Football: Rush shines at a stroll

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The Independent Online
West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Allen 1

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

Fowler 14, Rush 87

Attendance: 26,096

WITHOUT the threat of relegation, or the tension of the title race, this could have been a free-flowing exhibition of passing football at its best. Instead, West Ham and Liverpool sleepwalked through most of a limp 90 minutes, with the Mersey siders waking up with the points.

After 58 seconds that seemed an unlikely outcome. Liverpool, given a sharp lesson by their former pupil Kevin Keegan's Newcastle last week, once again were undone by Anfield refugees. Their former full-back David Burrows clipped a pass up the left flank, their former benchwarmer Mike Marsh nodded down, Matty Holmes then lofted a ball over the defence, where Martin Allen lobbed the keeper.

The tone of the afternoon seemed set. More so when Liverpool equalised 12 minutes later, against the run of play. John Barnes chested down Steve Nicol's precise ball into the left side of the penalty area. Barnes's low drive hit the post and was deflected into the roof of the net by Robbie Fowler for his 17th goal of the season. This promised to be good, but it

was not.

The Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, blamed the hot weather. Perhaps the warmth of the welcome for Julian Dicks set the wrong tone. There was passing but precious little passion and few chances. Only West Ham's Matthew Rush, wide on the right in his side's five-man midfield, seemed interested in getting at Liverpool and embarrassing Dicks. But Rush's crosses were too frequently astray. He did, however, have West Ham's best second-half chance, fizzing a half- volley from the right corner of the six-yard area a foot wide.

His Liverpool namesake, the irrepressible Ian Rush, had already failed to connect two yards out with Don Hutchison's cross-shot, and from a header five yards out.

With two minutes to go, Tony Gale was too casual in a backpass on the edge of the area, and Rush rounded Ludek Miklosko and practically strolled to the goal before tapping home. It was a suitable, slow-motion ending to a half-

paced match.