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Sunday, January 24, 1999 Published at 12:49 GMT

Sport: Football

United pull off Cup smash-and-grab

Michael Owen rises unchallenged to head Liverpool in front

Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool

Manchester United pulled off the perfect smash-and-grab with two goals in the last two minutes to secure a famous FA Cup victory over their arch rivals.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kills off Liverpool with an injury-time winner (Radio 5 Live)
United, who had not been beaten by the Anfield side in the competition since 1922, looked to be heading out after being caught napping by Michael Owen's second minute header.

But in a sensational finish Dwight Yorke and substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored right at the death to resume normal service and prevent Liverpool registering their first victory at Old Trafford in nine years.

With the match kicking off at noon, Owen proved the freshest riser as he caught United napping - but United dominated possession throughout and after hitting the woodwork twice they finally found the goals to secure their passage into the fifth round.

[ image: A dejected Steve Harkness sees his Cup dreams extinguished]
A dejected Steve Harkness sees his Cup dreams extinguished
Liverpool's exhausted players slumped to the turf at the final whistle after the cruellest of cup defeats.

And there was consternation among the visiting ranks over Yorke's equaliser, which resulted from a free-kick when Jamie Redknapp was penalised for fouling Ronny Johnsen.

"It was a crucial moment," said Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier. "I didn't think it was a foul, and Jamie has told me since it wasn't.

"I have seen it on TV and it looks like Johnsen fell over the ball. That broke our concentration; we were not in the right positions for the free-kick because we were still arguing about it with the referee.

"Maybe for several seconds it was like that, and they scored from the free-kick."

Owen bursts out of blocks

It had all looked so different when Liverpool exploited United's Sunday slumber with their very first attack, Owen finishing off a crisp move that left United's defence flat-footed and would have had manager Alex Ferguson turning the air blue.

Michael Owen gives Liverpool the lead in the second minute (Radio 5 Live)
With just two minutes on the clock, Patrick Berger and Jamie Redknapp linked up well in midfield, before sending Vegard Heggem clear on the right.

The Norwegian wing-back clipped over a precise cross from the byline and Owen, unmarked on the six-yard line, sent a downward header into the bottom right-hand corner of Peter Schmeichel's goal for his 18th goal of the season.

United pushed on and thought they had equalised mid-way through the first half.

[ image: Ryan Giggs slides in to tackle Vegard Heggem]
Ryan Giggs slides in to tackle Vegard Heggem
Yorke fired a right-wing cross to the far post, where Roy Keane headed against the woodwork. The ball still looked set to bounce over the goal line, but Paul Ince just managed to bundle it clear and defuse the danger.

With clearcut chances at a premium in a predictably tight contest, Jamie Redknapp was just off target with a curling free-kick and Owen roasted Jaap Stam with a typically blistering run, before driving an angled shot past the post.

Owen's strike partner Robbie Fowler refused to be kept out of the action and he nearly pulled off a stunning goal after 36 minutes with a swerving long-range effort that drifted just wide.

At this stage the visitors were on top and they could have gone 2-0 up in first-half injury time when Redknapp sent through Berger but the Czech star's rasping near-post shot was turned away by Schmeichel. From the subsequent corner United's marking again let them down, but Ince's header was straight at the Danish keeper.

Half-time roasting fires up United

United came out after the break firing on all cylinders and Ryan Giggs should have levelled matters on 50 minutes, but the ball got caught under his feet in the six-yard box.

[ image: Nicky Butt goes down under Dominic Matteo's challenge]
Nicky Butt goes down under Dominic Matteo's challenge
Liverpool were still dangerous on the break though and Owen jinked through the United ranks into the area and squared the ball to Fowler, who blazed his shot wide from a perfect position.

Defensively Liverpool were now under severe pressure, with Giggs directing most of United's attacks. In the space of six minutes United saw two goalbound efforts from Keane and Andy Cole take wicked deflections off desperate diving challenges before drifting agonisingly off target.

And Dominic Matteo came close to scoring an own goal when he turned Gary Neville's cross towards the goal, forcing keeper David James into a face-saving stop.

With 15 minutes to go Giggs sparked a sweet move, which set up Cole in the area - but rather than shooting himself, he played a short pass to Gary Neville, who failed to capitalise.

Keane then hit the post for the second time in the match with a rasping shot that had James beaten and Matteo managed a superb block to deny Giggs from the rebound.

Dwight Yorke levels for United from close-range (Radio 5 Live)
But with two minutes left Cole nodded the ball across the face of the goal from Beckham's free-kick and Yorke tapped home from point-blank range.

Then in injury time Paul Scholes burst into the box and laid the ball to Solskjaer, who provided the killing blow with a low left-foot shot past James.

Liverpool, who had led the match for fully 86 minutes, were left with the bitter taste of yet another Old Trafford defeat.


Man Utd: Schmeichel, G. Neville, Berg, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Butt, Keane, Giggs, Cole, Yorke. Subs: Johnsen, Scholes, Van Der Gouw, P. Neville, Solskjaer.

Liverpool: James, Heggem, Harkness, Matteo, Carragher, Bjornebye, Redknapp, Ince, Berger, Owen, Fowler. Subs: Kvarme, McAteer, McManaman, Leonhardsen, Friedel.

Referee: G Poll (Tring)

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