Foorball: Rush reluctant to step aside

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Ipswich Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Marshall 75

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Ruddock 57, Rush 88

Attendance: 22,355

IAN RUSH delivered the appropriate response to suggestions that his Liverpool career might be slipping into decline by ensuring that Graeme Souness could sport a smile rather than a snarl at Portman Road yesterday.

The Anfield manager's recent good humour at post- match press conferences would have been severely tested had the Ipswich striker Ian Marshall's contentious goal 15 minutes from the end been the last. After the ball went in, an explosion of acrimony threatened to obscure an efficient Liverpool performance and Ipswich were so encouraged by cancelling out Neil Ruddock's 57th-minute headed goal from a corner that they seemed to have an unexpected victory within them.

Rush, though, underlined his perennial value to Liverpool's cause by throwing himself in among the thrashing legs on the Ipswich goal-line to settle the issue with two minutes left. John Barnes, a late substitute, crossed to the far post, Robbie Fowler thumped one header against the bar and Rush, scorning the risk to his cranium, dived in to ensure the opportunity did not pass.

Last Sunday, Rush was withdrawn in the goalless match with Sheffield United, an incident that prompted fresh speculation over the future of the 32-year- old striker, something that has been a matter for regular discussion with the emergence of the 18-year-old Fowler, who seems his natural replacement.

Displaying all the enthusiasm and energy you would expect from one so young and talented, Fowler was the outstanding Liverpool player yesterday, but Rush proved that the forward's ultimate value is his ratio of goals to chances: the one he took was from only the second clear opening to come his way.

Until then, Liverpool had been cursing the linesman, whose judgement of Marshall's equaliser they did not share. The striker looked clearly offside when Boncho Genchev's pass pierced an advancing Liverpool line, but the official's flag stayed down. 'It was offside,' Souness claimed afterwards. He had a point, and he was certainly right when he said that any result other than an away win - Liverpool's first since August - would have been less than they deserved.