Jimmy Stalls Reds Euro Dream
|Owen 8, 60||Hasselbaink 13, 66|
|FA Carling Premiership, May 8|
Dean Gripton reports
Liverpool and Chelsea's European dreams have been put on hold until the final game of the season after an entertaining draw at Anfield.
Liverpool's Michael Owen and Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could not be separated in what became a personal goalscoring duel, the two international hit-men scoring two fine goals each.
Twice Owen gave Liverpool the lead they thought could open up a third-place finish that would have guaranteed a Champions League qualifying opportunity for next season, while Chelsea's bid for a UEFA Cup place is also undecided despite two Hasselbaink equalisers.
Liverpool midfielder Patrik Berger and Chelsea's
Samuele Dalla Bona were recalled for their respective sides as Vladimir
Smicer and Gus Poyet made way.
Chelsea have won only once in 41 League visits here, stretching back 66 years, yet rarely can they have played better at Anfield. The first half was absorbing, as Chelsea's inventive 3-4-3 formation dictated the pace and tempo of the game.
Liverpool opened the scoring after eight minutes when Patrik Berger's pass forward was cleverly flicked on by Gary McAllister for Owen to clip a typical finish over Carlo Cudicini.
That should have been the signal for Liverpool to take control, but instead Claudio Ranieri's side showed appetite for the battle and began to dominate.
Hasselbaink equalised five minutes later with his 21st Premiership goals of the season, but Dutch goalkeeper Sander Westerveld would be angry with his contribution.
Westerveld had scored a dreadful own goal in the 0-3 defeat at Stamford Bridge in October, and when he allowed the low 30-yard effort to beat him to his right it was the first serious error since that day.
Gianfranco Zola and Eidur Gudjohnsen began to find good space behind the Reds midfield, and with Marcel Desailly organising the precocious talents of Mario Melchiot and John Terry alongside him at the back Chelsea were happy to dominate possession.
Markus Babbel's tackle on Zola led to retribution as players squared up to the German. Hasselbaink came across and was barely nudged by Babbel as the two pushed heads together, and the Chelsea scorer went down as if caught by a sniper. Referee Dermot Gallagher kept cool and booked Hasselbaink for his part in the silliness.
Soon after the break Westerveld made amends when blocking Gudjohnsen after the Icelandic star had been found in space inside the penalty area by another imperious ball from Zola, and then Owen had Cudicini desperately diving as his 20-yard effort curled just wide.
Owen had his second goal coming just three minutes later. It owed much to the tenacity and determination of Sami Hyypia, who got up from the ground after his shot was blocked by Terry to beat Hasselbaink in the air, and the England international's 15th league goal of the season was an unstoppable volley from six yards.
Previous Chelsea sides have crumbled after such setbacks and soon put the pressure back on Liverpool. Desailly had a header tipped over by Westerveld, while at the other end Heskey was inches away from tearing down the netting with a ferocious left-foot drive.
Again, Hasselbaink was the man to watch, shrugging off Hyypia to fire a fine low shot across the goalkeeper for a textbook finish after 66 minutes.
Hasselbaink nearly won the game - for the Reds - when he deflected Owen's close-range free-kick luckily wide after a Graeme Le Saux interception to his goalkeeper was harshly adjudged as a backpass.
So Liverpool need to win at Charlton on the Premiership's final day to win a Champions League place, and it could have been worse for Gerard Houllier's men. Dalla Bona was one of three Chelsea men unmarked as Zola curled in a 85th minute free-kick, and his header was straight at the fortunate Westerveld as the Reds defence went missing.
Man of the Match: Marcel Desailly
The French defender was excellent for the Blues, marking Emile Heskey out of the game for long periods and defending with a dominating spirit. Narrowly edged out Zola and Owen for the nomination.
Liverpool: Westerveld, Babbel,
Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Gerrard, Hamann (Murphy 72), Berger (Smicer 58),
McAllister, Heskey (Fowler 81), Owen.
Subs Not Used: Arphexad, Vignal.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Desailly, Terry, Le Saux, Morris (Jokanovic 88), Dalla Bona, Wise, Zola (Poyet 90), Hasselbaink, Gudjohnsen (Babayaro 84).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Leboeuf.
Booked: Hasselbaink, Le Saux, Desailly, Melchiot.
Ref: M Riley (Leeds)