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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 21:53 GMT
Liverpool 2-0 Levski Sofia
Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring for Liverpool

Steven Gerrard's volley and Harry Kewell's wonderful shot inspired Liverpool to victory over Levski Sofia in the Uefa Cup third round first leg.

The Levski defence stifled Liverpool in the opening period, but Gerrard's vicious volley gave the 2001 Uefa Cup winners the lead in the second half.

Three minutes later Kewell added a second when he unleashed a curling shot that dipped over Dimitar Ivankov.

Milan Baros impressed in attack, but Michael Owen missed several chances.

Out of both domestic cups and chasing Newcastle and Charlton in the Premiership for a Champions League spot, Liverpool stuttered in a disappointing opening half.

Passes went astray and Owen, who was deployed behind Baros in the first half, struggled to get into the game.

After the restart Owen moved further forward and immediately tested Ivankov, first with a header and then when the Levski goalkeeper had to rush out to prevent the Liverpool striker collecting Dietmar Hamann's pass.

Owen was also quick to latch on to a deflection, though Ivankov again safely gathered the Liverpool striker's shot.

KEY MOMENTS
67 mins: Gerrard fires Liverpool into the lead
70 mins: Kewell's curling shot doubles Liverpool's advantage

Midway through the second half two moments of inspiration turned the game Liverpool's way.

First Gerrard despatched a volley past Ivankov and then Kewell scored an even better goal with a superlative shot from the edge of the box.

Playing his first full game since September, Baros was Liverpool's most potent threat in that muted first-half with his speed and enthusiasm constantly troubling Levski.

He produced a dangerous run only to delay his pass to Danny Murphy and had a reasonable claim for a penalty rejected after Ilian Stoyanov's scything tackle.

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Later in the half Stoyanov, looking to shield the ball out of play, sent Baros crashing into the advertising hoardings.

Liverpool's Czech Republic international striker also went close with a header after Murphy's corner.

Having gathered a head of steam, Liverpool suddenly went off the boil allowing Levski to come back into the game, and Konstantin Golovskoy went close with a deflected shot.

Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland also had to be alert to deal with Kostadin Vidolov's low shot soon just after the restart.


Liverpool: Kirkland, Finnan, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Murphy, Gerrard, Hamann, Kewell (Diouf 85), Owen, Baros (Cheyrou 90).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Le Tallec, Traore, Biscan, Welsh.

Levski Sofia: Ivankov, Wagner, Markov, Stoyanov, Topuzakov, Temile (Telkiyski 71), Bukarev, Golovskoy, Borimirov (Stankov 76), Vidolov (Chilikov 71), Georgi Ivanov.
Subs Not Used: Petkov, Biser Ivanov, Simonovic, Stanislav Angelov.

Booked: Golovskoy, Markov, Borimirov.

Attendance: 39,149.

Referee: Rene Temmink (Holland).




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"This is just what Liverpool, and their manager, needed"


Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"After all the flack it was great to hear the fans support"





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