Football: Rush exploits Boro's losses

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

AFTER two matches against Manchester United and Queen's Park Rangers, when airs and graces were permitted, Liverpool were back with the muck and nettles more analagous to their present League position. They won, but without much cohesion, through the finishing ability of Don Hutchison and Ian Rush, the latter scoring his third goal in his third game back after being dropped. Graeme Souness, the Liverpool manager, claimed his players were unsettled by the sun, meaning presumably solar power and not the tabloid.

Boro's jagged tackling had something to do with it. Six players were booked yet Liverpool had no cause to complain, for the first bad foul was committed by Ronnie Whelan as Liverpool tried to reassert the midfield authority that weakened soon after their opening goal. Boro, urged on by a crowd roaring to hide a heartbreak, were not slow to retaliate and the second half was a mess.

Boro are entitled to some sympathy. They lost Alan Kernaghan in November when he was emerging as a central defender of strength and influence. They had to patch up the defence again when his partner, Derek Whyte, was injured. The pair were restored for the past two matches, which included a win at Ipswich, but an hour before kick-off Kernaghan was ruled unfit again.

His loss, and the selection of their combative midfielder Jamie Pollock for the ridiculously timed World Youth Championship in Australia, have handicapped a club with slim resources. They can expect few favours from now on, for most of their remaining opponents are as desperate for points. With 33 points from 34 matches, Boro seem almost certain to be replaced in the Premier League by Newcastle United, which is a pity on two counts: the North-east deserves two clubs in the top 22 and Boro have tried so hard, in so many ways, to justify their status.

After John Barnes and Rush had combined neatly to contrive the first goal, David James made his statutory one error by failing to let Steve Nicol know he was standing just behind him as the central defender turned to lob back, the ball sailing into an empty net.

The second half was mostly a sequence of crunch, whistle, book, yellow card - all the culprits being too canny to be caught twice, and by the time Rush got the second all but the diehards were grateful to see a little more football. The BBC must have winced to present this (and Norwich v Oldham) on Match of the Day. Bring back Eldorado.

Goals: Hutchison (10) 0-1; Nicol (og, 15) 1-1; Rush (81) 1-2.

Middlesbrough: Ironside; Morris, Phillips, Mohan, Peake, Whyte (Wright, 82), Hendrie, Mustoe, Wilkinson, Falconer, Hignett. Substitutes not used: Slaven, Roberts (gk).

Liverpool: James; Burrows, Jones, Nicol, Wright, Whelan, McManaman (Redknapp, 66), Hutchison, Rush, Barnes, Rosenthal (Walters 45). Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Referee: M Peck (Kendal).

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