Collymore justifies hype

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By Dave Hadfield

Liverpool 1

Collymore 61

Sheffield Wednesday 0

Attendance: 40,535

AS the most expensive player of British football's short, hot, high- spending summer, Stan Collymore has been the epicentre of more than his share of hype and expectation. Just when it seemed that his first appearance for Liverpool would fail to live up to the feverish anticipation, Stan the Man salvaged the occasion with the sort of spectacular goal he made his trademark at Nottingham Forest.

Taking the ball with his back to goal 25 yards out, Collymore turned away from Julian Watts and hit a left-footed blast that went past Kevin Pressman's right hand when he might have expected it, if it came at all, to come to his other side.

A glorious fluke? Some thought so. But, if so, a miscue has rarely arrived so perfectly on cue. For the first hour of his debut, Collymore had looked sporadically dangerous. He had, indeed, set up a chance for Ian Rush - preferred to Robbie Fowler as his deputy - in the first minute, but Rush had flicked his header wide.

The trouble after that was that Collymore's new team-mates directed too much of their service to his head, which was hardly playing to his strengths. It gave the Wednesday fans plenty of opportunity to indulge in the inevitable chance of "what a waste of money". Neat and workmanlike as much of Liverpool's approach play was, their main threat came from the long-range shooting of Jamie Redknapp.

Redknapp was not only the most influentially constructive player on the field; he was also the most dangerous, his power from outside the penalty area producing several good saves from Pressman, one vigorous rattle of the crossbar and other near misses. A combination between Steve McManaman and Rush created a panic that ended with the busy young Watts clearing off his line. Against that, Wednesday, who started with a Liverpool-style five-man defence and Mark Bright alone up front, could point to a similar clearance by Rob Jones from Watts' header.

"I thought we contained them pretty well," said the new Wednesday manager, David Pleat. "But Collymore's written the script today. The execution of the shot was superb, but I felt we should have got a challenge in. We showed some promising signs, but we didn't really look like scoring."

Watts and Des Walker had done a more than competent job on Collymore and Rush. "But that's the extra dimension that Stan gives us," said Liverpool's Roy Evans, who admitted that both parties are bound to adapt their styles if Liverpool are to get the best from him. "They kept him pretty quiet, then they gave him a bit of space and he is prepared to try the ridiculous."

After the ridiculous, a sublime John Barnes' pass would have produced a second Liverpool goal but for Pressman's sprawling save from McManaman. Collymore also had an opportunity for a second of his own, put through, predictably, by the excellent Redknapp. His shot, right-footed this time, looped over the bar.

When Collymore left the fray with eight minutes to play, to enable Liverpool to bring on an extra midfielder in Michael Thomas, the acclaim matched that for his goal. It was the way you would want it when you have been writing the script all summer. Collymore even admitted that in the euphoria of his goal he had forgotten to go into his pre-planned celebration routine. Excitement indeed.