Football: Liverpool's spirit weak

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The Independent Online
Coventry. 5

Liverpool. 1

YOU could tell it was going to be murder out there from the start, and indeed it was. What you could not have guessed was what colour the corpse would be after 90 minutes of undiluted melodrama. In the end the blood was invisible, because the victims were already wearing red.

For Liverpool it started out so well, with John Barnes and Mark Walters lording it on the flanks, but disbelief turned to wonder to jubilation as Coventry weathered the early storm and went on to put one, two, three, four, five past their visitors' spineless, spiritless defence. It may well be a long, long time before Mark Wright pulls on an England shirt again.

The victorious dad who invaded the pitch to hug his son was Bobby Gould, whose boy Jonathan made a near-faultless first appearance in Coventry's goal. Harry Redknapp, West Ham's assistant manager, was there, too, but his lad Jamie was not on the pitch at the death. He had been sent off soon after notching Liverpool's only goal, a 30-yard humdinger that briefly breathed fire back into his colleagues.

Liverpool's strutting young midfielder will have many happy afternoons in the long and glorious career that beckons, but his truncated visit to Highfield Road brought almost total misery.

His hand it was that first shoved Lee Hurst in the back and then touched the ball as he fell on it on the byline in Liverpool's box. Brian Borrows' penalty gave Coventry the lead, and a few moments later Redknapp entered the referee's book for charging down a Borrows free-kick.

It only took another couple of goals after the break, a thumper from Borrows again and a more crafted affair from Kevin Gallacher, for Redknapp to cram all his pent-up frustration into a late shoulder barge on Gallacher. Off he went, and up stepped Mick Quinn to finish the job with his customary brace of goals.

Quinn is more scouse than most of his opponents on Saturday, but his finishing was clinical in the extreme. The job had already been done by then, but his contribution brought into sharp relief the current non-productivity of Ian Rush, who with no one to keep him company up front had scarcely a chance to make an impression.

He is not firing blanks, he is not actually firing at all, so this renaissance that everyone has been talking about may well be on temporary hold. Defeat by Everton and Crystal Palace might just have been blips but this was more serious.

Despite Graeme Souness's charmless assertion that the result turned on three odd refereeing decisions, Coventry may well have caused significant long-term damage. Let us just hope they do not have to wait three months for their next home win, as they had to for this one.

Goals: Borrows (37) 1-0; Borrows (54) 2-0; Gallacher (62) 3-0; Redknapp (63) 3-1; Quinn (71) 4-1; Quinn (73) 5-1.

Coventry City: Gould; Borrows, Babb, Atherton, Sansom, Williams, McGrath, Hurst, Rosario, Quinn, Gallacher. Substitutes not used: Pearce, Flynn, Davies (gk).

Liverpool: Hooper; Marsh, R Jones (Hutchison, 60), Bjornebye, Piechnik, Wright, Stewart, Redknapp, Rush, Barnes, Walters. Substitutes not used: Rosenthal, James (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

(Photograph omitted)

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