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The BBC's Ron Jones
"Had to show all their qualities of patience and resilience"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 17:01 GMT
Liverpool made to wait

Owen Michael Owen opened the scoring for Liverpool


Liverpool 3-1 Wimbledon

Goals from Michael Owen, Patrick Berger and Robbie Fowler sealed a home victory for Liverpool after a dreadful first half against Wimbledon.

The opening period undoubtedly lacked sparkle as both sides fought hard for any space in midfield.

The Dons were unable to create any real chances and even with home advantage Liverpool rarely looked capable of breaking the deadlock.


Match facts
58 mins: Michael Owen finds space to add the opener
64 mins: Marcus Gayle equalises
68 mins: Patrik Berger curls in a superb free-kick
80 mins: Robbie Fowler heads the winner
The fans were praying for a more exciting second-half and from the outset it looked like a different game.

The final half-an-hour saw Liverpool secure the win thanks to some superb running play. Fowler's header saw him reach a landmark 150 goals for his club, while Marcus Gayle pulled one back for Wimbledon on 68 minutes.

With German midfielder Dietmar Hamann with flu, Anfield chief Gerard Houllier was forced to field five youngsters, including a central midfield pairing off Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher against the experience of the likes of Robbie Earle.

Titi Camara Gerrard and Danny Murphy combined after two minutes in a move that ended with the African striker seeing a shot deflected wide.



It's been a long-time coming with all my injuries but it was a nice goal to get.
Robbie Fowler on his 150th goal for Liverpool
From the corner, taken by Murphy, skipper Sami Hyypia rose to send a towering header past the post.

After 12 minutes Hyypia broke up a Wimbledon attack and sent Camara racing away, the resulting cross being struck wide by Gerrard, racing up in support.

Soon after a scampering Michael Owen run and pass ended with Camara jinking around three men in a tight space to fire in a shot held by Neil Sullivan.

Wimbledon lost defender Alan Kimble with a hamstring injury after 32 minutes.

Carl Cort came on, with Ben Thatcher - a long-term Liverpool target - reverting to left-back with Trond Anderson moving into the back four.

The changes did not alter Wimbledon's determined approach.

Owen was being forced out wide to find space, and it almost produced a breakthrough after 40 minutes when Murphy's long ball was collected by the England youngster on his chest, before spinning to drive in a shot that Sullivan held low to his right.

Pace picks up

Camara continued to play with spark in the second period, but still Wimbledon held out.

After the stalemate of the opening 45, the pace of the game increased with Liverpool pushing forward in search of the elusive goal.

Berger missed a fine opportunity on 60 minutes opting to shoot, while Owen was clear in the centre.


camara Titi Camara always looked dangerous up front
Nevertheless, his deflected strike ultimately proved decisive.

From the corner, Owen barged his way in front of the Wimbledon defence, side-footing the cross into the back of the net.

Robbie Fowler then replaced Danny Murphy to the delight of the Anfield faithful.

But his appearance immediately marked Wimbledon's first real chance at goal and they were in no mood to waste it.

Cunningham found space on the right and floated in a delicate cross to Marcus Gayle at the back post who headed down to grab the equaliser.

Owen was then replaced by Vladimir Smicer who, with virtually his first touch, sent over a superb cross to Fowler.

The England international set Camara free inside the Wimbledon area, but Cunningham blocked superbly to keep Liverpool out.

It did not last long, however. A minute later Liverpool were ahead again, after a free-kick on the edge of the box for handball against Hermann Hreidarsson.

Berger immediately stepped up for the shot and hit a curling strike over the wall, into the right hand side of the net, non-plussing Sullivan in the process.

Corte then headed wide for the Dons, but Westerveld's clearance brought Liverpool's third.

Smicer beat Thatcher to the ball and found Fowler on the edge of the box, who headed over Sullivan to seal the win for the Reds.

Teams:

Liverpool: Westerveld, Matteo, Henchoz, Hyypia, Heggem, Berger, Carragher, Murphy, Gerrard, Owen, Camara. Subs: Song, Staunton, Smicer, Fowler, Nielsen.

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Thatcher, Badir, Earle, Leaburn, Andersen, Hreidarsson, Euell, Gayle. Subs: Cort, Heald, Andresen, Willmott, Francis.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe)

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