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'It was emphatic in the end for Liverpool'
The BBC's Ian Brown reports
 real 28k

Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 19:01 GMT
Youth steals the show at Anfield

Murphy is congratulated by fellow youngsters Owen and Thompson


Liverpool 4-1 Sheffield Wednesday

Liverpool's home-grown youngsters came of age with an impressive display in their side's convincing defeat of Premiership strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.

Steven Gerrard, Danny Murphy and David Thompson - average age 21 and all born within a 30-mile radius of Liverpool - swept away Danny Wilson's spirited side with a goal apiece.

All three were only in the side because of injuries to Houllier's first-choice midfielders Patrik Berger, Jamie Redknapp and Vladimir Smicer.



If Patrik Berger and Jamie Redknapp had been fit they would have played but the youngsters filled in very well and showed they are improving
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier
The trio combined with experienced German Dietmar Hamann to overun the bottom-placed club, who took a surprise early lead through a superb swerving free-kick from Niclas Alexandersson.

Finnish defender Sami Hyypia grabbed the equaliser within minutes and Liverpool never looked back.

It was a classy victory, their fifth in a row at home, that in large parts displayed the best of Gerard Houllier's Anfield revolution and takes them to fifth in the Premiership.

However the performance still contained glimpses of the worrying frailities Liverpool need to erase in order to make up the ground on their rivals.


Owen was overshadowed by most of his team-mates
At times Houllier's foreign imports combined sweetly with his hungry home-grown youngsters in a blend of style and passion, youth and experience that Anfield has been craving for some time.

At others they were exposed by a side who are bottom of the league with only 14 goals to their name all season.

Gerrard, brought in as playmaker in place of injured Redknapp after a spell on the sidelines, proved Houllier's tough new disciplinary regime is working as he rose to the occasion with a mature display capped by a superb solo goal.

While only a goal behind, Wednesday were threatening to force their way back into the game until the 19-year-old's jinking run took him through the visitors defence and into the box where he let loose a right-foot drive into the bottom left corner.

That gave Liverpool a two-goal cushion and the relief saw them return to their free-flowing first-half best.


Match stats
18 mins: Niclas Alexandersson puts Wednesday ahead
21 mins: Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia heads the equaliser
41 mins: Danny Murphy gives Liverpool the lead
69 mins: Steven Gerrard makes it 3-1
79 mins: David Thompson curls in No 4
Fellow Merseyside-born midfielder Thompson is another graduate of the Houllier school of hardwork and clean-living and he was at the heart of all Liverpool's most creative moves.

He delivered the 21st minute corner which allowed Hyypia, stand-in skipper in place of Redknapp, to head home.

Thompson's tenacious, driving runs down the right-flank caused Wednesday immense problems throughout the match.

Less than two minutes after the equaliser it was his fierce dipping shot, parried by Kevin Pressman, which allowed Murphy to clip home Liverpool's second.


Emerson Thome and Michael Owen Wednesday have now let in eight goals in two games
Liverpool were not without their weaknesses - they returned from the interval a shadow of their first-half selves and survived several close calls through a combination of luck and resilience.

A dreadful mistake by Michael Owen nearly cost them an equaliser within seconds of the restart, Alexandersson latching onto his mis-kicked clearance forcing Dutch keeper Sander Westerveld to save at full-stretch.

However Liverpool rode their luck before Gerrard took the game by the scruff of the neck in the 65th minute, scoring his first senior goal for the club, to make it 3-1.



We can't allow our confidence to drop, if that happens then we do have a problem. But you can see that the lads are not throwing in the towel
Sheffield Wednesday manager Danny Wilson

It was a wonderful goal and would have been the highlight of the game - had it not been for Thompson's individual effort ten minutes later.

Thompson set off from the half-way line with only the goal in mind and shimmied his way round Wednesday's left-back before curling a right-foot shot beyond Pressman.

It earnt him the man-of-the-match award - and allowed a comfortable Liverpool to bring on Robbie Fowler, back from injury after his ankle operation, for a ten-minute run-out.

Teams:

Liverpool: Westerveld, Henchoz, Song, Hyypia, Matteo, Gerrard, Hamann, Murphy, Thompson, Camara, Owen.
Subs: Staunton, Fowler, Meijer, Friedel, Carragher.

Sheffield Wednesday:Pressman, Atherton, Jonk, Thome, Walker, Booth, Rudi, Alexandersson, Nolan, Briscoe, De Bilde.
Subs: Sibon, Cresswell, Haslam, Srnicek, Quinn.
Referee: P Durkin (Dorset)

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See also:
03 Dec 99 |  Football
Redknapp out for three months
27 Nov 99 |  FA Carling Premiership
Sinclair ends Reds' run
Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.