Football: Rush hour proves timely

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

Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE ANFIELD empire has been in tumult now for two years and results such as this will not lessen the rumours and speculation.

City, not so long ago, were regarded as ritual victims here. Graeme Souness was reported to be dropping Mark Wright and Ian Rush and selling half a dozen senior players including Wright, Michael Thomas and Paul Stewart. In the event, on this fast-freezing afternoon, Wright and Stewart were dropped, Thomas stayed on the bench but Rush, having scored only two League goals previously, hit a sensational equaliser, a right- foot volley from 12 yards that saved Liverpool's pride before their second best attendance of the season, 43,037.

Liverpool are so mercurial that it is difficult to draw any valid conclusion from any single performance; yesterday they played with great zest through the midfield where Jamie Redknapp had an excellent match, flickered occasionally in attack. They also had the odd alarming lapse at the back where Stig Inge Bjornebye, the left-back from Rosenborg Trondheim, looks a capable, balanced player but one still coming to terms with the pace.

The result was fair. Liverpool enjoyed considerable territorial supremacy through the first half, City created the better chances. It was no real surprise when, five minutes before the interval, Mike Sheron created the opening he had been threatening, suddenly accelerating into the box. Steve Nicol came hurtling across to block but the ball ran free to Ian Brightwell. The centre, at speed, was placed exactly for Niall Quinn to get in a rocketing header that flew in off a post.

Rush spent much of this match being nearly there, two headers and a shot being just off target in the first half. He began the second half in similar fashion and it may have been this loss of direction that lulled City. Five minutes after the interval Steve McManaman was sent away down the right and when the ball reached Rush there was an inviting gap before him; he swivelled on his left, timed the connection exactly and Coton was left facing a cannonball.

This was probably City's only lapse in defence where Andy Hill is proving a better central defender than they could have possibly imagined. On the hour City must have decided that they would prefer a point to three, Peter Reid coming on to tidy up in place of Sheron, a substitution roundly booed by City's large travelling support.

The other happening that must have brought a wry smile to any objective spectators was the abuse hurled at Steve McMahon. He was booked for a bad foul on Rush but incurred no further punishment for another fierce tackle, precisely the kind of play that had Anfield cheering him not that long ago.

There was one final drama, in the 82nd minute. Barnes, wisely playing in mittens, met a right-wing cross eight yards out and headed over. The only thing certain at Anfield these days is that changes are coming and the crowd left discussing the latest whisper: Mark Wright for Spurs.

Liverpool: Hooper; Marsh, Jones, Nicol, Piechnik, Bjornebye, McManaman, Redknapp, Rush, Barnes, Walters. Substitutes not used: Hutchinson, Thomas, Grobbelaar (gk).

Manchester City: Coton; I Brightwell, Phelan, McMahon, Curle, Hill, White, Sheron (Reid, 60), Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitutes not used: D Brightwell, Margetson (gk).

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).