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Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Riise edges out Villa
John Arne Riise celebrates Liverpool's winner
Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool's pursuit of the Premiership title opened in typical fashion as John Arne Riise's strike gave them victory at Aston Villa.

Norway international Riise delivered a trademark Liverpool counter punch two minutes into the second half to give Gerard Houllier's side the three points.

Liverpool even allowed themselves the luxury of seeing Michael Owen's penalty saved by Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman as they cruised to victory.

Enckelman gave a virtuoso performance for Graham Taylor's side to deny Liverpool victory by an even greater margin.

Liverpool boss Houllier will have been delighted with his side's display, and the excellent showing of striker El-Hadji Diouf, who was preferred to Emile Heskey.


It was a very well deserved win for us. I liked the qualities my team showed, the strength. solidity and team ethic
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier

Liverpool's Senegalese new boy Diouf was a pivotal figure in a lively first 45 minutes - worrying Villa's defence as a constant threat, and angering their fans with his tendency to hit the floor swiftly under challenges.

Alpay was booked for hauling down the 10.5m capture, who then found his way into the book for showing dissent to referee Andy D'Urso as he appealed for a foul.

Liverpool dominated the early exchanges, but it was Villa who came closest to scoring in a penalty box scramble after 20 minutes.

Alpay's header was scrambled off the line by Stephane Henchoz before Steve Staunton's header was turned on to the bar by goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.


The score was about right because of the chances they had - but it would have been interesting if we had converted one of our earlier chances
Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor

The powerful Diouf should have put Liverpool ahead seven minutes later when he stole in at the far post to meet Steven Gerrard's cross, but wastefully steered a close range finish over the top.

Liverpool were frustrated again nine minutes later when Villa goalkeeper Enckelman dived brilliantly to his left to deny Owen from only eight yards out.

Houllier's side demonstrated their lethal potency on the counter-attack to take the lead two minutes into the second half.

Gerrard blocked brilliantly in his own penalty area to deny Lee Hendrie, and seconds later Murphy's brilliant run ended with Riise firing powerfully past Enckelman as Mark Delaney lost his footing.

Villa boss Taylor decided on a change of emphasis for his side after 62 minutes, sending on powerful Swede Marcus Allback for the towering figure of Peter Crouch, who received a standing ovation for his efforts.

And it almost paid dividends with 18 minutes left when the substitute should have restored equality.

Graham Taylor was left frustrated

Allback created the opening by troubling Sami Hyypia, before racing into the penalty area to meet Ulises de la Cruz's cross, only to fire tamely wide.

Owen wasted a glorious opportunity to confirm a Liverpool victory after 78 minutes when Gareth Barry's rash challenge on Gerrard left referee D'Urso with no option other than to give a penalty.

Owen stepped forward, but his spot-kick was drilled straight at Enckelman, who saved with his feet.

The Liverpool striker's reward was his instant removal in favour of Emile Heskey.


Aston Villa: Enckelman, Staunton, Mellberg, Alpay, Delaney, De la Cruz, Hendrie, Hitzlsperger (Hadji 76), Barry (Samuel 84), Crouch (Allback 63), Vassell.

Subs Not Used: Postma, Boulding.

Booked: Alpay, Staunton.

Liverpool: Dudek, Xavier, Henchoz, Hyypia, Traore, Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Riise, Owen (Heskey 81), Diouf (Carragher 90).

Subs Not Used: Smicer, Kirkland, Cheyrou.

Booked: Diouf, Hamann, Murphy.

Goals: Riise 47.

Attendance: 41,183.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's John Motson
"Villa never troubled Liverpool"
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"It was a very well-deserved result"
Villa boss Graham Taylor
"I was pleased with our performance"
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