Football: Fowler stands out among the young bucks

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

AS THE television crews returned to White Hart Lane and the scandal-seekers gave way to Match of The Day's more sympathetic attention, so came further proof of Tottenham's extravagant generosity and a defence that is not always convincing under pressure.

The beneficiaries this time, apart from television and those neutrals in a sell-out crowd, were the men from Merseyside, who were granted the means to prevent another looming crisis with three goals in six transforming minutes.

Praise be to those exciting young bucks, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp, for accepting maximum advantage, but Liverpool also owed their fleeting superiority to Colin Calderwood's mistimed challenge as he went to intercept Nigel Clough's pass, Erik Thorstvedt's miscalculation as he stretched to reach Redknapp's free-kick, and Justin Edinburgh's clumsy tackle on Ian Rush.

As it transpired, Liverpool's lead was only another loan from Tottenham; and one which was to be repaid in full as the white shirts, who are learning fast under Osvaldo Ardiles, had to dig in to earn a point from their ninth draw as the Premiership reached the half-way stage. Their opening goal also showed that they can be direct: Vinnie Samways had implored Thorstvedt to play the ball short to his defenders, but then was in position to score when it was hit long and was nodded in to his stride by Jason Dozzell.

It was another splendid north London spectacle, the difference being that where Newcastle's visit a fortnight before was a thrilling celebration of skill, combining speed with secure technique, here goalscoring situations arose more often than not from mistakes and abject defending. Great entertainment, but not always great quality.

The exceptions, apart from Fowler, were John Barnes (before he pulled up with a groin strain) and especially Mike Hazard, the best passer in the English game. Far from bemoaning his wasted years, he should be enjoying the influence he can still wield in his 34th year.

Hazard supplies the valuable reminder that eye-catching talent need not come at the cost of high transfer fees and lavish inducements. Ardiles' remuneration when employed as a Spurs player was laid bare by ITV's World In Action last week but, following Liverpool's Coca-Cola Cup defeat at Wimbledon, Graeme Souness' enduring problems had taken over as the major issue of the week.

He maintains they are not far from being a good side, and says: 'I see things from my young players that excite me, and Fowler could be as good as anything I have seen in the game. A lot was made of our exit from the cup but I can live with the stick, because we know in recent weeks we have been playing quite well.'

Fowler had given an early foretaste of the awareness and finishing ability that will one day decorate the international stage when he curled a shot against Thorstvedt's upright. For an 18-year-old, his composure as he claimed Liverpool's equaliser was immaculate, and his strong running held the promise of further reward. It was his day before Darren Caskey, a year older and his captain during the England Under-18 side's victorious European Championship campaign in the summer, came along to punish more lax marking with a late header.

Goals: Samways (37) 1-0; Fowler (49) 1-1; Redknapp (52) 1-2; Fowler pen (55) 1-3; Hazard pen (69) 2-3; Caskey (77) 3-3.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Thorstvedt; Kerslake, Calderwood, Sedgley, Edinburgh; Anderton, Hazard, Samways, Caskey; Barmby, Dozzell. Substitutes not used: Austin, Campbell, Walker (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Nicol, Harkness; McManaman, Redknapp, Barnes (Clough, h-t), Matteo (Walters, 83); Fowler, Rush. Substitute not used: James (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).