Football: McAllister magic

by PETER FERGUSON, Daily Mail

Bradford City 0
Liverpool 2
Owen 47, McAllister 67

Gerard Houllier's Anfield revolution might be fuelled by young stars like Michael Owen and Steve Gerrard, but it is the wise old hand Gary McAllister who guides Liverpool towards a seemingly glorious climax.

The former Coventry veteran took a firm grip on a difficult Premiership game once again last night, just as Bradford thought that they were in with the chance of another upset.

But 12 months ago, when Paul Jewell's never-say-die survival battlers turned up trumps at Valley Parade to scotch Liverpool's Champions League hopes on the last day, there was no McAllister in Liverpool's line-up.

This time, the 36-year-old Scotland midfielder was on hand to steady the ship and consign the first-half frustration to memory with one brilliantly delivered pass for Owen and one equally well executed free kick to seal the result.

The victory took Liverpool back into third place for the first time since early March, putting them only four points behind second-placed Arsenal but, more importantly, ahead of great rivals Leeds with three games to go before they can claim a coveted Champions League place.

McAllister, remarkably, has now scored in the last five Liverpool matches, all victories, as the UEFA Cup and FA Cup finalists threaten to sweep all before them despite the pressure of having to cram seven matches into 22 days.

Houllier said: 'The defeat here last season made us miserable. I hate the word revenge, but I told the boys they would have to show they have grown up a bit, that they are more mature and composed.

'Now we are back in third with three games to play and two of those are at home. Those next two will be very important. The main difference this season is that when we have to dig in, we do.

'I don't accept that we have made ourselves favourites for the Champions League place, but it is in our own hands.'

Magnificent Gary Walsh looked like he was on a personal mission to shut out Liverpool, with the occasional bit of help from centre halves Rob Molenaar and Andy Myers, and it was even tempting at one stage to imagine that the visitors might just be feeling the strain of their tough programme.

That was McAllister's cue. His 47th-minute pass to release Owen was sublime and the England striker outpaced Myers to fire beyond Walsh and break the deadlock.

It was all over once McAllister had delivered the sweetest free kick from outside the area to beat Walsh, although Liverpool did have a scare when Sander Westerveld caught a Jamie Carragher backpass - he was booked for dissent - then Carragher appeared to handle Beni Carbone's free kick.

Jeff Winter would have none of it, and Liverpool were home and dry.

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