was a heroic figure at the back.

Wolves seemed deservedly to have clinched a point but just as the announcement of added time gave them the signal that their task was almost complete, Gerrard's swinging corner found Hyypia launching a thunderous run to the far post to beat Paul Jones with an unsavable header.

Liverpool 1 Wolves 0
Hyypia 90

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 43,795