Ball unable to hide his admiration

FOOTBALL: Liverpool make City suffer n Canaries caged in by Tranmere n West Brom finished off by Fuchs
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Liverpool 6 Manchester City 0

There was no faulting the judgement of the man. Liverpool, he enthused, had been irresistible. They were a fabulous team right on top of their game.

The gushing analysis went further. "I enjoyed the game," he said. "That team did everything that I believe in. They got the start they wanted and I had to sit back and admire them."

Liverpool's verdict on their performance was slightly less extravagant. That more glowing testimonial came from the Manchester City manager, Alan Ball, who had just seen his team dismantled almost casually, leaving them still without a win, without a goal for five consecutive league matches and looking no closer to getting either.

Ball, at least, could not be accused of churlishness in defeat. But in paying his handsome tribute to Liverpool's obvious qualities he rather neglected to mention City's shallow challenge.

Of course, Liverpool were the more polished side. The swiftness and accuracy of their movements was wonderful and the predatory instincts, not to mention the guile of the striking duo Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler was a perfect complement. They each got two goals and both probably deserved a hat-trick. This may not have improved the health of the pounds 8.5m striker Stan Collymore, first omitted and then down with a virus.

Rush's first (his first in the league this season) arrived in Liverpool's first attack, a tap-in after a parried save. The lead was extended two minutes later when Jamie Redknapp's free-kick was deflected. If that was the sort of luck which City neither wanted nor deserved, they did not proceed to make much of their own. Although they bristled awhile in midfield, two scoring opportunities granted by Liverpool defensive errors were squandered.

After that City's appetite for the fray diminished. In that regard, perhaps Ball should have been a touch harder on his men's collective will, less praiseworthy of the opposition. Still, Liverpool, having spotted the opponent's weakness, were relentless.

By the 65th minute the scoring was done, four goals being scored in 17 minutes. The best of these was the third. Mark Wright brought the ball from defence, passed, continued down the right, received it back from Steve McManaman and squared it smartly to Fowler, who squirmed delicately past two defenders and dispatched the most tanatalising of shots.

The substitute Neil Ruddock, who replaced the injured John Barnes, blasted in a header, and Rush and Fowler scooped home good strikers' goals from close range. Amid all this the City goalkeeper, Eike Immel, was all but blameless. He actually produced some stunning saves.

The Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, ever the realist, was forced to concede that he was delighted. It was not, however, perfection, he said, and sounded like a man who would not rest until it is achieved.

Goals: Rush (3) 1-0; Redknapp (5) 2-0; Fowler (47) 3-0; Ruddock (53) 4-0; Fowler (60) 5-0; Rush (64) 6-0.

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; McAteer, Wright, Scales (Kennedy 65), Babb, Harkness; McManaman, Redknapp, Barnes (Ruddock, 33); Rush, Fowler. Substitute not used: Warner (gk).

Manchester City (4-4-2): Immel; Brightwell (Creaney, 58), Symons, Curle, Edgehill; Summerbee, Kinkladze (Brown, 41), Lomas, Flitcroft; Rosler, Quinn. Substitute not used: Margetson.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).