OWEN SENDS ROMA TO THE WOLVES
By Nic Evans. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
LIVERPOOL put in a performance worthy of their past glories with a strong rearguard display, coupled with two predatory strikes by Michael Owen as they surprised Roma 2-0 in the Olympic Stadium, to take control of the Uefa Cup tie.
In a game bereft of chances, it took a mistake to open the scoring, just 39 seconds into the second period, as a bizarre pass by Alessandro Rinaldi, exacerbated by Amedeo Mangone gave Owen the opportunity to open the scoring.
Rinaldi attempted to switch the play but failed to lift the ball over the England international and Owen galloped onto the dreadful error, he beat Mangone before placing a right foot shot past the despairing dive of Francesco Antonioli.
Antonioli's mistake in the 72nd minute made it 2-0, the keeper opting to punch a Gary McAllister shot that he could have easily caught.
The ball was played back towards the Roma box and McAllister played a one-two with Christian Ziege that set the German international free on the right.
Ziege's floated cross from the by-line saw Owen get in front of his marker and the striker lifted his header over Antonioli and into the net, to stun the Roma faithful.
However, the game was won in defence, as a stifling display by the visitors' rearguard stopped the Roma attack in its tracks.
Ziege was brought in by Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier to stop the advances of Brazilian star Cafu down the Roma right and in the third minute, the German was lucky to escape a booking as a hefty challenge left Cafu limping.
This seemed to stop his raiding down the right and with the ineffectual Hidetoshi Nakarta failing to prompt Vincenzo Montella, Roma looked like a spent force.
Roma's greatest chance in the first half was a 42nd minute header from Marco Delvecchio, after Ronaldini got free down the right.
Delvecchio rose superbly to head goalwards, but will be disappointed as the ball flashed wide after he had comprehensively beaten the defence.
After Owen's strike, Roma pushed forward and swapped Nakarta for Marcos Assuncao although this did not pay immediate dividends.
Fabio Capello was forced into using his injured star Gabriel Batistuta who came on for Damiano Tomassi with 25 minutes to go but the Argentinian star did not get a clear chance in front of goal.
It took until the 79th minute for the first booking, when Mangone was shown the yellow card for a poor challenge from behind on Nick Barmby.
Owen was brought off with ten minutes to go and replaced by Finn, Jari Litmanen but Roma's plight was so bad the Delvecchio was taken off with eight minutes remaining and Uruguayan Giovanni Guigou came on in his place.
Barmby had a chance to put the icing on the cake in the 90th minute but after the assistant referee kept his flag down as the Roma defence appealed in vain, the winger went on to crash his shot against Rinaldi's legs.
After the game, Owen said: "It was nice to come to a stadium like this and to come away with two good goals and a great performance from the lads."
Houllier added: "Michael's goal changed everything and gave a lot of confidence to the team. And the team effort was tremendous.
"In the second half we played the kind of football we needed to play."
The only spoiler for the Liverpool fans was the amount of violence in the Italian capital, as currently six fans, including two Norwegians have been involved in violent attacks, which has left them nursing stabbing wounds.
Liverpool are now 9/2 for the UEFA Cup - click here for details.
Click below for the relevant report on Thursday's other Uefa Cup games: