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HERO AND VILLAIN; England star Gerrard sent off in disgrace as Liverpool crash.

Byline: PAUL WALKER reports from Anfield

STEVEN GERRARD went from England hero to Anfield villain after being sent off for a horror tackle in this first home league defeat for Liverpool since Good Friday.

Gerrard launched a fierce challenge on George Boateng after 73 minutes and Essex referee Andy D'Urso had little option under current directives but to produce the red card.

Liverpool's England brigade could hardly have expected to suffer a defeat like this, but Villa are organised in defence, determined in midfield, and they had big Dion Dublin to cause trouble in the air.

He scored the first, helped create the second for Lee Hendrie and bothered Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz all afternoon.

And when Darius Vassell poached a third in the dying minutes, new Polish keeper Jerzy Dudek had his debut afternoon ruined.

Liverpool, beaten 2-1 at Bolton in their last match, needed to recover from that quickly, but Villa never really gave them the opportunity.

Liverpool played with such a lack of urgency at times you wondered whether they already had next summer's World Cup finals on their minds.

Michael Owen was rested to the bench after his England efforts while Poland's Dudek - the only Liverpool player currently certain of being in the finals next summer - made his debut after the controversial dumping of Sander Westerveld, who watched the action straight-faced in the directors' box wearing a smart suit that was as grey as the look on his face!

There's no question, though, that when Owen isn't at the sharp end, the pace drops from Liverpool's game and their own damaging outlet over the top is not as effective.

On 29 minutes Nick Barmby was booked for a late tackle on Mark Delaney, and from the free-kick lifted in by Merson, Dublin powered an unstoppable header home.

Whatever was said at half-time, and you can be sure there would have been plenty, it worked for Liverpool within 50 seconds.

A Gary McAllister corner curled into the box to be met by Gerrard.

His downward header bounced through the six-yard box and although it was hooked away, the linesman instantly signalled a goal.

But in the 54th minute Villa were ahead again. And again it was Dublin who caused the trouble.

He got a head to a free-kick dropping into the box, miskicked as the ball dropped to him and Hendrie was first to react and stabbed the ball into the bottom corner.

Owen was pushed into action on 59 minutes, but after Gerrard was sent off Vassall took on Carragher and Hyypia before sending a dipping drive over Dudek.

CAPTION(S):

MISSED A SITTER: England hero Gerrard rues a missed goal opportunity before being sent off (inset) after a horrific tackle yesterday Picture PA
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 9, 2001
Words:459
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