Football: Stewart assumes command

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The Independent Online
Liverpool. . . . . 2

Sheffield United. .1

PAUL STEWART banished first night nerves to command this famous stage and complete Liverpool's recovery with a winning goal against Sheffield United last night.

The midfield player and goalkeeper David James, the club's other new recruit, emerged from distinctly uncertain starts on this, their introduction to an Anfield theatre extended by an upper tier to the Centenary Stand with plaudits rather than the derision they may have feared.

James, after rave reviews at Nottingham on Sunday, kept Bruce Grobbelaar in the wings, yet persisted in mimicking the old master of the eccentric to encourage a United team still bouyant following their opening day success at the expense of Manchester United. He was fortunate Brian Deane was unable to control his overhead shot when he was stranded and at the mercy of Carl Bradshaw's header.

Stewart contrived to volley over a vacant goal a minute into the match and his lunge failed to turn in Ronnie Whelan's pass. But poise was restored to both and Stewart especially, came out of the proceedings with enormous credit. By the end he was the central, dominant figure as Liverpool at last began to give glimpses of a game generations have become accustomed to at Anfield.

His midfield partnership with Whelan, restored to the side after his lengthy struggle against injury, promises badly needed direction. United, however, prospered when, after 35 minutes David Burrows, playing at the heart of a conventional back four, took a moment too long to consider his options. It was all the invitation Deane, destroyer of Manchester United, required. The excellent striker took the ball on and thrashed a low shot past James.

The lead was no more than United deserved yet it served to stir Liverpool into more concerted action. Whelan was again involved as creator and Mark Walters, drifting in from the left, beat the dive of United's goalkeeper Simon Tracey with a 20-yard shot.

United faded and Tracey had to resist more long-range bombardment before Stewart scored the decisive goal from close range after 65 minutes. Dean Saunders found Stewart, advancing on the left, and the committed Tracey was beaten. James played his part in protecting Liverpool's points with more assured handling as United sought an equaliser.

Liverpool: James; Jones, Burrows, Nicol, Whelan, Wright, Saunders (Rosenthal, 79), Stewart, McManaman, Thomas, Walters. Substitutes not used: Tanner, Grobbelaar (gk).

Sheffield United: Tracey; Gage, Barnes, Gannon (Hartfield, 74), Beesley, McCleary, Bradshaw (Cork, 60), Lake, Bryson, Deane, Hodges. Substitute not used: Kelly (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

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