Football: Barnes and Wright stake England claim

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Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

CITY needed to win this match both to enhance their claim on a European place and to confirm Manchester's current superiority over Merseyside. However, the loss of Mike Sheron and David White, both injured before half-time, reduced City to anonymity and by the last quarter a disappointing Easter Monday crowd was hanging on for the draw.

Graham Taylor would not have thought it a wasted journey. The England manager saw Mark Wright have his second excellent game in succession and indications that at long last John Barnes is close to full fitness.

Yesterday Barnes roved between central midfield and attack, occasionally lengthening his stride promisingly. He remains a long way from finding the acceleration he had before his last injury but there were signs yesterday of sparks in all cylinders. If reports that he has now decided to complete his career at Anfield are true, then both Taylor and Liverpool can perhaps expect an Indian summer from the player.

Taylor will also have noted another promising performance from Garry Flitcroft, on Friday in central defence, here back in midfield but sufficiently advanced to score a cracking goal in the 11th minute. When Rick Holden launched a corner-kick, Flitcroft appeared on the edge of the box, unheralded and unmarked, and flashed a header past a rooted Liverpool defence.

Flitcroft was prominent in City's better moves, almost contriving a second goal, for Niall Quinn, on half- time. Quinn had a less happy time in the second half, taking a battering from Liverpool's heavy tackling.

Graeme Souness will view this as two points dropped. City were rocked by the equaliser after 67 minutes, when David Burrows surged down the left to centre low and hard. The ball bobbled through the area to the far post, where Ian Rush, strolling in casually, tapped in.

At that point a Liverpool victory seemed probable, but City's central defence remained implacable and Tony Coton, without being extended, was too good to be beaten again. The nearest we came to another goal was a deflection off a Liverpool defender that David James did extremely well to punch away.

Reid reported afterwards that Quinn had been sent to hospital for a check on a back injury, that White had ankle ligament trouble and that Sheron had pulled a hamstring.

Manchester City: Coton; Ranson, Phelan, Reid, Curle, Vonk, White (Quigley, 36), Sheron (Ingebrigtsen, 28), Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitute not used: Dibble (gk).

Liverpool: James; Jones, Burrows, Nicol, Wright, Whelan, Rosenthal (Marsh, 55), Hutchison, Rush, Barnes, Walters. Substitutes not used: Piechnik, Hooper (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).