On this day: Michael Owen scores hat-trick to see off Aston Villa

OTD: Owen scores hat-trick to beat Villa
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On this day in 2000, Michael Owen scored a hat-trick within 33 minutes to help Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa at Anfield.

There was a time when Michael Owen was considered the brightest young player in world football.

Having burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 17-year-old with Liverpool in 1997, the striker went on to gain international recognition at the 1998 World Cup, scoring one of the goals of the tournament with a sensational solo effort in the second round against Argentina.

He went from strength to strength at both international and club level, and had scored during England's World Cup qualifying draw with France just four days before Liverpool welcomed Aston Villa to Anfield on September 6, 2000.

The visitors were not prepared for the pacy striker, who came flying out of the blocks with a hat-trick to give his side a 3-0 lead within 33 minutes.

His first came when he poked the ball past former Liverpool keeper David James, having latched on to Emile Heskey's cross.

If that was a typical poacher's finish, his second goal was the type not often associated with Owen as he climbed highest at the back post, beating Gareth Southgate in the air to nod home Vladimir Smicer's corner.

The quickfire treble was then completed after James failed to collect Alpay's header back, allowing Owen to steal in and fire the ball home.

Things could have been even better for the future Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City man as he was set up by Nick Barmby, but this time he was unable to convert.

Luc Nilis and Dion Dublin both came close for the visitors before they finally pulled a goal back seven minutes from time as Steve Stone fired past Sander Westerveld.

After the match, Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier told reporters: "Michael was outstanding. He was brilliant throughout the match but we knew he was back to his best. The passing and movement were good and I thought the boys played really well."

Opposition manager John Gregory was also quick to give Owen credit for his performance, adding: "We started off exceptionally well and spent most of the first 15 minutes in Liverpool's half. It was two attacks and two goals, although credit to Michael Owen for the way he took them."

The defeat saw Villa plummet to 19th in the table, without a win from their opening three games, but they recovered well to ultimately finish eighth.

Liverpool, meanwhile, rose to fifth with the victory and ended the campaign in third, while also winning a hat-trick of trophies with success in the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup.

Owen went on to win the Ballon d'Or in 2001 before leaving Anfield three years later, whereafter injuries stunted the remainder of his career.

Thomas Hitzlsperger
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