Football: Chapman proves champions' saviour

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Leeds United. . .2

Liverpool . . . .2

THE CHARITY SHIELD always contains the sceptic's warning that no good will come of reading too much into the tea leaves of a friendly preamble. Three weeks ago Leeds, the champions, beat Liverpool, the FA Cup holders, 4-3 at Wembley. Yesterday at Elland Road the football was equally full of thrills and drama, culminating in Lee Chapman's late equaliser that saved Leeds from their first home defeat in 26 games.

That a weakened Liverpool could have come so close to reversing the Wembley result only slightly raised doubts about Leeds' ability to defend their title this season. For it was remarkable goalkeeping by Liverpool's David James and a disallowed last-minute goal by Chapman that stopped them from making a full recovery from being 2-1 down with 20 minutes left.

From the evidence of the initial exchanges of this infant season, Liverpool have lost their old ability to replace like with like. Continuity has faltered, either by the manager's choice, injuries or the transfer market. There is nothing to say that others, including Leeds themselves, will not finally be generous and let them have a say in the last stages of the race. For the moment the feeling is that they will not get there of their own volition.

As for Leeds, slumbering last weekend when they lost 4-1 to Middlesbrough, they emulated the Liverpool of old and countered with a quick short jab to the jaw of defenceless, Lineker-less Tottenham.

Eric Cantona's three goals then, and three in the Charity Shield, may not have convinced him that he is ready to return to the French national team but beyond question he is firmly rooted in this Leeds side. Whatever the bookmakers may say about Arsenal being favourites, Leeds will some shifting.

Yesterday they took no time at all to assess Liverpool's innovative alignment, which involved having Paul Stewart playing in tandem with Ian Rush in attack with Dean Saunders wide on the right. They simply deprived the Liverpool front men of communication with midfield and seven minutes into the afternoon David Batty's throw into the penalty area was hopefully chipped towards the in-coming Gary McAllister who, with Cantona-like elegance, volleyed past James.

Liverpool, without Steve Nicol, Michael Thomas, Steve McManaman and John Barnes, lacked the steel and ideas to respond. McAllister, with a shot which cleared the bar, might have added to Liverpool's difficulties, and Cantona should have done so when he failed by a few inches to divert Rod Wallace's cross-cum-shot and then saw James make an elastic save.

Chapman seemed capable of making Liverpool suffer even more, but a minute from half-time Mark Wright beat him to the ball, sending it wide to the left where Stewart had run into what looked like an offside position. The linesman disagreed, Stewart pulled the ball back and Ronnie Whelan lobbed a delightful equaliser.

When Leeds were a goal ahead they ought to have overwhelmed this under-strength Liverpool, but after they had been hauled back, the moment for complete domination had passed. Liverpool emerged for the second half encouraged and more enterprising.

Yet, though Leeds regained the controlling hand, it was not entirely convincing. Gary Speed had to rescue them with a goal-saving tackle on Rush and Chris Whyte appeared to be doing his utmost to crash in an own goal and was thankful that the ball flew wide.

Some fine goalkeeping by James kept Liverpool interested and when, after 71 minutes, John Newsome took the feet from their substitute Mark Walters the referee was well placed to ignore the home crowd's cries suggesting a false claim. Molby swept in the kick with a hearty thump. Leeds seemed to be heading for defeat but Chapman was heading otherwise. With four minutes left he was at the near post to head in the recently arrived Gordon Strachan's corner.

Leeds United: J Lukic; J Newsome, T Dorigo, D Batty (G Strachan, 77 min), C Fairclough (S Hodge, 77 min), C Whyte, E Cantona, R Wallace, L Chapman, G McAllister, G Speed. Sub not used: M Day (gk). Manager: H Wilkinson.

Liverpool: D James; R Jones, D Burrows, S Harkness, R Whelan, M Wright, D Saunders (M Walters, 66 min), P Stewart (M Marsh 73 min), I Rush, J Molby, J Redknapp. Sub not used: M Hooper (gk). Manager: G Souness.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Goals: McAllister (1-0, 7 min); Whelan (1-1, 44 min); Molby, (1-2, pen, 71 min); Chapman (2-2, 86 min).

Norman Fox on Stuart Pearce, page 24