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Fowler Leave Stage Too Early

By Peter Gardner

Last Updated: 1:44am BST 14/05/2007

Liverpool (0) 2 Charlton (1) 2

Liverpool were spared an embarrassing third successive league defeat at the end of a season in which they embark for their second Champions League final in two years when Harry Kewell dispatched a late penalty to deny relegated Charlton a memorable victory on their farewell to the Premiership.

There was irony in that Robbie Fowler, made Liverpool's captain for his final game for the club, would have been on hand to take the kick had he not been substituted a minute earlier.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, said: "It was bad luck for Robbie, good luck for the team. Another two minutes on the pitch would have been perfect for him to score in front of the Kop."

Nevertheless, Fowler still received a rapturous ovation on his substitution and later when the team did a lap of honour.

It was equally disappointing for Fowler that Liverpool failed to rise to the occasion and Benitez added: "We made a lot of mistakes defensively and also wasted many chances. However, the positive thing was that we finished third, there are no injuries and the supporters were behind Robbie on his leaving."

Yet observers from AC Milan, Liverpool's opponents in Athens on May 23, would have left Anfield far from trembling with trepidation as Charlton, whose destiny was settled in a 2-0 defeat by Tottenham earlier last week, came close to securing a remarkable result at the end of a season in which they have had three different managers.

They made a superb start with a goal after two minutes, Matt Holland scuffling the ball in from close range. Liverpool's assistance in living dangerously at the back could have led to further goals for the visitors before substitute Xabi Alonso, within a minute of his arrival, achieved parity.

Undeterred, Charlton again took the lead, Darren Bent volleying in and only Madjid Bougherra's handling from a Steven Gerrard corner on the right enabled Kewell to spare Liverpool's blushes.

Alan Pardew, the Charlton manager, said: "It is good that we have gone down in the right manner and that is some consolation for us. I felt the performance was fantastic because motivating everyone after Monday's defeat was not easy.

''We came with a smile on our face, our tactics were good and we played some pretty good stuff. There were a lot of plusses and it was a perfect day apart from the result. It gives us hope for next season when we are going to be a big scalp in the Championship.''

For a game with so little at stake, Charlton made an immediate impact with their early willingness to push their disappointment of relegation into the background and Holland's early strike silenced the Kop.

Alvaro Arbeloa finished wretchedly from two excellent opportunities and Gerrard was marginally over from 18 yards.

Yet Charlton remained positive and a threat on the break, a fact they proved after half-an-hour when Steve Finnan cleared off the line from Alex Song.

The start of the second half again saw Charlton on the offensive when Zheng Zhi sliced wide from an excellent position. But Liverpool responded resolutely and Alonso's 61st-minute arrival was followed 60 seconds later by the equaliser when he drove in after Kewell's deep cross was headed down by Dirk Kuyt.

Charlton also responded with a vengeance and in the 72nd minute Bent followed up after Daniele Padelli, on his Liverpool debut, had blocked a Ben Thatcher shot. Then came Kewell's final act.

•Man of the match: Darren Randolph (Charlton)

Talking point

Liverpool supporters staged a vociferous demonstration outside the main entrance at Anfield before the start of the final Premiership match of the season against Charlton yesterday.

They were protesting at what they feel is a poor allocation of only 17,000 tickets for the Champions League final against AC Milan in Athens on May 23. The stadium has a capacity of 63,000 people.

Much of the supporters' anger was directed at Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry, despite the allocation having been made by Uefa.

Uefa have said Liverpool will not receive more tickets. The fans' protest was also staged on the Kop terraces during the match yesterday.

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