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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Liverpool see off Leeds
Michael Owen

Liverpool 3-1 Leeds

Michael Owen and Danny Murphy returned from injury to breathe life into Liverpool's ailing season.

The threat of a fourth successive Premiership defeat was banished by a clinical strike from Owen and a controversial Murphy strike after Alan Smith had equalised.

And Liverpool's much-needed victory was confirmed when substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle struck his first goal for Liverpool six minutes from time.

The absence of England pair Owen and Murphy had coincided with a lack of form for Liverpool.

But it was not just the home side who were desperate for the points as Leeds came into the game on the back of their own poor run having lost four of their last five Premiership games.

But Gerard Houllier and Peter Reid both were clearly keen to get back in the winning habit as their sides went at each other in the opening stages.

Both had opportunities to go in front before Owen's 35th-minute opener, though the majority were half chances in a free-flowing game.

35 mins: Owen volleys Liverpool in front
42 mins: Smith levels with a poacher's finish
57 mins: Murphy's free-kick squeezes through the clutches of Paul Robinson
86 mins: Pongolle fires past Robinson to seal Liverpool's win

El Hadji Diouf tested Paul Robinson early on with a thumping drive and Alan Smith headed over the crossbar at the other end.

But Smith wasted the best chance of the opening half an hour when he completely missed his kick following a good run and pull-back from James Milner.

Owen soon taught him a valuable lesson in the art of finishing, as his ninth goal of the season showed he has lost none of his sharpness during his three-week injury lay-off.

John-Arne Riise headed down and Owen celebrated his return to the starting line-up by lashing a left-foot volley into the top corner.

But if that was a lesson for Smith then he is clearly a quick learner as he pulled Leeds back on level terms seven minutes later with his 50th goal for the club.

Jermaine Pennant was the architect with a fine run down the Leeds right and his searching low centre on a skiddy surface was cleverly finished off at the near post by Smith.

Heskey takes on Milner
Heskey takes on Milner

Leeds pushed for the lead and Mark Viduka should have given the visitors the breakthrough early in the half.

Seth Johnson sent him clear and, though Jerzy Dudek blocked well with his legs, Viduka should have put the ball away.

Instead, it was Liverpool who took control in controversial circumstances on 57 minutes.

Murphy, on for the injured Vladimir Smicer just a few minutes earlier, fired a free-kick that squirmed horribly through the grasp of Robinson.

The Leeds keeper looked set for a reprieve courtesy of a linesman's raised flag, but referee Jeff Winter ruled there had been no interference from the three Liverpool players in offside positions.

Leeds, having played so well for so long, took their frustrations out on Liverpool.

David Batty was booked for persistent fouling and, as the visitors' spikiness in midfield increased, so did Liverpool's grip on the game.

And though Liverpool showed signs of anxiety, they finally secured victory when Pongolle beat Robinson to Emile Heskey's flick-on to fire home the third.

Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Biscan, Riise, Diouf, Gerrard, Smicer, Kewell, Heskey, Owen. Subs: Kirkland, Henchoz, Murphy, Le Tallec, Sinama Pongolle.

Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Camara, Matteo, Olembe, Pennant, Seth Johnson, Batty, Milner, Viduka, Smith. Subs: Carson, Barmby, Sakho, Roque Junior, Lennon.

Referee: J Winter (Cleveland)

BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"It wasn't difficult to see the anxiety in Liverpool's play"

Liverpool's Michael Owen
"This win is really important for us"

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