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Liverpool's Robbie Fowler
"We set out to get to the Champions League above all"
 real 56k

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier
"When you finish third and win three cups it's a fantastic season"
 real 56k

BBC Sport's Alan Green reports
"Charlton could have been three or four up at the interval"
 real 14k

Saturday, 19 May, 2001, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Liverpool party begins at Charlton
Charlton's Mark Kinsella (left) and Patrick Berger
Mark Kinsella dives in to block Patrick Berger's shot
Charlton 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool finally posted the invitations to their end-of-season party with a devastating second-half display that booked a place in next season's Champions League.

A flat first-half performance at The Valley threatened to leave a bitter aftertaste to a wonderful season as Charlton totally dominated with a desire to win that would have delighted Leeds and Ipswich.

  Key moments
21 mins - Carragher clearly handles in the area but Liverpool escape
55 mins - Fowler breaks the deadlock with an overhead kick beyond Ilic
61 mins - Sub Murphy doubles the lead with a clinical left-foot shot
71 mins - Fowler's clinical finish makes it 3-0
80 mins - Owen completes the win with a neat left-foot finish
Yet there was a huge sense of deja vu about Liverpool's performance as a rapid improvement in the second half produced two goals for Robbie Fowler and further strikes from Danny Murphy and Michael Owen.

Just as they had done in the FA Cup final against Arsenal a week previously, Liverpool soaked up constant pressure in the first half and enjoyed a string of lucky escapes.

More significantly, they survived clear penalty claims following a handball offence in the box.

In Cardiff, it was Stephane Henchoz who escaped, this time it was Jamie Carragher whose clear offence went unpunished.
Alan Curbishley is baffled by Charlton's failure to score
Curbishley can't believe his first-half luck

The woodwork also came to Liverpool's rescue in the first half, Mathias Svensson sending a diving header crashing against a post from Mark Kinsella's cross.

Then there was Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld.

Beaten four times in Dortmund on Wednesday, the Dutchman was clearly intent on finishing the season with a clean sheet and produced fabulous stops at full stretch to deny Steve Brown and Graham Stuart.

We had two faces - in the first half we were outplayed but who can argue that we deserved to win in the second half?
  Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier

But the second half was a totally different story.

Liverpool gradually loosened Charlton's grip on the game, then turned the screw themselves with two goals in six minutes.

Robbie Fowler made the breakthrough, latching onto Sasa Ilic's fumbled punch and, with his back to goal, cleverly looping a left-foot bicycle kick into the top right-hand corner of the Charlton net.

Then Michael Owen's pace created an opening for Danny Murphy, who had only been on the pitch for two minutes as a replacement for the ineffective Nick Barmby.

Murphy's first contribution was a clinical one, firing left-footed low to Ilic's right to double Liverpool's advantage.

The two-goal cushion gave Liverpool breathing space where they had previously been holding their breath and Houllier's side began playing with real liberty.

By the time Fowler added a superb third, it was party time for Liverpool.

Mark Fish acrobatically denies Michael Owen
Mark Fish acrobatically denies Michael Owen
The striker hardly looked like a player eager to leave Anfield as he joyously celebrated a clinical left-foot strike after Owen had teed him up just inside the penalty area.

The goal also took Liverpool's tally for the season to 126 from 63 games, but they were quick to move beyond the two-goals-per-game average.

Goal number four completed the FA Cup final similarities as Owen's left boot put the finishing touches to the season.

Sloppy Charlton defending opened the door for the England striker, who gratefully scampered clear before clipping a shot beyond Ilic.

The victory was Houllier's 50th in the Premiership since taking over as Liverpool boss and not one of the previous 49 could have been more crucial.

Charlton: Ilic, Fish, Todd, Brown, Powell, Newton, Kinsella, Jensen, Stuart, Svensson, Bartlett. Subs: Kishishev, Parker, Konchesky, Johansson, Caig.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Vignal, Babbel, Hyypia, Carragher, Barmby, McAllister, Gerrard, Berger, Owen, Fowler. Subs: Smicer, Heskey, Murphy, Arphexad, Wright.

Referee: G Barber (Tring)

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18 May 01 |  Eng Prem
Scramble for Europe explained
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