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Season Review 2000-01
Liverpool started the season as they finished off the 1999-2000 campaign, with a game against Bradford. Forunately for the Reds, they did a lot better this time around, earning 3 points to kick the season off to a good start. But things turned sour just 3 days later as they were on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline at Highbury, not helped by some bad refereeing by Graeme Poll. But the team picked themselves up and were cruising against Southampton with the points looking very much secure as they held onto a 3-0 lead with 18 minutes to go. But then things went badly wrong. Three gols by Southampton and almost a last minute winner denied Liverpool of their second win to give them a win, a draw and a defeat from three games.
September was a better month for Liverpool as they went 6 games without defeat. Home wins against Aston Villa and Man City started things off, with a safe passage into the next round of the UEFA Cup after a win against Rapid Bucharest. The draws against West Ham and Sunderland would be looked upon as another 4 points lost but the Reds were nevertheless in 4th place.
Liverpool's heaviest defeat since the 4-1 loss at the same ground in 1998 was there
forst October match, when they wer beaten 3-0 by Chelsea. It was now 10 years since
Liverpool last won away to Chelsea in the league, but it was the only points dropped in a
highly successful month.
November started as the previous month had done - with a match against Chelsea on the first day of the month. This time it was in the Worthington Cup and with Chelsea having been knocked out of the UEFA Cup already by part-timers St Gallen, and struggling in the bottom quarter of the league, it was a perfect time to play them. But the win wasnt as straight forward as it should have been, with Robbie Fowler's extra time goal needed in order to prevent a penalty shoot out. The game also saw Emile Heskey sent off by controversial ref, Rob Harris. It was the start of 8 games in November which was the kind of fixture congestion that the Reds were soon going to get used to.
Wins against Coventry in the league, and Slovan Liberec in Europe were met with defeats at the hands of Leeds, Newcastle and Spurs. Liverpool's away record read: Played 8, Won 1, Lost 5, with a trip to Old Trafford the next away game in the Premiership!
A record away win, 8-0 against Stoke, capped off an indifferent month which put an early dent in Liverpool's Champions League ambitions and all but ended a realistic title challenge.
Liverpool continued into December with some more excellent performances, but the inconsistency again showed, with the Reds agains unable to produce top performances week in and week out. Comfortable wins against Charlton and Greek Champions, Olympiakos were followed by their first home defeat of the season, against newly promoted Ipswich Town. But the side bounced back in splendid fashion, firstly by beating runaway first division leaders Fulham in the Worthington Cup, and then winning away to their biggest rivals, Man United.
The latter was a big indication of how far Liverpool had come and it was now a case of getting together the consistency that could enable the team to finally keep within touching distance for the whole season. The only problem this season was that too many points had already been dropped. But the signs of improvement were there for all to see and a week later, it was Arsenal who were victims of Liverpool at their best. A 4-0 win may have been a little harsh on Arsenal who were well in the game until the 2nd goal, but it was a perfect Liverpool demonstration of how to kill games off, something which they had clearly learnt from the Southampton game!
But just as Liverpool looked in unstoppable form, they faced relegation contenders Middlesborough, and lost 1-0.
The new year began with a bang, with an excellent game againt Southampton getting the new year underway. It also saw one of the goals of the season, courtesy of a Steve Gerrard strike from over 35 yards out. A new signing followed during the opeing week of the year with Finnish legend, Jari Litmanen, signing for the club he supported as a youngster. His first taste of life at Anfield was to witness a comfortable win against Rotherham in the FA Cup and then he made his debut in the Worthington Cup semi final against Palace, coming on as a late sub to help reduce a 2 goal deficit in the first leg.
In the league, Liverpool produced another fabulous performance on route to a 3-0 away win against Villa, but a disappointing home draw agains Middlesbrough followed before a thrilling night at Anfield when the Reds overturned their first leg disadvantage to thrash Crystal Palace 5-0 and in another cup game, a late show at Elland Road saw Leeds out of the FA Cup at the 4th round stage. The treble was now seriously being considered by fans and critics alike as Liverpool continued to progress in all 3 cup competitions, but a top 3 finish remained the priority.
February was branded as a make-or-break month, with big games being played twice weekly as Liverpool aimed to be successful in every competition they were still in.
