Football: Grobbelaar's gaffes cost Liverpool dear

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The Independent Online
Spartak Moscow. .4

Liverpool. . . . 2

LIVERPOOL, who had drawn level for the second time with 11 minutes remaining, were left facing an arduous task to reach the last eight of the Cup-Winners' Cup when they conceded two goals to Spartak Moscow in a calamitous final five minutes of their first-leg match here last night.

Graeme Souness's gloom was compounded by the 84th-minute dismissal of Bruce Grobbelaar for bringing down the endlessly troublesome Dmitri Radchenko, David Burrows being forced to fish the resultant penalty out of the net. A 3-2 defeat would have been creditable in the circumstances, but with a minute left Igor Ledyakhov ensured that Liverpool will need to win 2-0 at Anfield to go through.

Grobbelaar, who is likely to miss Liverpool's next three European matches through suspension, became only the fourth player in the club's history to be sent off in Continental competition. He follows Kenny Dalglish, Mark Lawrenson and, in the last round, Paul Stewart.

Souness should have known it was not to be Liverpool's night when, before a ball was kicked in anger, Steve Nicol suffered a recurrence of a thigh strain. The new captain dropped down to substitute, with Burrows moving inside to partner Mark Wright and Rob Jones returning in an unfamiliar left-back position.

The drama was played out in a swirling snowstorm, in front of around 40,000 uncovered spectators in the vast bowl of a ground which holds 102,000. Almost immediately, a Liverpool side skippered by Wright were under pressure from the newly crowned Russian champions.

Spartak had already come close before they took a 10th-minute lead. The scorer was Nikolai Pisarev, one of three players reportedly on offer to clubs in the West. Breaking from midfield on to a diagonal pass from Radchenko, he took advantage of an all-too-flat back four - Reds square, it could be said - to draw Grobbelaar before netting from 12 yards.

Liverpool countered only sporadically in the first half, Steve McManaman blazing one chance over, and they were in grave danger again in the 37th minute. Ledyakhov, reportedly a target for Everton, beat Grobbelaar to a through-pass outside the visitors' area, but a phalanx of green- shirted defenders had covered back, and Wright eventually cleared.

Things really began to hot up on this bitterly cold evening shortly after Ian Rush limped out of the fray early in the second half. In the 67th minute, following a short- corner routine between Mark Walters and the substitute, Ronny Rosenthal, Wright made it 1-1 with an attempted header that appeared to go in off his shoulder.

Two minutes later, Grobbelaar had to deal with a back-pass with his feet under pressure from Radchenko. He succeeded only in directing the ball straight to Valeri Karpin, who dispatched it back behind him into an unguarded net.

Liverpool responded with exemplary resilience, Walters thumping a 25-yard drive against an upright before they equalised for the second time in the 79th minute. McManaman turned a defender on the angle of the six-yard area before beating Stanislav Cherchesov for his first European goal.

That would have represented a highly satisfactory outcome, but then the icy Muscovite sky fell in on Liverpool. First, Karpin scored from the spot, and then Ledyakhov pounced from six yards when Karpin's low cross rebounded to him off the unfortunate Wright.

Spartak Moscow: Cherchesov; Khlestov, Ivanov, Pisarev, Beschastnykh (Rusyayev, 54), Chernyshov, Onopko, Karpin, Pyatnitsky, Ledyakhov, Radchenko.

Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Marsh, Burrows, R Jones (Tanner, 78), Wright, Hutchison, McManaman, Walters, Rush (Rosenthal, 66), Redknapp, Thomas.

Referee: R Larsson (Swe).

(Photograph omitted)

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