Football: Barnes flickers amid the gloom

Click to follow
Chelsea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

CHELSEA'S blues go on and Liverpool's little revival is subdued, yet neither club can afford to be disdainful of the odd point picked up by not losing even the most dour of matches, as this certainly was.

All of the signs of teams trying to bluster their way out of their problems came to light early and remained throughout. Not even John Barnes, who proved his fitness if not his sharpness for next week's World Cup game, could really lift the occasion of these clubs' 100th meeting to anything worthy of lasting record.

Chelsea, whose injuries this season have forced many changes, here voluntarily introduced David Hopkin and Darren Barnard, both of whom settled as well as men with a hundred times their experience. Such was the standard of control.

Although Barnes did dip a menacing cross down into the heart of the Chelsea penalty area and occasionally drifted past Gareth Hall in familiar style, there was no serious danger to either goal until the 22nd minute when the recalled Robert Fleck interpassed quickly with Barnard whose instant swerving shot forced David James to fist, ably, over the bar.

Trying to introduce something different to the Liverpool attack, Graeme Souness replaced Ronny Rosenthal with Don Hutchison, but that seemed like change for change's sake. Liverpool's gradual improvement was more the result of better work in midfield and an attempt to slow the pace.

Barnes, though still beneath his best, did more than most to achieve some creativity. His control allowed him to retrieve a seemingly lost cause by driving a knee-high cross that Steve McManaman screwed away on the hour and then curling a shot narrowly past the far post. He looked the only player capable of the unexpected even if he did make a hash of a last minute point-blank header that brought criticism from Souness, who said Barnes ought to have been more involved over 90 minutes but was still worth his place in next Wednesday's England team against San Marino at Wembley.

Chelsea: Hitchcock; Hall, Sinclair, Townsend, Lee, Donaghy, Hopkin (Stuart, 66), Fleck (Spencer, 83), Harford, Newton, Barnard. Substitute not used: Beasant (gk).

Liverpool: James; Marsh, Jones, Nicol, Wright, Bjornebye, McManaman, Rosenthal (Hutchison, h/t), Rush, Barnes, Stewart. Substitutes not used: Walters, Hooper (gk).

Referee: J Martin (Alton).