Football: Ipswich flatter to deceive

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The Independent Online
Liverpool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Ipswich Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

FOR most of the 39 years they have been trying without success to win at Anfield, a scoreless draw would have been deemed a decent afternoon's work by Ipswich.

Any satisfaction at yesterday's result, however, can only be the product of being stuck in a rut of expecting to draw. If Ipswich had continued as they started, they would surely have had every chance of an historic victory. Instead, they surrendered the initiative after a bright opening which saw a number of chances carved out; David James saving brilliantly from a spectacular own goal attempt by Steve McManaman and Chris Kiwomya being denied only by a tight offside decision.

As Ipswich's early promise petered out, Liverpool were able to dominate territorially without ever looking worthy of a second victory in twelve games. They got over their initial nervousness in defence, but never moved forward fluently, relying too often on speculative long-range shots that gave Clive Baker few problems.

There was one notable exception, when John Barnes showed that he can still raise a cheer at Anfield if not at Wembley.

Booed playfully and predictably by the Ipswich supporters in an echo of his reception during his performance for England against San Marino, Barnes slipped past Mick Stockwell on the left wing in the 27th minute, cut in and hit a shot which was dipping even more alarmingly than his international reputation until Baker flicked it over the bar.

Barnes was also guilty of missing Liverpool's most clear-cut chance, created by a run by their best player, the energetic and occasionally excellent Jamie Redknapp. Despite David Linighan's tackle, the ball ran loose to Barnes at an angle in the penalty area, but he blazed his shot wide.

There was no jeering at that, just the exasperated groan that has been the soundtrack at Anfield during five hours without a goal and an incredible 10 weeks without a home win.

There was a burst of booing when Mark Walters was brought on, in what seemed an empty gesture with nine minutes to play.

That was directed at the decision to replace the hardworking Don Hutchison rather than the woefully ineffective Ian Rush. Until Liverpool can find the courage to get those decisions right, they will be vulnerable and Ipswich should regret not taking advantage of their current disarray.

Liverpool: D James; J Redknapp, R Jones, S Nicol, M Wright, S I Bjornebye (M Marsh, 43 min), S McManaman, D Hutchison (M Walters, 81 min), I Rush, J Barnes, P Stewart. Sub not used: M Hooper (gk). Manager: G Souness.

Ipswich: C Baker; G Johnson, N Thompson, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, B Genchev, S Whitton, J Dozzell, C Kiwomya. Subs not used: P Goddard, P Whelan, C Forrest (gk). Manager: J Lyall.

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey, Sussex).