Tuesday, November 24, 1998 Published at 23:01 GMT
Liverpool suffer Spanish inquisition
Lost opportunity: Owen keeps cool to put Liverpool in front
Celta Vigo 3-1 Liverpool
Liverpool's UEFA Cup dreams were left in tatters after they were torn apart by a superb second half display of attacking football from Celta Vigo.
But any hopes of victory for the visitors were destroyed early in the second half as Celta scored two quickfire goals to send Liverpool reeling.
And, with the Reds' beleaguered defence pulled all over the park, a third strike in injury time gave Celta a huge cushion for the return leg.
Indeed the damage could have been even greater, as Celta squandered a number of clear-cut chances after continually tearing through the Liverpool's rearguard.
"Some of our players were not up to the physical challenge that came in the second half," said Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier.
"I'm annoyed that we gave away the advantage we earned in the first half. The errors were schoolboy and the goals given away were silly and we created our own problems. But we do not believe it's over - we can pull this round."
Celta, who knocked out Aston Villa in the last round, began impressively and should have taken the lead after seven minutes.
But Liverpool hit back and could have gone ahead in the 26th minute when Owen took advantage of a defensive slip to race through on goal.
The teenager tried a low shot, but French keeper Richard Dutruel dived to his left to parry his effort and Owen failed to make proper contact with the rebound.
After 33 minutes David James pulled off the first of a string of fine stops with a one-handed save after a corner ricocheted off Steve Staunton's head and looked destined for the top corner.
David Thompson, on his European debut, played a great ball over the top of the Celta defence and Owen used his searing pace to race clear and this time slip a subtle shot to the right of Dutruel and into the net.
But all Liverpool's first half efforts were scuppered after the break as Celta hit back in devastating style.
Liverpool's defence was mesmerised in the 50th minute by a brilliant move in which the Spanish switched the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, before setting up Mostovoi to slam a fierce drive past James from 12 yards.
Six minutes later and Liverpool were behind, and this time it was a defensive mistake that led to the goal. Veggard Heggem slipped as he tried to clear a corner and Valeri Karpin was able to crash a shot into the back of the Liverpool net.
The visitors were now in deep trouble and only some good keeping from James plus some dallying from Celta's front players prevented them going further behind.
At this stage Liverpool were desperately trying to hold out for a 2-1 away defeat.
But in injury time another blunder at the back, this time from Bjorn Kvarme, allowed Vladimir Gudelj to score a devastating third and give Liverpool a mountain to climb at Anfield.
Celta Vigo: Dutruel, Cacares, Vales, Mazinho, Tomas, Karpin, Penev, Sanchez, Djorovic, Mostovoi, Makelele. Subs: Gudel, Cadete, Pinto, Cainzos, Eggen, Lopez, Caires.
Liverpool: James, Heggem, Kvarme, Staunton, Bjornebye, Berger, Redknapp, Carragher, Thompson, Owen, Fowler. Subs: Babb, Leonhardsen, Riedle, Friedel, Murphy, Gerrard, Wright.
Referee: G Bikas (Greece)