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The BBC's Jonathan Legard
"Maybe Liverpool like making hard work for themselves"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 January, 2000, 21:16 GMT
Reds end brave Watford fight

Berger and Owen celebrate the first goal


Watford 2-3 Liverpool

Vladimir Smicer gave Liverpool the points after the home side had bravely fought back from 2-0 down.

Patrik Berger opened the scoring after 10 minutes, and when David Thompson added a second on 41, it looked easy for the visitors.

But within three minutes Richard Johnson had pulled one back, and new signing Heidur Helgason equalised on his debut seconds after half time.



Today our confidence was not at its best, but our character was there. We needed mental strength to come back after losing to Blackburn
Gerard Houllier
Smicer made sure of the visitors' three points with 19 minutes remaining.

Liverpool began the brighter with Titi Camara going close in the early stages, before Berger gave the visitors the lead.

Thompson's persistence caused confusion in the Watford 18-yard box and after a mad scramble the ball broke to Michael Owen.

The England striker slid the ball across the face of goal to Berger, who fired a vicious right-foot shot past Alec Chamberlain in the Watford goal.


Match facts
10 mins: Berger opens scoring
41: Thompson flicks home
44: Johnson passes into net
46: Helguson unmarked and delighted
71: Smicer scores before Owen exits
The Czech should have extended Liverpool's lead after 21 minutes, chipping wide after a superbly weighted ball from Dietmar Hamann.

Owen, who visited a specialist in Germany this week, pulled up abruptly and felt his thigh after 24 minutes, but was able to continue.

He tested his fitness with a run and shot which hit the crossbar, and then came two quick goals before half-time.

Liverpool struck when Hamann's free-kick was deflected into the Watford net by the outstretched boot of David Thompson.

Xavier Gravelaine then set up Richard Johnson and the Watford man passed into the net from 25 yards out.


Watford's Robert Page tries to catch Owen
Liverpool were late out of their dressing room after the interval, and were not fully back in tune as the home side drew level within seconds.

David Perpetuini swung swung a free kick over and new Icelandic signing Helguson nodded home unmarked on the six-yard line.

Owen went close to restoring Liverpool's lead with a mazy, jinking run across the face of the Watford goal.

But his shot was blocked by a last-ditch squad of Watford defenders.



It was Watford reserves 2-3 Liverpool. I thought the reserves did very well
Graham Taylor
Smicer came on for Hamann, and Owen eventually went off with 19 minutes to go, but not before he had set up the winner.

The England man passed to Smicer, who slid a well-placed shot past the despairing dive of Chamberlain.

Watford could still have stolen a share of the points as they again surged forward valiantly.

But Liverpool held on to avenge Watford's 1-0 win at Anfield earlier in the season.

With bottom club Sheffield Wednesday just a point behind them, the Hertfordshire strugglers need more results like that one if they are to prolong their stay in the top flight.

Afterwards Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier tried to calm any England fears about Owen's condition.

"It was his first game for a while and I took him off just as a precaution," he explained.

Teams:

Watford: Chamberlain, Gibbs, Palmer, Page, Robinson, Lyttle, Miller, Johnson, Perpetuini, Helguson, Gravelaine. Subs: Ngonge, Day, Smith, Gudmundsson, Bonnot.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Matteo, Thompson, Gerrard, Hamann, Berger, Owen, Camara. Subs: Staunton, Smicer, Murphy, Nielsen, Traore.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley)

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Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.