Liverpool lay firm foundations

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The Independent Football

Not so very long ago Liverpool's season would begin, almost ritually, at Wembley with the Charity Shield. It is a measure of their reduced circumstances that not since 1992, when they were beaten by a certain Monsieur Cantona, has it done so.

Not so very long ago Liverpool's season would begin, almost ritually, at Wembley with the Charity Shield. It is a measure of their reduced circumstances that not since 1992, when they were beaten by a certain Monsieur Cantona, has it done so.

Nevertheless, the flamboyant destruction of a Parma side whose defence is marshalled by Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro will do very nicely, especially on a day when "the forces of darkness", as they like to call United around these parts, showed too much charity to Chelsea.

Last week the talk was all of shaky foundations at Liverpool after a section of the Anfield Road stand was closed after suffering structural damage during Ronnie Moran's testimonial in May. On this evidence the team Gérard Houllier is building has stronger foundations.

Houllier says he cannot see much beyond Manchester United when the phoney war finally comes to an end on Saturday, but privately he must wonder what might be achieved. Even though Serie A does not begin until October, Liverpool were at times thrillingly impressive against a team that missed out on a Champions' League place only after a play-off with Internazionale. "I enjoyed the passing and movement today," Houllier said. "There was some real fluidity there."

The Liverpool manager will, however, begin the season without Robbie Fowler, Veggard Heggem and Jamie Redknapp and yesterday revealed that Bernard Diomede, his £3m signing from Auxerre, may require a knee operation which will force him out for a month.

Yesterday confirmed much of what was already known. Dietmar Hamann, who opened the scoring by crashing a free-kick through the Parma wall, is lethal from 20 yards. Nicky Barmby, who scored the second on his first appearance at Anfield in a Liverpool shirt, is one of the most naturally attacking midfielders in the country. Emile Heskey can still do everything but score.

He might have turned in the second, but his shot was cleared off the line into Barmby's path and the midfielder did not miss. In the second half a lovely ball from Gary McAllister, Houllier's least likely summer signing who scored the third to demonstrate he still has much to offer the Premiership, sent the England striker clear but to no avail.

Three minutes from time came a move which crystallised what Heskey is all about. He sprinted past Cannavaro, cut inside and forced Matteo Guardalben into a fine block which Michael Owen, sprinting in, converted for Liverpool's fifth and his second, having scored the fourth from the penalty spot.

Who really needs trips to Wembley?

Goals: Hamann (29) 1-0; Barmby (38) 2-0; McAllister (60) 3-0; Owen pen (70) 4-0; Owen (86) 5-0.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Babbel (Matteo, h-t), Henchoz (Carragher, 60), Hyypia (Murphy, 60), Traoré (Song, 45); Gerrard (Staunton, 60), Smicer, Hamann (McAllister, h-t), Barmby; Heskey, Owen.

Parma (3-5-2): Guardalben; F Cannavaro, Thuram, Torrisi (P Cannavaro, 60); Appiah, Baggio (Maini, 82), Conceicão (Benarrivo, 56), Fuser, Lamouchi; Di Vaio, Milosevic (Bonnazoli, 82).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Man of the match: Barmby.

Attendance: 31,359.

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