OWEN STRIKE DENIES RAMS
By Peter O`Rourke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Owen struck seven minutes into the second half scoring at the second attempt after Rams goalkeeper Andy Oakes had saved the strikers first effort from Jari Litmanen's right-wing cross.
Derby had shocked the home fans in the first half when Burton had fired the visitors ahead after just nine minutes when he bundled home Seth Johnson's corner over the line from six yards with his thigh.
Owen did his chances of leading England's front-line next week against Finland no harm at all with an inspired performance in front of the watching England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, but he could not lead Liverpool to three vital points which would have moved them back up to fourth place in the table.
With his side still chasing success on three fronts Reds boss Gerard Houllier made a number of changes from the side that defeated Porto in the Uefa Cup on Thursday night with Emile Heskey, Jari Litmanen, Gary McAllister and Igor Biscan all starting in place of Vladimir Smicer, Robbie Fowler, Danny Murphy and Steven Gerrard who were all left on the bench.
Derby, unbeaten in their last four matches, brought in only Burton for the injured Branko Strupar from the side that won two weeks ago against Spurs.
Liverpool started brightly and they tested Oakes in the first five minutes with a couple of long-range efforts from Igor Biscan and Jari Litmanen, which were both comfortably saved.
The Rams then took the lead in really their first attack of the game when Burton forced Johnson's corner over the line past Sander Westerveld in the Liverpool goal.
The goal stung the home side into action and Gary McAllister missed a good chance to draw the sides level after 27 minutes when he blazed over his shot over the bar.
Derby were frustrating Liverpool by defending well and letting Liverpool very little time on the ball and they almost doubled their lead in the 33rd minute with a good shot from Burton on the run which forced Westerveld into a good save low to his right.
Heskey had Liverpool's best chance of the half but he could only head Markus Babbel's cross weakly at Oakes.
Liverpool were becoming increasingly frustrated with their inability to equalize and Dietmar Hamann's became the first man into Neale Barry's book for a foul on Malcolm Christie.
From the resulting free-kick from Craig Burley, Burton was inches wide from grabbing his second with a powerful header, which flew just wide.
Derby went into half-time with a deserved 1-0 lead but Liverpool came out at the start of the second period determined to get something from the game.
Owen, who was Liverpool's most dangerous player, grabbed his third goal of the week and his 15th of the season with the equalizer after 52 minutes with a simple tap in from Litmanen's cross after Oakes had saved his first volleyed effort.
Liverpool threw everything forward in a desperate attempt to boost their hopes of Champions League qualification but Derby defended bravely to keep them at bay.
Owen, who has been back to his brilliant best of late, had a header from another Litmanen cross well saved by Oakes five minutes after scoring.
Four minutes later Owen saw a fine glancing header fly inches wide from substitute Steven Gerrard's right-wing cross.
Owen came close to grabbing the all-important second with a fine run past two Derby defenders but he fired his shot just wide of the far post.
The visitors almost stole the points late in the game as the home side pushed forward for the winner when substitute Thordur Gudjonsson found himself through on goal but the midfielder saw his shot well blocked by Westerveld.
The point almost guarantees Derby Premiership safety leaving them eight points clear of Manchester City in third from bottom while Liverpool will rue the number of missed chances which seriously dents their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League.