Football: Banger hits the target

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The Independent Online
Southampton. .2

Liverpool. . .1

RELEGATION is an ugly word that Liverpool will be hearing a lot more of over the coming months. Yesterday, they showed signs of fight and finesse and appeared to have put relegation fears behind them, but having drawn level, they went down to the second goal in four days by Southampton's super- sub Nicky Banger.

Liverpool started with ambition, but they were facing a Southampton side whose pressure play denied them any chance to find a pattern. What Liverpool needed was a player like Matthew Le Tissier to create some time and space.

Le Tissier, was in masterful form - his close control and vision on display for his 200th League appearance - and he repeatedly teased Liverpool's defence. Despite two misjudged headers by Mark Wright, Liverpool managed to survive until the 24th minute when a long ball by Kenny Monkou found Jason Dodd in space on the right wing. Dodd crossed to Neil Maddison who did well to control a bouncing ball and fire home from eight yards out.

Liverpool were down but by no means out, and the introduction of Jamie Redknapp at half-time injected dynamism into their midfield. The visitors drove forward in waves, shots firing in from Paul Stewart, Steve McManaman and Don Hutchinson. An equaliser looked on the cards but when it came, it was not through Liverpool's pressure, but through a stunning, right-footed Hutchinson strike from 20 yards.

A Liverpool revival? This one lasted all of half-an-hour - up to the heinous error by Steve Nicol. This let the substitute Banger run through unopposed and have two attempts to beat David James, the second of which succeeded and sealed the game.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Kenna (N Banger, 68 min), M Adams, T Widdrington, R Hall, K Monkou, M Le Tissier, J Dodd, I Dowie, N Maddison, F Benali. Subs not used: K Moore, I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.

Liverpool: D James, M Marsh (J Redknapp, h- t), R Jones, S Nicol, M Wright, S I Bjornebye, S McManaman, D Hutchison, I Rush, J Barnes, P Stewart. Subs not used: M Walters, M Hooper (gk). Manager: G Souness.

Referee: A Buksh (London).

Goals: Maddison (1-0, 24 min); Hutchison (1-1, 60 min); Banger (2-1, 74 min).