Football: Resilient Blades

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . . . 1

Rush 3

Sheffield United. . . .2

Flo 46, 72

Attendance: 36,642

HOT air probably has more chance of going down than Sheffield United. They contrived yet another unlikely victory at Anfield yesterday, their first at the ground for 26 years and their first away win of the season, which might have allowed their manager, Dave Bassett, to let off as much hot air as he wanted.

He settled for saying the usual things - at which he is of course well practised by now - about the need to keep on winning right to the end: 'We changed things a bit at half- time and it worked out. I can't pay too much attention to what the other team's doing. We've just got to keep getting points.' While the result did not get his side out of jail it put a rope ladder over the wall.

A goal down in four minutes it was a measure of their resilience and will, allied to Liverpool's lack of them, that they managed the necessary second- half reply. It was neither pretty nor wholly convincing, but Bassett could take credit for their efficiency in ensuring that the Liverpool defence's embarrassing lack of pace was exposed.

At this stage of the season, in what seems like every season, Bassett, known as Harry, gains the expanded sobriquet of Harry Houdini, so often have his charges escaped. It was not so much Houdini who sprang to mind for significant stretches of the match yesterday as Harry Worth. There were many fine intentions but not much clue about what was going on. They were lamentably prosaic in the fourth minute when Jamie Redknapp strolled down the right and gave himself the time to pick out Ian Rush near the edge of the area. The striker took a swift stride forward before giving Simon Tracey a dreadful return to the United side.

Sheffield were inevitably committed afterwards but Liverpool created much the clearer opportunities. There was always the chance that their one- paced defence (slow, that is) would be caught out, but Adrian Littlejohn did not make the best of a chance in the 37th minute. It was his speed, however, which allowed the equaliser.

Set free on the left he comfortably outstripped Steve Nicol and cut inside. His shot was parried by the advancing David James but only so Jostein Flo could turn and drill the ball over the line.

Sheffield were suddenly filled with self-belief, Liverpool were bereft of it. In the 73rd minute Franz Carr, on the left, crossed for Flo after an offside ploy failed to work. It was accurate enough to give the forward time to loop his header over James. There were frenetic Liverpool charges after, but the real desire by then belonged to United. The Premiership may have to put up with them a while yet.

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