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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 22:19 GMT
Kirkland thwarts Saints
Southampton striker Austin Delgado
Delgado was making his first start for Southampton
Liverpool 3-1 Southampton

The strength in depth of Gerard Houllier's squad was emphasised as Southampton were brushed aside by a revamped Liverpool side.

The story might have been different had it not been for some heroics by Chris Kirkland in the Liverpool goal.

He made at least five excellent saves, and if he was in another side and playing regularly he would surely be in the England squad.

Liverpool's goals came from Patrik Berger, El-Hadji Diouf and Milan Baros but Ecuador international Agustin Delgado caused some jitters by equalising.

I think Chris Kirkland will be the future of this country - he has improved tremendously
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
There was also a flawless debut by 19-year-old Liverpool-born right-back Jon Otsemobor.

Kirkland first denied Matthew Oakley, before tipping over a looping Delgado header.

He then had to be swift off his line to clear from James Beattie.

Ten minutes before half-time a swift break by Southampton saw Rory Delap backheel into Delgado's path, and he brought a flying save out of Kirkland.

The Liverpool goalkeeper once more came to the rescue when Oakley drove in low from 20 yards.

On the stroke of half-time Liverpool took an undeserved lead when Berger's free-kick from all of 35 yards,took a wicked deflection off Michael Svensson.

Kirkland was finally beaten in the 55th minute.

The goalkeeper made one first-class stop from Beattie and then he got up to parry Svensson's strike.

But he could nothing when Delgado rifled the loose ball high into the net.

Yet Southampton quickly found themselves behind.

It's a horrible thing in football when you wake up in the middle of the night with regrets but that's what will happen
Southampton boss Gordon Strachan

Baros went racing through on goal, and when Antti Niemi kept out the young Czech, Diouf popped up to sidefoot home from six yards.

Baros was not to be denied. Berger fired in a low cross from the left, and his fellow countryman slid in at the far-post.

It was then Niemi's turn to match Kirkland's prowess with a diving stop to prevent Vladimir Smicer volleying home.

Then Diouf's lovely ball set up Bruno Cheyrou - but the Finn's reactions were too good again.

Emile Heskey, on as a substitute for Baros, and Cheyrou again were next to threaten. But Niemi saved their efforts too.

Liverpool: Kirkland, Vignal, Babbel, Biscan, Otsemobor, Smicer, Berger, Cheyrou, Gerrard, Baros, Diouf. Subs: Heskey, Arphexad, Diao, Diomede, Traore.

Southampton: Niemi, Dodd, Bridge, Lundekvam, Michael Svensson, Delap, Oakley, Marsden, Telfer, Delgado, Beattie. Subs: Williams, Kanchelskis, Pahars, Tessem, Blayney.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport's Alan Biggs
"Chris Kirkland produced some first half heroics"
Saints boss Gordon Strachan
"We were by far the better side"
Has the competition regained its sparkle?



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