Veron and Chelsea off to a flyer
By Steve Luckings
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Chelsea were left fuming when Michael Owen's first penalty on 75 minutes was screwed hopelessly wide but it was ordered to be re-taken after the match officials ruled that Carlo Cudicini had jumped off his line before the ball had been struck, only for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to net the winner with minutes to spare.
It was Liverpool who came out of the blocks quickest when Jamie Carragher's ball to Emile Heskey into the box was eventually controlled by the England striker who teed up the on-rushing Danny Murphy, whose low drive was kept out by the fingertips of Cudicini in the Chelsea net with barely 90 seconds on the clock.
New Australian recruit Harry Kewell then went even closer for The Reds when Chelsea, still reforming their defensive shape after defending a corner, found John Terry matched with the speedy Kewell one-on-one wide on the right. Kewell left the England man trailing in his wake and was unlucky not to score when Cudicini dived from his goal anticipating a cross and Kewell's effort looked to be destined for the far corner but sailed agonisingly wide.
Veron then showed why Ranieri shelled out £15 million for the Argentine's services on 25 minutes when he strode confidently onto Jesper Gronkjaer's low cross from the right and, with Stephane Henchoz slipping at the vital moment, powered the ball home past Jerzy Dudek.
Eidur Gudjohnsen was replaced at half time by Hasselbaink and the visitors again looked the more dominant side when Frank Lampard found himself unopposed 25 yards from goal on 66 minutes and let fly with a ferocious right-foot effort that Dudek superbly saved at full stretch as it speared towards the top right hand corner of the net.
Gerard Houllier bought on Steve Finnan, Milan Baros and El Hadji Diouf for Henchoz and the ineffective Igor Biscan and Bruno Cheyrou with 20 minutes remaining and Ranieri replaced Glen Johnson with William Gallas and Damien Duff with Joe Cole, and it was Diouf who was first to make an impact with a quarter of an hour to go when he was felled in the area by Wayne Bridge after a disputed throw-in.
Controversy followed when Owen pulled his first spot-kick wide of the mark but referee Steve Bennett awarded a re-take after the linesman judged that Cudicini had left his line to early and the England marksman made no mistake with his second, rifling it straight down the middle.
Hasselbaink, however, proved to be the matchwinner when he latched onto Lampard's ball through the middle, which he superbly bought down, before slotting home past Dudek to send a reminder to manager Ranieri that he can still get the goals for the Stamford Bridge outfit.
The Blues will feel justice was served in the end, but the Bennett's decision for the spot kick to be re-taken could be the first of many throughout the season.
Click on the link below for a match summary:
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea