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Monday, 1 January, 2001, 17:16 GMT
Babbel late show sinks Saints
Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
Markus Babbel rescued Liverpool from another frustrating performance with a close-range header just four minutes from time to deny in-form Southampton a deserved point.
Southampton's tactical plan had frustrated the home side, who again suffered from Robbie Fowler's poor showing, while the visitors had also tested the Liverpool defence.
Steven Gerrard had put Liverpool ahead early on with a stunning long-range shot but Southampton swiftly equalised and then largely managed to keep Liverpool at long range.
One of the few bright spots for Liverpool was the outstanding midfield generalship of Gerrard who is rapidly maturing into a top-class player, but Fowler's form seems as far away as ever.
Liverpool brought in Fowler up front for Michael Owen and gave new signing Igor Biscan a rest, allowing Gary McAllister a run in midfield.
Southampton arrived after back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Derby took them into comfortable mid-table.
Liverpool attacked from the start, and Gerrard unleashed a 25 yarder that Paul Jones saved spectacularly.
He had better luck with his next effort on 12 minutes, a spectacular 35-yarder which bounced in off the crossbar.
Despite the distance, Jones had no chance because of the power and precision.
Southampton were still playing three men up front, and Stephane Henchoz needed all his composure to block off James Beattie's dangerous run and shot two minutes later.
They were level on 20 minutes as Marian Pahars' left-wing corner flicked off Sami Hyypia's head to beyond the far post.
Trond Soltvedt controlled and lashed a low drive back through a packed area and past Sander Westerveld.
Pahars and Kevin Davies out wide were causing Liverpool's defence problems, and Liverpool were struggling to re-assert themselves.
Glenn Hoddle's tactical plan had these two wide strikers quickly back to create a five-man midfield whenever danger occurred and it was working well.
Fowler was something of a static observer, providing none of the movement and graft coming from the Saints' front three as Liverpool struggled to create any chances.
The tricky Vladimir Smicer came close to restoring Liverpool's lead five minutes after the break, as he seized on a poor pass from Tahar El Khalej and advanced well but screwed his 20-yard shot just high and wide.
The best two Liverpool men linked up again on 55 as Gerrard played a superb pass for Smicer who jinked inside but scuffed his shot wide as Jones approached, having done the hard work.
Liverpool looked in danger of over-committing themselves on occasion.
Kevin Davies gave them a warning by getting past two defenders and firing a fierce shot from inside the area which Sander Westerveld took at the second attempt.
Fowler's afternoon was summed up on 68 minutes when Jamie Carragher intercepted well on the left and delivered a fine cross.
It skimmed off Heskey to give his strike partner a clear strike at goal, but Jones came out swiftly to block.
With just over 15 minutes left, Liverpool took off Smicer and brought on Michael Owen to give them three strikers.
Beattie almost ruined this move when Sami Hyypia missed a tackle, giving Southampton two on one, but the in-form striker could not squeeze the ball to Marian Pahars.
Igor Biscan came on as sub with ten minutes left and nearly scored immediately as a corner broke to him but the Saints defence flung themselves in the way of his shot.
Southampton hearts were broken four minutes from time after Owen had done well to win a corner, from which Hyypia headed goalwards, and Babbel sneaked in front of Jones to nod in from four yards.
It was harsh on the visitors as it was only the second real chance of the half for Liverpool while Southampton had kept them out with some ease.
Liverpool: Westerveld, Henchoz, Babbel, Hyypia, Carragher,
McAllister, Barmby, Gerrard, Smicer, Heskey, Fowler.
Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Lundekvam, Bridge, El Khalej, Oakley,
Tessem, Soltvedt, Pahars, Beattie, Davies.
Referee: Dermot Gallagher (England)
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