Football: Rush dispels fear of the drop

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

Queen's Park Rangers. .0

THE MAN who bet pounds 350 at 12-1 that Liverpool would be relegated will be seeking to lay off this morning. Ian Rush, with his second goal in two matches since his recall, signalled that Liverpool, true to their modern tradition, are flourishing at the right time of the season. Rangers, fourth in the table before this match, seemed elevated above their station.

Despite missing two penalties Liverpool dominated this match, and could have won by a large margin. Tony Roberts in Rangers' goal held the fort until the 71st minute, when Steve McManaman had a fierce, angled drive deflected to the far post, where Rush was waiting to head in.

The return of Ronnie Whelan after six months out with a thigh injury, and David Burrows, has modified that lean, coltish look that has characterised the Liverpool teams this season. With Jan Molby almost ready for selection, Liverpool can face the rest of this season with an almost full-strength team.

Whelan had a superb first hour and then, like Burrows, faded, but his influence, with the response of the class of 92-93 around him, gave Liverpool the confidence almost to overpower a disappointing Rangers. Their frustrations were summed up by bookings for Darren Peacock and Les Ferdinand.

Ferdinand, spoken of as a pounds 4m striker, took a rapid devaluation on this display, while his towering partner Devon White used his major asset only once, getting over the defence early on, his header being weak and poorly directed.

QPR ought to have taken heart and found more purpose from Liverpool's comical efforts to score a penalty. John Barnes slid a long through ball to Rush, who lost his legs to Roberts as he turned. The goalkeeper guessed correctly to parry Mike Marsh's penalty kick. That was on the hour; the second came in the 83rd minute, with Liverpool ahead and consequently under less pressure. Barnes, as captain, took the responsibility, Marsh having been substituted, but shot wide.

Gerry Francis admitted that Rangers had been disappointing, explaining: 'We were without six senior players and lacked experience to come to Anfield.' It was a gratified Graeme Souness who afterwards praised Whelan's contribution as 'outstanding. It's a long time since our central midfield has looked as fluent.'

Next in line are Middlesbrough, away, then Everton at home, but it seems that sad word 'relegation' may have been banished from Anfield last night.

Liverpool: James; Marsh (Rosenthal, 57), Jones, Nicol, Wright, Whelan, McManaman, Hutchison, Rush, Barnes, Burrows. Substitutes not used: Kozma, Hooper (gk).

Queen's Park Rangers: Roberts; Bardsley, Brevett, Doyle, Maddix (Peacock, 20), McDonald, Impey, Wilson, Ferdinand, White, Meaker. Substitutes not used: Allen, Stejskal (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).