From the kick-off, Liverpool were more clever and far more comfortable, and Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman were able to slip through Leeds' nine-man defensive formation. Their one-two in the fourth minute shredded the defence and Nigel Martyn saved well from McManaman, leaving Mark Ford shouting at the right-midfielder who had allowed McManaman to escape. That penitent player was Ian Rush, who looked lost on the flank.
Two minutes later Lucas Radebe showed, not for the first time, that George Graham's disciplined off-side tactic had yet to be transferred to Elland Road. McManaman slipped through, drew Martyn but Fowler failed to convert his cross. With Leeds still bleeding from largely self-inflicted wounds, Neil Ruddock guided Stig Bjornebye's ricocheted corner back through Carlton Palmer's legs and into the net.
Graham replaced Rod Wallace with Mark Jackson in an attempt to stem Liverpool's flow. In the 23rd minute Fowler again profited from Radebe's reluctance to come out. He latched on to McManaman's pass but before he could shoot he was bundled, along with the ball, out of play by Palmer. Leeds, stirred by an unsettled crowd, rallied before the break, forcing a flurry of corners, and Rush, now playing in his more accustomed forward role, had his team's first shot of the half from a tough angle.
Liverpool's slick passing continued after the interval. Jason McAteer fed McManaman, whose cross was blasted at Martyn by John Barnes. The visitors' patience then created an opening for Bjornebye to cross and Martyn again saved well to deny Ruddock.
Just one goal ahead, Liverpool had to be wary of the predatory Rush. In the 49th minute he volleyed spectacularly over the bar. Ten minutes later, the Anfield old boy seemed destined to open his account for his new club, with Gary Kelly's cross about to be met by Rush's head until Ruddock appeared from nowhere to concede a corner. Rush thought the ball had been handled out of play and remonstrated verbally with the referee and then physically with McAteer and Mark Wright. For his troubles he won only a yellow card.
Rush's interest in the game by that stage should have been purely academic. Michael Thomas had struck Fowler's perfect pass wastefully over and McAteer had failed to turn McManaman's wizardry into a goal.
Leeds, too, had their moments in the final minutes but all floundered upon the Liverpool defence. As Martyn advanced to keep up the injury-time pressure, a clearing punt caught him 50 yards from his goal. Ruddock slipped as he controlled the ball, presenting McManaman with an easy opportunity.