Liverpool. . . . . . . . .2
Rush 22, 90
Manchester City. . . . . .1
JUST as it seemed certain that the old-fashioned qualities of incompetence and lack of ambition were to be rewarded, Liverpool snatched victory at Anfield yesterday. They had done most of the running against a largely shambolic Manchester City side but had worked long, hard and what seemed certain to be unsuccessfully for the winning goal. It came in the last minute courtesy of the old campaigner Ian Rush, who met Steve McManaman's cross at the far post with a thumping header.
What happened on the pitch, however, could not erase the memory of what occurred before the start. The minute's silence in memory of Sir Matt Busby, who played for both sides, became a shouting match.
The City supporters put in the first volley of abuse by chanting for their team, the Kop responded with a collective boo. Sadly, it was football hooliganism in another guise.
What followed on the pitch was thoroughly respectable by comparison. Liverpool's injury list is in its usual cycle of taking one step forward and two steps back. The teenage sensation, Ronnie Fowler, is the latest to be swathed in plaster of Paris, having broken a leg in the Cup tie at Bristol City, so John Barnes returned to the central attacking position he favours.
He probed, prodded and cajoled from the start, looking for the old one-two with Ian Rush. His touch looked as languid as ever, even if his pace did not. After Liverpool had declared their intentions with Nigel Clough firing a volley over from Barnes's delicate pass, it was City who took an early lead.
David Rocastle's ball from midfield in the fourth minute found the Liverpool back four wanting. Carl Griffiths, scarcely believing that he was in the clear, chipped over Bruce Grobbelaar.
It was the Liverpool midfield which would have to get them out of this mess and Clough and Jamie Redknapp were equal to the task. It was not that they ran over their City counterparts it was simply that their passing was more accurate and more incisive. The home side might have equalised, indeed might have taken the lead on two or three occasions before they eventually scored.
Clough, making room from half-way, threaded a pass to Redknapp, whose shot was parried by Tony Coton. It was the sort of opportunity that Rush has spent a whole career devouring and he did not miss this time.
City were bereft of passion and ideas. When they had the ball they were going nowhere and increasingly they had little of that.
At one stage early in the second half Liverpool strung 14 passes together without the opposition getting near to a touch. For all that the goal refused to come as Clough, Barnes and Redknapp were all thwarted in different ways, sometimes of their own making.
This was the sort of stuff to lead to frustration and Barnes looked increasingly as though he might take matters into his own hands. Midway through the second half he received a ball on half-way, shrugged off four tackles and put a clever ball through to Rush but the outcome was the same. No goal.
The City back four eventually crumbled, as it had to do, being at sixes and sevens once too often. That did not apply, however, to their goalkeeper Coton who first kept out a Barnes header and sparred successfully at McManaman's shot It was exciting but, at the last, to no avail with Rush's thrilling winner.