Throwback Thursday: Rovers visit Anfield in a clash in the battle for Champions League football

By @ajftbl

Today, we jump back to April 2004 when the Premier League season or more crucially, the battle for top four drew closer to its endgame (cheeky pop culture reference there for you).

Going into this 3pm kickoff at Anfield, Gerard Houllier’s side were in fifth place, two points behind Newcastle who had already played that weekend. This meant a win would allow Liverpool to leapfrog Newcastle into fourth with seven games to go.

It would be foolish to underestimate the visitors however, a side that won the league just nine years ago. But this Blackburn team were in a completely different shape, under the management of Liverpool legend and former coach Graeme Souness, and they were in the thick of a relegation dogfight.

Souness wasn’t the only one in the Blackburn camp to have previous affiliation with Liverpool as two of the players in the Rovers starting XI – Brad Friedel and Markus Babbel – were former Liverpool players.

Captain Steven Gerrard got his first taste of international captaincy four days ago in England’s 1-0 friendly defeat against Sweden. Striker Michael Owen had missed out on national duty due to a hamstring issue, which had plagued him so often in his career. Owen was back for this one though, starting alongside Emile Heskey up front for Liverpool.

Blackburn’s midfield and defence were under siege from the start with Gerrard bursting towards goal, denied by a solid tackle by Craig Short. Moments later, a pass by Jamie Carragher found its way to Kewell but the Australian misjudged the power of his pass to Heskey, playing it with slightly too much power.

Despite this, Heskey improvised extraordinarily well, killing the ball with a delightful first touch which allowed him to gather himself and poke it through to the advancing Owen, who slipped as he struck the ball.

This didn’t matter as fortunately, the unconvincing strike nestled past Friedel into the net. Poor goalkeeping from the American, who did his former side a favour and gifting them the opening goal of the game. Owen undoubtedly couldn’t care less how the goal came about, in a season full of frustration for him.

Another goal from the home team would follow 22 minutes in. El-Hadji Diouf, somewhat of a villain to Liverpool fans these days, gave them something to cheer back then as his cross from the right hand side forced Andy Todd into a deflection into his own net.

The third would follow just two minute later when Michael Owen bagged his brace, belting a stunning volley past Friedel, showcasing his class and ability that was still very much present.

With Euro 2004 on the horizon, Owen would surely be looking to prove to Sven-Goren Eriksson why he should be on the plane to Portugal and what a way to do so. The game was now essentially wrapped up in the first 25 minutes.

Owen was unable to complete his hat-trick, with Milan Baros coming on in his place 76 minutes in. This would be an inspired substitution as Baros played a considerable role in the fourth and final goal of the game. Kewell picked out the Czech international who strided into the box and squared the ball across for Heskey, who couldn’t miss and bagged his tenth goal of the season.

An assured performance from Houllier’s men who wrapped the game up in the first 25 minutes. It was a poor showing as often this season from Blackburn, who would now need some big wins in the next few games to assure Premier League safety.

Liverpool were back in the Champions League places and Reds fans were beginning to picture playing alongside Europe’s elite again next year. Who knows, with a bit of luck, they may even win the whole thing!

Editorial

By Reds, for Reds. We are The Kopite.

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