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Football: MASTERPASS; Barca's 29 passes end in an Overmars winner 2 mins 49 secs of possession with 60 touches.

Byline: MIKE ALLEN

GOLD was the unfamiliar colour of their shirts and Barcelona's glittering passing display at Anfield on Tuesday was pure 24 carat.

When Marc Overmars slipped the ball past Jerzy Dudek after almost 84 minutes, he had put the finishing touch to arguably the greatest team goal ever scored.

It came at the end of 29 touches and followed a previous spell of possession which had seen 31 passes strung together, with the two moves broken only by Sami Hyypia putting the ball out for a throw-in.

Gary McAllister, the veteran Liverpool midfielder who by this time was only too happy to be watching from the bench as his younger team-mates chased shadows, said: "Possession is the main part of this game and their ability to keep hold of the ball was frightening at times." The statistics are frightening too.

In the spellbinding second half when Barca moved from 1-1 towards the final 3-1 scoreline, they retained possession for 65 per cent of the time, an astonishing figure in modern football between two such high-quality sides.

According to football's leading statistical organisation Opta Index, Fabio Rochemback won the ball after 81 minutes and four seconds with a tackle on Jari Litmanen.

Two minutes and 49 seconds later the ball was nestling in the net, with Hyypia's intervention the only break in play.

Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson said: "This was a learning process for us. Barcelona played some great stuff and showed how to retain possession when they were in space as well as when they were under pressure. They are an exceptional team with exceptional players,.

"They are much stronger than when we beat them last season, and what you saw out there was a fantastic team of wonderful players."

The sentiments were echoed by Hyypia, Liverpool's skipper on the night. Not surprisingly, he believes his team were given a lesson in European football.

In particular, Hyypia accepts Liverpool must quickly work out how to win back the ball back from opponents who pass it so confidently.

He said: "We should have pushed them back more to put them under a bit more pressure.

"We have to learn how to play against teams who hold onto the ball like that.

"They are very astute at keeping the ball, and in the second half outclassed us because we simply couldn't get a grip of it. But then they are one of the best teams in Europe, and proved it. We still have five more games to play. It is not over yet."

Anyone still believe in route one?

CAPTION(S):

SENSATIONAL SENORS; MOVE STARTED: 81.04 mins MOVE ENDED: 83.53 mins LASTED: 2.49 mins; MARC Overmars sealed Barca's 3-1 victory over Liverpool after a glorious passing move.; PART 1: 31 passes before being broken by Sami Hyypia, who forced a throw-in PART 2: 29 passes from the throw-in, ending in Overmars' goal; XAVI: 13 touches; 11 players were involved in the incredible move with Xavi touching the ball 13 times.; FINAL TOUCH: Marc Overmars rounds the grounded Jerzy Dudek to score. Above: Our diagram shows how Liverpool were run ragged
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 22, 2001
Words:524
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