Football: Foe has friends in high places

Liverpool 2 West Ham United 2
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a classic ding-dong battle, resolute defence in the face of persistent counter attack.

Not the game, a frustrating although eventful affair; the feature attraction was an enthralling joust between the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, and the Over Land and Sea fanzine editor, Gary Firmager.

Redknapp had arrived determined to make a point and, in the face of probing but eventually predictable questions, had enough up his sleeve to claim a moral victory.

"I've never seen a reaction like it after a couple of bad results. It just shows what a lot of bollocks people talk. People over-react in football. Everything is immediate," Redknapp barked, inviting a response from Firmager, whose publication has carried a flood of criticism from die-hard Hammers. A rare old tussle followed, encompassing a range of contentious topics, even season ticket prices. "I think he's doing a blinding job, but people then call me," Firmager confided, who concluded the exchange with a playful pretend right hook aimed at Redknapp.

The debate centred around the arrival of players like the Cameroon midfielder Marc Vivien Foe, brought from the French club, Lens. Redknapp has been furious with published first impressions of Foe and his lavish praise of the player smacked of hyperbole. "I thought the big guy was superb. He had only been in the country one week and he was slaughtered as though he couldn't play. It was frightening," Redknapp reflected.

In truth, Foe was fairly anonymous until the later stages of the game. His acclimatisation has been less convincing than that of his compatriot, the Liverpool defender Rigobert Song, whose thrusting forward runs reflected West Ham's caution. But the visitors were enough of a handful to allow Song to impress with some timely tackling.

The Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, opted to take a more rounded perspective of the game than his counterpart. "The blame is put on nobody but ourselves. In several areas we did not produce the best football," was his summary.

One of those areas was in midfield with Steve McManaman out of sorts and Jamie Carragher, replacing the suspended Paul Ince, struggling to link with Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, who both found the target. Fowler's blast hit the net without interference but his partner needed a deflection to beat Shaka Hislop. In between, Frank Lampard's spot kick was a result of a clumsy challenge by Vegard Heggem on Scott Minto and similarly awkward defending from a combination of Carragher, Jamie Redknapp and David James allowed Marc Keller to equalise when his corner squeezed in at the near post.

Goals: Fowler (22) 1-0; Lampard pen (24) 1-1; Owen (45) 2-1; Keller (74) 2-2.

Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Song, Staunton, Babb; Heggem, Redknapp, Carragher, McManaman (Berger, 66); Bjornebye (Riedle, 77); Owen, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Harkness, Ferri, Friedel (gk).

West Ham United (5-3-2): Hislop; Lomas, Pearce (Lazaridis, 82), Ferdinand, Potts, Minto (Keller, 71); Lampard, Foe, Berkovic; Sinclair, Cole (Holligan, 80). Substitutes not used: Bullard, Forrest (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe). Bookings: Liverpool: Carragher. West Ham: Potts, Sinclair.

Man of the match: Song.

Attendance: 44,511.

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