Football: Sheringham's sweet touch: Heroic James refuses to wilt before Forest fire

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

BRIAN CLOUGH'S cantankerous promise that these two sides would provide more entertainment in 90 minutes than England gave us in two weeks in Sweden was an uncharacteristic understatement. They did it in one half.

But for a memorable debut by David James, Liverpool's pounds 1m goalkeeping recruit from Watford, Forest's delightfully familiar passing game would have had them three goals up and coasting by half-time. Instead, they had to weather a fightback which was the product of an overdue tactical adjustment by Graeme Souness, and were forced to settle for a margin which did scant justice to the quality of their football.

In fairness, they should have had a second goal just before the end, when James brought down Roy Keane and got away with it, but only the most partisan of spectators will have begrudged the goalkeeper his moment of good fortune after a performance of heroic impregnability. Bruce Grobbelaar, who opted to play in a World Cup tie in Zimbabwe, is destined to regret the decision

James was not alone in enjoying a debut to savour. BSkyB will know that it could have done a lot worse than this for their first live telecast of the Premier League.

Whole new ball game or not, BC is not about to change, and the transmission started with Old Big 'Ed, as he tells us his OBE stands for, ordering one of Sky's gofers off the pitch. With a nice sense of timing, the cover of the match programme featured Nigel Mansell with Cloughie and the Forest players. Supporters would probably have preferred Des Walker, but England's best defender was hardly missed, such was the enterprise of the team he left behind.

The concession of four goals in their Charity Shield rehearsal deemed far from satisfactory, Liverpool introduced Steve Nicol and Michael Thomas to the five-man midfield which Souness believes best suits the resources at his disposal.

For 45 minutes it suited Forest down to the ground. Throughout that first half no one was making the forward runs Thomas and Paul Stewart were hired for, and Forest were able to pour through on a hard-pressed three-man defence.

Souness must have cast envious eyes towards Sky's mobile camera - a dalek which worked the touchline like a latterday Steve Coppell.

Graham Taylor had just taken his seat and was fielding his first enquiry about Nigel Clough's inactivity in Sweden when James was welcomed to the Big League by a withering fusillade.

England's Under-21 international goalkeeper met the challenge with both bravery and agility, denying Keane and Clough on a total of four occasions when the Forest storm was at its height.

When the force was with them, their midfield was everything Liverpool's was not. Their passing was crisp and inventive, their running eager and thoughtful. And both Keane and Scot Gemmill covered the ground between the penalty areas with an enthusiasm Stewart and Thomas were unable to muster.

Forest also had the most impressive forward on view in Teddy Sheringham, whose decisive goal, after 28 minutes, was of such quality that James was blameless. Cutting in from the left, the striker Tottenham still hope to sign for pounds 2m thrashed the ball into the far corner.

Liverpool improved in the second half, after a Souness volley had persuaded Stewart and Thomas to up their work-rate, but when they step on the gas these days, the response tends to be a splutter rather than the fearsome surge of old, and their only chances of note saw Mark Crossley deal capably with shots from Thomas and Ronny Rosenthal.

Clough the elder was so happy that he was prepared to be interviewed, for once. If that continues, it really will be a brave new dawn.

Of Sheringham's strike he said: 'You don't work on scoring goals like that. They come out of the blue, through sheer ability. Edward Sheringham stuck it in - bang. That's what he's paid for.' The indications last night were that Spurs would soon be doing the paying.

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Pearce, Wilson, Chettle, Keane, Crosby (Black, 85), Gemmill, Clough, Sheringham, Woan. Substitutes not used: Marriott, Bannister.

Liverpool: James; Tanner, Burrows, Nicol, Whelan, Wright, Saunders, Stewart, Rush (McManaman, h-t), Walters (Rosenthal, 75), Thomas. Substitute not used: Hooper.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

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