Football: Ferdinand off as QPR hit a storm

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Queen's Park Rangers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

LIVERPOOL'S lowest home attendance for a League match in a decade witnessed a production as dramatic as the elements. Queen's Park Rangers had two players, Simon Barker and the England striker, Les Ferdinand, sent off in a stormy finale.

Rangers had recovered from a tempest of a first half, when Liverpool achieved a 2-1 advantage and might have been out of sight. Early in the second the visitors grew in the belief that they could take home all three points but, having escaped a series of penalty appeals, they ran out of luck in the 78th minute when Jamie Redknapp tumbled under the attentions of Barker.

An incensed Barker turned into Redknapp and appeared to push him away, as the referee, Vic Callow, pointed to the spot. The scuffles subsided, a linesman attracted Callow's attention and, after the consultation, Barker was shown the red card. Jan Molby converted what proved to be the winner.

The action and the controversy, however, were far from over. Darren Peacock was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for a blatant assault on Redknapp, but there was to be no such reprieve for Ferdinand, who continued with his run and shot eight minutes from the end after the referee's whistle for offside. To Ferdinand's horror, Callow reached into his pocket again. The player had already been booked for dissent, so this time it was to be red.

Ferdinand was beside himself in distress and made towards Callow when players of both teams stepped in and dragged him away. He was eventually led from the field by his manager, Gerry Francis.

After the match, Francis sought out an explanation from the referee and said: 'He said he felt he had to interpret the laws of the game and book him again for kicking the ball away. But Les is adamant he did not hear the whistle. If you think about it, it would have been silly for him to waste time when we were 3-2 down with 10 men and only a few minutes remaining. Even some of their players, by their reactions, showed they felt he hadn't heard the whistle. It seems a bit petty to me. I felt discretion might have been in order.'

Liverpool confronted the worst of the conditions in the first half, the wind and rain driving into their faces, and yet it was Rangers who were forced back. Ian Rush and Redknapp were reinstated, and Steve McManaman was recalled after an 11-match absence because of a knee injury, and all played their part in what Liverpool's manager, Graeme Souness, described as 'our best performance of the season'.

McManaman's sorcery down the right flank gave them the impetus, even if Bruce Grobbelaar's gaffe presented Rangers with a 10th-minute lead. Ferdinand ran on to the goalkeeper's loose clearance, shrugged off Mark Wright's attempted challenge with contemptuous ease and bent his shot around Grobbelaar for his 11th goal of the season.

Liverpool's reply was to find another gear and open carriageways through Rangers' defence. Their inevitable equaliser arrived after 25 minutes. McManaman's cross from the right reached Barnes and he registered his first goal of this campaign.

McManaman was again the provider for Liverpool's second, after 33 minutes. Jan Stejskal seemed to have Rush's effort covered yet contrived to juggle it over the line.

Barker equalised for Rangers a minute into the second half from Andrew Impey's cross and Anfield's gallery braced themselves for an absorbing encounter. They got rather more than they bargained for.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Harkness; McManaman, Redknapp, Molby, Barnes (Nicol, 73); Rush, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Clough, James (gk).

QPR (4-4-2): Stejskal; Bardsley, Ready, Peacock, Wilson; Impey, Barker, Wilkins, Meaker (Penrice, 84); Ferdinand, Allen. Substitutes not used: Yates, Roberts (gk).

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).