Camara captures the party mood

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The Independent Football

After a pre-match parade of former Liverpool heroes to mark the 40th anniversary of Bill Shankly's arrival at Anfield, the present generation, despite their recent fine run of results, were always going to find it difficult to catch and match the mood. The gods decided to smile on them, granting victory by a flattering margin after one of the less impressive performances in a sequence of seven wins in eight games.

After a pre-match parade of former Liverpool heroes to mark the 40th anniversary of Bill Shankly's arrival at Anfield, the present generation, despite their recent fine run of results, were always going to find it difficult to catch and match the mood. The gods decided to smile on them, granting victory by a flattering margin after one of the less impressive performances in a sequence of seven wins in eight games.

Shankly was seven years into his reign and had won two of his three championships before Coventry City arrived among the big boys. For two decades they could not win at Anfield to save their First Division lives; three victories in the past 10 years had relieved some of the historical burden but yesterday there was again no reward for some solid defending and much second-half pressure.

The parade of some of Shankly's greatest signings included Kevin Keegan, and two of his first purchases, the Scots Ron Yeats (of whom he famously said: "Come and take a walk around him") and Ian St John. The current manager, Gérard Houllier, although a great admirer, must have wondered how his own signings would shape up in comparison. Not surprisingly, the verdict was mixed, as it has been since he joined the club.

St John, having returned to the press box, would have admired an early free-kick by the little midfielder David Thompson that Magnus Hedman pushed away for a corner. But Yeats, chief scout nowadays, must have grimaced as Dominic Matteo and Sami Hyypia allowed Noel Whelan in between them to meet Gary McAllister's cross six yards from goal, only to head feebly wide.

Much of the play was scrappy, and some of it more Tommy Smith than Keegan: Gary Breen received a yellow card that might have been red after Michael Owen went down holding his face and the referee had consulted both his assistants at some length.

Coventry had lost a whole raft of defenders to injury, including the former Liverpool left-back David Burrows, but declined in the end to ask Mo Konjic to play despite a fractured cheekbone. Paul Williams was passed fit to take his place alongside Breen and the pair were not troubled again until shortly before half-time, then finally bested.

Coventry survived in the 41st minute as Titi Camara met Steven Gerrard's cross with a firm header that Hedman did exceptionally well to keep out; Camara reached the rebound and slashed it across goal, just beyond the onrushing Owen. In the fourth minute of what was supposed to be two minutes of added time, Matteo supplied Owen, who had his revenge on Breen, twisting away from the Irishman before beating Hedman, who deserved better.

Remarkably, it was a first goal at Anfield this season for the England striker, who celebrated his 20th birthday earlier in the week, but it did not act as the spur the home side had hoped for. Despite the introduction of the more attacking Vladimir Smicer for Thompson, who pulled up lame, Liverpool spent a long spell after the interval doing little more than play on the break.

Carlton Palmer, still going strong after all these years, loped forward for a shot that was pushed round a post, then got in the way of a long cross by Paul Telfer that would have been better left for Whelan just behind him. In the 63rd minute Moustapha Hadji crossed for Whelan, who brought the ball down well in eluding his marker, but was thwarted by Sander Westerveld's smart block.

There could have been few complaints about an equaliser. Instead Camara picked up Matteo's throw-in and smacked a shot into the top corner of Hedman's net.

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