Football: Liverpool's false start

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Blackburn Rovers. . 4

Liverpool. . . . . .1

BLACKBURN ROVERS consolidated their position as the best of the rest at the expense of Liverpool slithering back to the self-destructive ways which have blighted their season. The contest for the Premier League championship may have disappeared over the horizon, but fourth place would represent a considerable success for Kenny Dalglish, who reshaped his side to accommodate his recent signings Graeme Le Saux and Kevin Gallacher.

Not that Dalglish should be gloating over this victory against his former club. The touch and confidence which ought to have been gained from a run of three wins and a draw in four matches were never evident in Liverpool's play, and the locals added insult to injury with a chorus of 'You're worse than San Marino'. That may be harsh on San Marino.

Gallacher marked his debut with a goal and, along with Mike Newell, dismantled Liverpool's defence with ludicrous ease.

Newell found his range after just eight minutes, bringing David James to a save after Gallacher and Jason Wilcox had created the opportunity. Five minutes later, he put Blackburn ahead. The referee acknowledged a linesman's flag for offside against Blackburn but waved play on when Le Saux's intended pass down the line struck a Liverpool defender. The ball fell to Blackburn's Stuart Ripley, who released Gallacher and he, in turn, supplied Newell. The Liverpool bench appealed in vain.

Graeme Souness could have no complaints about the justice of the subsequent goals, and the Liverpool manager did not mince his words, saying: 'That, defensively, is as bad as we've been. Up front, apart from Rush, we had people who weren't prepared to get hurt.'

Newell, who had a shot turned away by James, positioned himself beyond the far post for Gordon Cowans's 25th-minute corner. James parried but Kevin Moran hooked in his third goal in three games.

The old warhorse, approaching his 37th birthday, was in more familiar territory to block a shot from Ian Rush, then instigated his team's third goal after 41 minutes. David May shuttled the ball to Wilcox and his cross from the left eluded a line of defenders to reach the unmarked Gallacher. The pounds 1.5m forward calmly planted the ball between James and a post.

Rush, the one source of hope for Liverpool, pulled a shot against the bar and his attempt to force in the rebound was frustrated by the goalkeeper Bobby Mimms. The Cowans-Wilcox combination produced a fourth after 65 minutes. Cowans rolled the through ball and Wilcox treated the Liverpool defence with appropriate disdain as he danced through and beat the hopelessly exposed James.

Rush claimed some personal consolation and maintained his goal-scoring form of late by seizing on a misdirected clearance by Colin Hendry and volleying into the top left hand corner six minutes from the end.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, G Le Saux, T Sherwood, C Hendry, K Moran, S Ripley, G Cowans, K Gallacher, M Newell, J Wilcox. Subs not used: M Atkins, P Andersson, F Talia (gk). Manager: K Dalglish.

Liverpool: D James; M Marsh, D Burrows, S Nicol, S Harkness, R Whelan, R Rosenthal (S McManaman, 56 min), D Hutchison, I Rush, J Barnes, M Walters. Subs not used: S Bjornebye. B Grobbelaar (gk). Manager: G Souness.

Referee: K Redfern (Whitley Bay).

Goals: Newell (1-0, 13 min); Moran (2-0, 25 min); Gallacher (3-0, 41 min); Wilcox (4-0, 65 min); Rush (4-1, 84 min).