Football: Kop shown the way to pass and go

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

Newcastle United . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

EVERYONE was primed for an Anfield classic in the time-honoured tradition. Everyone, that is, except a Liverpool side whose subordination was all the more embarrassing for the Merseyside influence on Newcastle's victory.

Hours before kick-off, the queue to share in the Kop's penultimate stand stretched hundreds of yards. The Hillsborough Memorial was festooned with flowers to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. Inside, the red majority among the 44,600 who constituted Liverpool's biggest crowd this season tried to whip up a throwback to happier days. And they got it - from Kevin Keegan and his team.

On Keegan's managerial debut at the ground where he first achieved deification, Newcastle demonstrated how rapidly and effectively he, Terry McDermott and their unsung coach, Derek Fazackerley, have shaped them in the image of the club who dominated English football for 25 years. Pass and go: it sounds simple, though as the latter-day Liverpool's over-elaboration proved, the hard part is making it look easy.

No one epitomised Newcastle's industry and economy of touch better than Robert Lee, whose perpetual motion recalled McDermott's heyday. It also explained why a player who was once a mundane winger at Charlton later left to join up with England. 'He's a dream,' Keegan cooed. 'To think he nearly joined Middlesbrough until I told him Newcastle was nearer to London.'

Lee established Newcastle's ascendancy with an early goal, its deft execution betraying hours on the practice pitch with Peter Beardsley. Andy Cole, whose electric presence forced David James to operate almost as sweeper, confirmed it with a club record-equalling 39th goal of the season after a four-man move starting with Pavel Srnicek. For once Lee was not involved.

Another striking aspect was the assurance and combativeness of Barry Venison and Paul Bracewell. Their careers seemed to be winding down on their respective departures from Liverpool and Everton, but current Stanley Park standards suggest both were offloaded prematurely. In terms of homecomings, they even upstaged Beardsley.

More to the point, Venison's

mobility made him look far more a Liverpool defender than Neil Ruddock. Cole slipped the latter with ease to set up Lee's goal, and Ruddock was still trudging back from an attacking foray when the second flew in. The incidents encapsulated the case against Terry Venables risking his one-time Tottenham ally at international level.

Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, admitted his back four had 'looked frightened of their pace'. The normally sanguine Boot Room graduate appeared to be inwardly seething over his team's 'powder puff' football, which he felt, damningly after so much spine-tingling support, 'lacked passion'.

So expect more upheaval this summer, with the likes of Grobbelaar, Wright and Clough leaving and a new coach, possibly the Coventry manager, Phil Neal, among the intake. With two ex-Anfield No 7's likely to be leading Newcastle and Blackburn into Europe, those who sing from the seats on the new Kop will expect their desire for Liverpool's old pre-eminence to be echoed on the park.

Goals: Lee (4) 0-1; Cole (56) 0-2.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; R Jones, Nicol, Ruddock, Dicks; Redknapp, Barnes, Whelan, McManaman (Thomas, 71); Rush, Fowler (Hutchison, 60). Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Venison (Robinson, 88), Peacock, Neilson, Beresford; Fox, Lee, Bracewell, Sellars; Cole, Beardsley (Mathie, 90). Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Referee: P Don (Hanworth Park).