Football: Bolton expose Liverpool's lack of spirit

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . . . .0

Bolton Wanderers . . . .2

SO LIGHTNING does strike twice in the same place, or at least in the same round. Bolton's chance of glory was deemed to have gone when they failed to make the most of the many scoring opportunities they created at home, but team spirit on a heroic scale enabled them to bridge a gap of two divisions for a second time last night to illuminate the FA Cup with its biggest upset of the season.

With due respect to Hartlepool, the conquerors of Crystal Palace, Liverpool were the holders, and winning at Anfield still carries a certain cachet. Bolton will dine out for many a year on a famous result. Nat Lofthouse, their most celebrated player of yesteryear, brimmed with emotion. 'My proudest moment since we won the Cup in 1958,' said the Lion of Vienna.

The fourth round could yet find the leonine Lofthouse roaring again. An away tie against Wolves is not without potential pitfalls, or even pit-Bulls, but in David Lee the side in ninth place in the Second Division possess a winger capable of baffling the best.

John McGinlay and Andy Walker were the scorers here, striking early and late with matching headers, but Lee was the real hero. The 25-year-old flyer, signed last month from Southampton for pounds 200,000, gave Mike Marsh such a chasing that Liverpool switched full-backs in the second half to spare him further humiliation.

Poor Marsh was not alone in his embarrassment. Torben Piechnik and Stig Bjornebye shared the sort of chastening experience which will have made the snows of Scandinavia suddenly a lot more inviting.

Certainly they will be anxious to avoid Graeme Souness for a day or two. The Liverpool manager has turned their dressing-room into a Greek restaurant of late, scattering teacups in fury, and the crockery will have taken a fearful battering again after the club's worst result in this most prestigious of knock-out competitions since little Worcester City turned Bill Shankly apoplectic, back in 1959.

After one win in nine games, Liverpool have nothing left but a respectable finish in the Premier League to stimulate them in the second half of the season, and their manager is not a happy man. Happy, no. Honest, yes. 'We were out- fought and outplayed by the better team,' he said. 'They deserved to win. They were better than us in all departments. This club's history is based on, and steeped in, passion. The majority of my players played as if they had never been told what passion and Liverpool football club are all about.'

Fair comment. There could be no excuses - not even the conditions. Merseyside had endured much the same drenching as the rest of the country, but the Anfield pitch, at least, remains second to none, and the surface was perfect.

Anfield was still straining to accommodate another capacity crowd when Lee burst past the startled Marsh for the first time before delivering a textbook cross to the far post, where McGinlay rose unchallenged to head past Mike Hooper at close range.

Liverpool busily pursued equality, but what a strange team their class of '93 has become. Shankly will be turning in his grave, with a midfield player (Marsh) at right- back, a right-back (Rob Jones) at left-back, and a left-back (Bjornebye) at centre-half.

Liverpool pressed, but determined defence kept them at bay long enough for doubt and anxiety to erode their confidence and composure. When the thin white line buckled under the strain, Mark Winstanley came to the rescue with inspirational last-ditch tackles to dispossess Ronny Rosenthal and Mark Walters.

Not that Bolton were preoccupied with defence. Far from it. Their two wingers, Lee and Scott Green, stretched and turned Liverpool's flimsy defence with eye- opening ease and regularity.

Lee set up Walker for a shot which Hooper was happy to block with his legs, then embarked on an electrifying run which took him past four defenders before, to Hooper's relief, he shot wide.

Even so, his influence was such that Liverpool switched full-backs for the second half in the hope that Jones could make a better fist than Marsh of subduing their tormentor in chief. Jones did, but it was too late. Liverpool sensed that it was not to be their night when a heavy fall cost them the services of Michael Thomas who was carried off clutching a damaged Achilles.

Liverpool were removed from contention 12 minutes from the end when they conceded a second goal reminiscent of the first. McGinlay broke clear on the right before supplying a measured cross which found Walker in splendid isolation. The headed finish was hugely impressive. Bolton were, too.

Liverpool: Hooper; Marsh, R Jones, Stewart, Piechnik, Bjornebye, Walters, Redknapp, Rosenthal, Barnes, Thomas (Hutchison, 52). Substitute not used: Fowler.

Bolton Wanderers: Branagan; P Brown, Burke, Lee, Seagraves, Winstanley, Green, Kelly, Walker, McGinlay, Patterson. Substitutes not used: Reeves, Stubbs.

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).

(Photograph omitted)