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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Owen hat-trick sinks sorry Villa
Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa
Michael Owen completed a hat-trick inside the first 33 minutes as Liverpool romped to an easy victory over shell-shocked Aston Villa.
The pocket striker, who grabbed the goal that gave England a morale-boosting draw in France just four days ago, set the ball rolling after just five minutes and added another two before the break.
Villa, who had drawn their first Premiership games of the season, never recovered, although they reduced the deficit near the end when Steve Stone found the net.
But this was Owen's night - and he deservedly walked off with the match ball at the end of 90 minutes.
Owen broke the deadlock after just five minutes, sliding in to poke the ball past an exposed David James, although Ugo Ehiogu might well have got the last touch.
Emile Heskey, whose power gave the visitors problems all night, was the provider, pouncing on a wayward pass from Gareth Southgate before shrugging off the attentions of George Boateng and crossing from the right.
There were no doubts about Liverpool's second, Owen surprisingly outjumping Southgate at the far post to head home Vladimir Smicer's corner on 14 minutes.
Southgate was having a night to forget and was lucky to escape a red card midway through the first half when he brought down Heskey in full flow.
Referee Neil Barry chose to brandish only the yellow, although that meant Southgate was forced to tread a careful path for the rest of the match.
Owen completed his hat-trick just past the half-hour mark when he capitalised on a mistake from James.
Alpay's back header may have been a trifle weak but the former Liverpool goalkeeper should still have gathered successfully at the feet of Owen.
But the ball somehow avoided his clutches and ran free, handing the England striker the simplest of tasks.
Luc Nilis had one shot saved while Dion Dublin flashed a header wide from a cross by Paul Merson.
Dublin came close again before half-time but felt he had been fouled by Stephane Henchoz as he tried to get his head on another centre from Merson, this time from the left.
So incensed was the former Coventry frontman that he ripped off his shirt and waved it in the direction of the referee.
Owen should have added to his tally at the start of the second half but ballooned his shot over the crossbar after being set up by substitute Nick Barmby, who had replaced the injured Smicer early on.
Barmby came perilously close to making it 4-0 when he beat James to the ball inside the Villa penalty area.
Fortunately for the Midlanders, Alpay was on hand to head the former Everton midfielder's mini-lob to safety.
Liverpool could afford the luxury of taking off Heskey midway through the second half, replacing him with Erik Meijer.
Villa also opted for a change, bringing on Lee Hendrie for Boateng.
While all that was going on, Alpay and Djimi Traore were both receiving treatment after clashing heads.
Alpay was attended to on the pitch but Traore zipped off to the dressing room to get his injury seen to.
Alpay was eventually replaced by David Ginola, back in contention after overcoming a back injury sustained in training.
But the Frenchman had little impact, although Villa did grab a late consolation.
A neat, flowing move on 83 minutes ended with Stone firing the ball past Westerveld as the Dutchman came off his line to narrow the angle.
Liverpool: Westerveld, Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Traore, Gerrard, Hamann, Carragher, Smicer, Owen, Heskey. Subs: Song, Meijer, Arphexad, Barmby, Diomede.
Aston Villa: James, Southgate, Ehiogu, Alpay, Stone, Boateng, Taylor, Barry, Merson, Dublin, Nilis. Subs: Ginola, Hendrie, Vassell, Samuel, Enckelman.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).
07 Sep 00 | Photo Galleries
Wednesday's Premiership action - in pictures
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