Barnes the irresistible puts Spurs in their place

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 3

After the latest performance of the John Barnes Renaissance Show, the Anfield manager, Roy Evans, said of his player's form and fitness: "That's great for Liverpool Football Club and obviously the England set-up as well." That remark, in the context of Barnes, is normally something of a non sequitur.

Ever since his Maracana wonder goal 11 years ago, Barnes has consistently failed to do for country what he does so effortlessly for club. Successive England managers have lived in hope that he would - to the point of exasperation. Yet it would appear that we are about to put our trust in him once more.

Anyone who was at White Hart Lane on Saturday would not hesitate to do so. The man was in irresistible form, evocatively so, the word "wonder" springing to the lips of Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager, to describe the first of his two goals.

His days of bamboozling full-backs - at least British ones - now gone with his speed, such as it was, he assumes a central role that might also be central to the European Championship ambitions of England.

Of course, in assessing the performance of Barnes, one has to take into account the non-performance of Spurs. Francis's team is a pale imitation of last season's. Defensively they were never too clever then, but they had the likes of Klinsmann, Anderton and Barmby to relieve the pressure. That Darren Anderton, at least, is not gone for ever is one consolation. Francis says he has only the money from his transfers (about pounds 9.8m) to spend on new players. He will need every penny - and that is if he can find them after all the dealing of the summer.

Conversely, Liverpool must be wondering why they went and parted with a not dissimilar sum for Stan Collymore, who was not the least conspicuous by his absence through injury. It is not as if Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush failed to deliver last season: they scored 50 goals between them. Barnes seemed to be dropping a none too subtle hint for the benefit of the single- minded Collymore when he said that the major difference between this season and last was the improvement in Liverpool's team play.

Mind you, Barnes was very much the individualist as he glided serenely through the Spurs defence to crack the first goal. The second, however, owed everything to selfless support play from Fowler and Steve McManaman, even if Barnes's finish was precision itself. The third goal illustrated Barnes's point best of all, humiliating the opposition as only real team play can. Spurs were like piggies in the middle as the ball was whisked from Neil Ruddock to McManaman, to Rob Jones and back to McManaman before his cross was volleyed home in a blur at the near post by Fowler.

Goals: Barnes (8) 0-1; Barnes (43) 0-2; Fowler (55) 0-3; Barnes og (88) 1-3

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Wilson, Mabbutt, Calderwood, Edinburgh; Dumitrescu, Howells, McMahon (Dozzell, 69), Rosenthal; Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Nethercott, Thorstvedt (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Babb; McManaman (Thomas, 79), Redknapp, Barnes, Harkness; Fowler, Rush. Substitutes not used: Matteo, Warner (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontypridd)