FOOTBALL: Reds celebrate Rush's record

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The Independent Online

Wimbledon 0

Liverpool 2

Liverpool finally laid to rest last night a ghost that has haunted them ever since Bobby Gould's Wimbledon put the frighteners on them in the 1988 FA Cup final. For the first time in five meetings, they came out on top in a cup-tie, winning this FA Cup fifth-round replay at Selhurst Park with consummate ease.

While that record was in the process of being set, another was equalled as Ian Rush scored his 41st FA Cup goal, to draw level with the mark set by Denis Law. Appropriately Liverpool had been sent on their way to a sixth-round meeting at home to Tottenham or Southampton by John Barnes, the sole-surviving member of that Wembley final seven years ago. The victory also kept the Merseysiders on course for an improbable treble.

An extraordinary Cola-Cola Cup tie here 14 months ago - which was also a replay - which Wimbledon won on penalties, after a Hans Segers own goal in the last minute of normal time - may have still have been fresh in the minds of both sets of players at the kick-off, but perhaps particularly Liverpool's.

As a consequence perhaps, Liverpool started the more determinedly. The warning signs for Wimbledon's defence were there for them in the sixth minute, when the former Don, John Scales, was given a free header which he wasted. Three minutes later John Barnes did not make the same mistake.

Jamie Redknapp was blatantly pushed to the ground by Alan Kimble, and swung in the ensuing free-kick himself for Barnes to head home with uncharacteristic comfort.

Robbie Fowler shot wide from an excellent position in the next minute, but then Liverpool could afford to be profligate. It was fortuitous, too, for Wimbledon that Ian Rush was unable to take maximum advantage when Segers, in desperation, stuck out a foot to block a diagonal shot from Rob Jones.

Wimbledon were allowed but one chance of a reply in the first half, and then Neil Ruddock cleared off the goal-line from Robbie Earle, after David James had flung himself full-length to save one-handed from Dean Holdsworth, who was on for the injured Efan Ekoku.

With Liverpool in such predatory mood it was hardly a surprise that the arch predator, Rush, should finally pull level with Law. It was only a half- chance but it was enough for Rush, whose reactions at 33 were still sharper than the younger men around him: he stuck out a foot to steer the ball home, from Barnes' cross in the 37th minute.

The game was as good as over as a contest, but Wimbledon stuck at it, undeterred by the ability of Liverpool's five-man defence to soak up pressure. Meanwhile Liverpool - for whom McManaman was running himself back into England contention - looked like scoring with almost every attack, except when the frivolous Fowler was at its climax.

Wimbledon (4-4-2): Segers; Cunningham, Perry, Thorn (Harford, 42), Kimble; Ardley, Earle, Leonhardsen, Barton; Ekoku (Holdsworth, 20), Clarke. Substitute not used: Sullivan (gk).

Liverpool (5-3-2): James; Jones, Scales, Ruddock, Babb, Bjornebye; McManaman, Redknapp, Barnes; Fowler (Walters, 81), Rush. Substitutes not used: Thomas, Warner (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).