Football: Rush finishes with flourish

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Manchester City. . .1

Liverpool. . . . . .1

THE MAN who wiped the smile from the face of Peter Swales on another day of off-field muscle-flexing was neither Francis Lee nor his new millionaire ally, Irving Brown, but Ian Rush, who emerged from an inconspicuous afternoon with an 89th-minute equaliser. Until then, a superior performance by the home side looked to have achieved enough to replace more threats of protest with a conventional football celebration.

Since Peter Reid's sacking in August, which sparked all the takeover talk, City have lost only once in 10 starts. Chants of 'Swales Out' still surfaced during slack moments yesterday but the campaigners are finding committed support steadily more difficult to stir up. Leaflets distributed before the kick-off sought to sustain the ill-feeling but had Rush not made his crucial mark the majority of City fans would have left happy.

And how they deserved to have done so. Amid all the turmoil around them, the professionalism of City's players has been beyond question and much credit must attach to Brian Horton, whose view was that his team's second-half display was their best so far. It was good enough, certainly, to make Liverpool again wonder where their early season promise went.

Two things altered the course of events decisively in that half. First, Liverpool lost Mark Walters, whose menacing of Terry Phelan on the other flank had three times threatened to put City behind. Then the home side, who had started with Mike Sheron as Niall Quinn's running mate, gave themselves more options by pushing forward David White from midfield.

Stig Bjornebye, deputising for the injured Julian Dicks, was on a hiding from then on, and when, after 67 minutes, the impressive Garry Flitcroft pierced a flat-footed back four with a perfect through ball, White's pace carried him clear to beat Bruce Grobbelaar with aplomb.

By now Swales, who was digesting the news that Brown, a Mancunian based in New Jersey, had joined forces in Lee's likely takeover attempt, might have been reflecting that perhaps he did know something about selecting managers after all. Had he pointed a finger in the direction of the Kippax and shouted 'you've all gone quiet over there' he might have been excused. But then Rob Jones and Robbie Fowler suddenly carved an opening down the right and Rush arrived at the near post to put the ball in the net and the chairman back in his seat.

(Photograph omitted)