Football: Liverpool rediscover the force: Merseyside monopoly returns to English game as Swindon hit rock bottom

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Swindon Town. . .0

Liverpool . . . .5

LIVERPOOL look down from the top of the Premiership table today, which is something they have not done since the elite league started all this name- changing - and something they had not achieved before under Graeme Souness. For a manager thought to be heading out of office only three months ago, it is a dramatic turnaround in fortune.

This game was every bit as easy as it seems. At times it was nothing more than an up-tempo training session for his team, but Souness was right to criticise the inevitable sloppiness which crept in late on when it was no longer a challenge.

Steve McManaman scored twice and Neil Ruddock grabbed a first for his new club, but the margin of victory should have been greater as Liverpool sent Swindon sliding to the bottom, from where they may not rise for the rest of the season. It is going to be a long and hard winter for the promoted club.

The contrast between the sides could not be greater; Liverpool have maximum points while Swindon have still to get off the mark. But as Liverpool regain their former prominence, spare a thought for Everton, who were usurped by their Merseyside rivals going top for the first time since March, 1991.

Unable to take advantage of Liverpool's decline in the last two years under Souness, they at last have made a start to a season to boast of - only to find the Reds resurgent once more.

Nevertheless, Souness sounded a note of caution afterwards, saying: 'It's far too early to be talking of revivals. That'll have to wait until Christmas at the earliest.'

However, he added: 'While I'm delighted to have scored five away from home I know we can get better than this. At times we were a bit sloppy and we should have made more of our chances in the second half.'

The first ever League meeting between the clubs saw Andy Mutch shoot just wide on his first appearance since his pounds 250,000 move from Wolves, but soon the force was with the visitors. Ruddock was fortunate to escape a booking when he took a swipe at Jan Age Fjortoft, and it was with some irony that, a minute later, Liverpool went in front through their new strong man after Nicky Summerbee had perpetrated the same offence on McManaman.

Stig Inge Bjornebye's free- kick fell to Ruddock and, unchallenged, he had time to bring the ball down with his thigh before bundling it over the line. He later aggravated a groin injury and could miss Wednesday's visit of his former club, Tottenham.

It quickly became a procession with Liverpool offering Swindon mere morsels in exchange. In the 35th minute the home side were again cut adrift down the flanks and from Steve Nicol's cross McManaman superbly put away his volley.

Swindon continued to stick to their belief in the passing game but it afforded Liverpool time and space to indulge their own skills. Defensive errors were ruthlessly punished, McManaman helping himself to his second after possession was given away, and Ronnie Whelan driving in from the edge of the area in the 70th minute. With 10 minutes remaining the substitute, Mike Marsh, curled his shot home in delightful style after McManaman had set him up.

Swindon Town (3-5-2): Digby; Whitbread, MacLaren, Taylor; Summerbee, Nijholt, Moncur (Hazard, 49), Ling (Maskell, 78), Horlock; Mutch, Fjortoft. Substitute not used: Hammond (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock (Marsh, 75), Bjornebye (Burrows, 73); Nicol, Whelan, Molby, McManaman; Clough, Rush. Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).

More football, pages 28, 29

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