Liverpool held by determined Dons

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The Independent Online
Football

PHIL SHAW

Liverpool 2 Wimbledon 2

Liverpool last night missed the chance to move to within three points of Newcastle, the Premiership leaders, when relegation-threatened Wimbledon confirmed their status as Anfield's bogy side by gaining a deserved draw in controversial circumstances.

Wimbledon, whose record of only two defeats in 15 meetings with Liverpool includes the great FA Cup final upset of `88, had come from behind to lead 2-1 when Michael Thomas dispatched a 20-yard shot past Neil Sullivan just after the hour. The referee, Gary Willard, ruled Robbie Fowler offside, incurring the wrath of the crowd and the normally phlegmatic Roy Evans.

The Liverpool manager left the bench to remonstrate with the linesman involved. When the game resumed, Stan Collymore quickly assuaged the home supporters with an equaliser. But for all their possession and pressure, Liverpool had to settle for stretching their unbeaten run to 18 games.

Their indignation was doubly ironic. The goal that never was came in front of that soundtrap of red bias, the Kop. Moreover, the beneficiaries were Wimbledon, whose manager, Joe Kinnear, frequently lambasts referees for denying them justice.

On this occasion, Kinnear said: "That's probably the bravest linesman I've come across. You regularly come to the big clubs and don't get too much. When I asked the referee about the Thomas shot, he said Fowler was in front of our keeper. It's just a question of whether he was interfering with play."

Although they also had a first-half effort by Fowler disallowed, Liverpool should not allow their frustration to blind them to the fact that they did not perform like title contenders. Wimbledon's brisk counter-attacking troubled them throughout, and as Evans admitted, there was a lack of composure in their build-up.

Steve McManaman had given Liverpool a 35th-minute lead with a low shot from John Barnes' pass. However, Mick Harford hit the bar for Wimbledon shortly after half-time, and they soon stunned Liverpool with two goals in the space of six minutes.

Vinny Jones, with a pass out of the Ruud Gullit manual, released Oyvind Leonhardsen, whose cross was turned in by Efan Ekoku at the far post. The Nigerian, a Liverpool fan as a child in the city, then dispossessed Mark Wright. Despite being forced wide, he crossed brilliantly for Dean Holdsworth to net from an identical position.

With anger spurring them on, Collymore scored from close range in the 68th minute after Sullivan's only mistake. Liverpool laid siege to Wimbledon's goal, though David James had to make a crucial save to thwart Ekoku in the final minutes.

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Wright, Scales, Babb; McAteer, Thomas, Barnes, R Jones (Redknapp, 78); McManaman; Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Rush, Warner (gk).

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Perry, Kimble; Earle, V Jones, Leonhardsen; Harford (Gayle, 62), Holdsworth (Thorn, 76), Ekoku. Substitute not used: Goodman.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

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