Their cup form continued to be excellent but failure to win both away games in the league, against Man City and Sunderland, was becoming an all too common feature of Liverpool's season. Only 3 away wins had been recorded with 13 played.
But that didnt apply to the cups! Liverpool went to Rome to face the Serie A leaders Roma for the first time since the 1984 European Cup final in the same venue, and returned to Merseyside with a 2-0 lead. Michael Owen's goals made Liverpool clear favourites to make the quarter finals and put out the clear favourites to win the tournament. A tense night at Anfield followed, with Roma the team looking more dangerous on the night. A 1-0 win and a highly controversial penalty appeal turned down were to be the highlights but Liverpool held on to secure a date with Porto in the last eight. Then, just 3 days later the Reds claimed their first trophy in 6 years with a penalty shoot out win over Birmingham in Cardiff. Jamie Carragher was the man with the crucial spot kick winner, and Westerweld was an even bigger hero for his 2 saves in the shoot out. One down, two to go!
Just 6 games in March, due to a 2 week international break, in which Liverpool kept the pressure on 3rd placed Ipswich despite losing points away to Leicester and at home to Derby.
Porto were the next victims in the UEFA Cup, beaten 2-0 at Anfield in a comfortable Liverpool display after a goal-less draw away from home.
Though the highlight of the month was undoubtedly the 2-0 win over Man United on the last day of March, to complete the first double over them since 1979. The performance itsself was superb and the home side were in control for most of the game after netting the first half goals.
April began with a trip to one of the finest football venues on the planet, the Nou Camp, to play a game that had high expectations but ended up to be a complete let down from an entertainment point of view. The 0-0 result however, was a terrific achievement for Liverpool and gave them as good a chance as any of reaching the final. And just days after playing one of world football's biggest clubs, Liverpool took on Wycombe for a place in the FA Cup final and despite leaving it late, managed to win the game and continue their charge towards an unprecedented treble.
But still the priority lay with the league and the draw away to 3rd placed Ipswuch, followed by a home defeat against 4th places Leeds left Liverpool with a near impossible task. The remaining 6 games had to be won, and among those games were trips to Goodison Park and also The Valley to face high flying Charlton and Valley Parade, the ground where Liverpool's Champions League ambitions were ended the previous year. A single defeat would almost certainly cost them of 3rd place with Ipswich having arguably the easier run in and no cup distractions.
The week after the Leeds' defeat was to go a long way to deciding Liverpool's fate. A 2-2 result looked to be on the cards away to Everton when McAllister stuck an extraordinary free kick from 44 yards out, and the same man netted a penalty against Barcelona, a game in which Liverpool's defence passed their toughest test ever. Impressive league wins against Tottenham, Coventry, Bradford followed but it was an issue which looked to be heading towards the last day of the season.
An excellent 3-0 win over Newcastle followed, and with Leeds and Ipswich both losing points, the 3rd place could have been settled with a home win against Chelsea.
Twice leading, twice cancelled out by Hasselbaink, a 2-2 draw meant that Liverpool's league position was to be decided after a game against Charlton, who had lost only 2 home games during the season, a feat bettered only by Arsenal.
Next up was Arsenal, in the FA Cup Final at Cardiff. A goal down late in the game with Arsenal dominating the midfield and the chances, it looked as though the treble dream was to be ended in the same stadium where it begun. That was until Michael Owen popped up almost from nowhere, to fire in a late equaliser. Once the sides where level, there was only going to be one winner with Liverpool creating a couple more chances before Owen netted a second to seal a dramatic win and leave just the UEFA Final standing in between Liverpool and a historic treble.
In one of the greatest cup finals of all time, Liverpool ran out 5-4 winners in another tense game, but one which should have been over long before the final whistle. An unfortunate own goal gave the trophy to Liverpool with just 3 minutes left of extra time after nearly 2 hours of one of the most entertaining games for many years.
History was made, but it wasnt enough. League matters still had to be resolved and this time around, Liverpool's fate was in their own hands. An excellent performance by Charlton in the first half was to count for nothing as Liverpool ran riot in the second 45 minutes, smashing in 4 goals to finish off what had been a truly remarkable season.
The Champions League will provide new challenges next year but the aim will surely be to win the first League Championship since 1990. Its been a long time in coming, hopefully the wait wont be for much longer.