Rampant Owen in fourth dimension

West Bromwich Albion 0 Liverpool 6

Carl Markham,Pa Sport
Sunday 27 April 2003 00:00
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Michael Owen proved just how crucial he is to Liverpool's Champions League aspirations as he single–handedly demolished a helpless West Brom with four goals – taking his Premier League career tally to 102.

The England striker appeared subdued in the first half despite his 14th–minute goal separating the side at the interval.

But he struck with his next almost immediately after the interval and within 22 minutes had scored a second–half hat–trick. It also helped inflict West Brom's worst home defeat for 125 years.

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier chose to partner Milan Baros with Owen up front as Emile Heskey's back injury had recovered sufficiently, the England striker starting on the bench.

The Czech striker responded with two goals – and could easily have had two more – but his efforts were totally overshadowed by Owen.

The absence of Icelandic defender Larus Sigurdsson, who attended his grandmother's funeral in his homeland yesterday, will not have helped the Baggies backline.

Neil Clement was promoted to the side after scoring in the 3–2 defeat to Tottenham with his place on the bench taken by Jordao.

In the sixth minute Danny Murphy's chipped diagonal ball picked out Baros on the right of the penalty area but he scuffed his shot across the face of goal, out of the reach of the onrushing Owen.

Eight minutes later Murphy picked out Owen on the edge of the penalty area and he spun away from West Brom captain Sean Gregan and drilled low past goalkeeper Russell Hoult's right hand for a simply–executed goal

And when Gregan fouled Owen 22 yards from goal, Murphy curled in the free–kick and Derek McInnes was forced to clear off the line.

Baros then broke clear of the defence and looked a certainty to score Liverpool's second but just as he was about to pull the trigger, under pressure from Ronnie Wallwork, he slipped and the ball trickled out for a goal–kick.

Liverpool were almost exposed in the 24th minute when Jason Roberts turned Djimi Traore only for the defender to haul down his opponent. Referee Dermot Gallagher deemed it worthy of only a yellow card and Jason Koumas wasted the free–kick.

Wallwork blazed over from 12 yards following a scramble in the box and only a last–ditch tackle from John Arne Riise prevented McInnes from getting away a shot in the 39th minute, while Danny Dichio's glanced header from Koumas' left–wing corner was just inches over.

Within three minutes of the second half starting Liverpool had put themselves into a much stronger position with two goals in as many minutes.

Steven Gerrard's right–wing cross picked out Owen at the far post and his half–hit shot bounced into the path of Baros, who somehow diverted the ball into the goal, although there was a suspicion Gregan may have touched it over the line.

Seconds later it was 3–0 as El Hadji Diouf crossed from the right and Baros and Owen both challenged for the ball. However the England man was not to be denied his 100th Premier League goal and stabbed home from close range.

Owen was looking increasingly dangerous and the inevitable happened in the 61st minute when he completed his hat–trick.

Baros' pace took him away from Clement down the right wing and he crossed low for the England striker to side–foot home his easiest goal of the afternoon.

A shell–shocked West Brom enjoyed a period of possession midway through the half – which increased the 'boing boing' beats per minute of the home crowd who taunted the visitors with '4–0 and you still can't sing'.

They were proved wrong on one count at least in the 67th minute when Murphy played in Owen and he slotted home his fourth of the afternoon to make it 5–0.

And just to increase the Baggies' misery Houllier introduced another striker, sending on Heskey for Diouf to play wide on the right up front.

Baros should have made it 6–0 when he intercepted Ifeanyi Udeze's careless square ball to leave him one–on–one with Hoult but he fired straight at the goalkeeper.

Jerzy Dudek had his first real save to make in the 80th minute when Koumas drove from 25 yards and the Liverpool goalkeeper dived high to his right to tip over.

Owen could have had his fifth when Gerrard played him through, his shot with the outside of his right foot from the left of the penalty area beat Hoult but also the far post.

But when Gerrard sent Baros racing through he converted to make it 6–0 and in fairness it could have been many, many more.

The final act was for Sami Hyypia to clear off the line from Roberts' shot in the last second.

West Bromwich Albion 0 Liverpool 6
Owen 15, 49, 61, 67, Baros 47, 84

Half-time 0-1 Attendance: 27,128

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