Clueless City are hit for six

Liverpool 6 Rush 3 64, Redknapp 5, Fowler 47 60, Ruddock 53 Manches ter City 0 Attendance: 39,267
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The Independent Online
ONE OF the vogue phrases of the winter is likely to be the simple two-word expression "As if". It comes from the hit comedy Clueless, now sweeping the nation's cinemas and is an exclamation applied to improbable happenings like, for instance, the suggestion that Manchester City might avoid relegation. Or perhaps that their present manager Alan Ball could still be presiding over their misfortunes when that day inevitably arrives.

There were abundant as ifs regarding City yesterday, not to mention whys, whats and how on earths as they were swept dismissively aside by Liverpool. By the end, the haul of six was modest. Of those goals there were two each for Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler, which was maybe not the sort of return craved by the pounds 8.5m striker Stan Collymore. He was absent with a viral infection, but he would only have been among the substitutes, and this may make the bug linger.

For a brief spell City competed effectively with their illustrious opposition, but by then they were already two goals down and chasing the game in a largely haphazard fashion. At the start of the second half Liverpool cranked up a gear or actually a few gears. They glided while the Premiership's bottom club staggered cluelessly. It would have been hard for a better side to deflect Liverpool's intentions, to stem the flow and blissful accuracy of their passing, but for City it represented an impossibility.

Their manager Alan Ball said somewhat perversely later that, daft as it may sound, he had enjoyed the game. His side had encountered a fabulous team on one of those days. This was not quite to appreciate the shortcomings of his charges. If there was a possible danger of some complacency in the Liverpool approach, having beaten City 4-0 in the Coca-Cola Cup earlier in the week, it became perfectly understandable after only four minutes. Their first attack saw Steve McManaman engineer one of his familiar surges up the right flank. He pulled the ball back into the path of Jason McAteer whose shot was parried, but Rush was there to tap in his first League goal of the season.

There was a little more fortune about the second goal two minutes later. Jamie Redknapp's retaken free-kick took the sort of deflection off the wall with which human reflexes are not designed to cope. City for a while bristled in midfield and even chiselled out a couple of scoring chances. But a side which has managed only three goals in the League this season and none for four successive matches was not about to break that sort of run in these surroundings. Nicky Summerbee and, more culpably, Niall Quinn both blazed over.

Ominously at the other end Eike Immel had to be at his most attentive to keep out a shot from Fowler and saw Rush's scuffed shot roll narrowly wide. Between the 48th and 65th minute the goalkeeper could only leap less purposefully as Liverpool scored four times. The first of these was probably the best. Mark Wright ran from defence, exchanged passes near halfway with McManaman, ran on to the return and immediately squared to Fowler who eased delicately past two men before shooting into the bottom corner.

Neil Ruddock, on for the injured John Barnes, headed the fourth from a corner, Fowler got the fifth with a deft turn in the box and Rush latched on to a rebound for the sixth. City were broken. Of course, there could be better times ahead. As if.

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