After the tedious stalemate at Elland Road, Liverpool advanced handsomely to an FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa after breaking down Leeds' attempted resistance in impressive style in last night's Anfield replay, in which Steve McManaman played the starring role with two of their three second-half goals.
Another grimly cautious episode had been anticipated but Liverpool contrived in time to produce an exhilarating performance. McManaman was splendid but there was a touch of brilliance in the end from Robbie Fowler, celebrating his England call-up with his 31st goal of the season direct from a free- kick.
Leeds restored Gary McAllister and Tony Yeboah, who had been rested from Premiership action last Sunday, and were able to reintroduce Gary Speed in advance of next Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup final against Aston Villa, four weeks after sustaining a fractured cheek-bone. Essentially their mission was to defend and look for opportunities against the flow but they did raise some promise themselves in the early stages, when Yeboah, in particular, looked hungry to make an impression.
But such threat as he could pose bore none of the ominous notices posted by McManaman, whose runs through the middle, gave his youthful marker, Mark Ford, as much as any young player could be expected to cope with " We had two problems throughout the game and one of those was McManaman,'' Howard Wilkinson the Leeds manager remarked. "He had an outstanding game and it looked as if his intention from the outset was to win the game by himself.'' Indeed, if anyone had looked likely to bring the tie to life as Liverpool went about their patient business in the face of a well organised Leeds defence it was he, although he wasted his best opportunity in the first half after cashing in on Yeboah's howler near the left-hand touchline.
Better chances fell to Fowler, and the intervention of Nigel Worthington crucially denied Jason McAteer but the biggest source of danger to Leeds lay with Liverpool's free runner. A caution for Ford, which left him treading a dangerous tightrope, increased the danger.
Leeds worked hard to maintain their defensive discipline but the second half began with Liverpool's momentum gathering. Fowler, taking the ball away from Lucas Radebe, had no power in his shot, then two more darting runs by McManaman further threatened Leeds' security, although neither produced much of a finish.
None the less, these proved to be the portents of the goal that broke the deadlock after 148 goalless minutes. Fowler's right-to-left diagonal ball found Jones, whose lay-off enabled McManaman to create a different angle for himself on his left foot before shooting powerfully to the right of John Lukic.
Lukic had kept them in the contest once, smothering Collymore's attempt at close-range, but could do nothing to protect his goal when a sublime one-two with Fowler left McManaman in the clear, able virtually to pass the ball into the net.
Leeds were down and out now but Liverpool added greater emphasis to their superiority six minutes from time after John Pemberton had fouled McAteer in a central position. Fowler, curling the ball beautifully, sent the free-kick over the Leeds wall with Lukic stranded.
Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Wright, Scales, Ruddock; McAteer, Thomas, Barnes, Jones; McManaman; Fowler, Collymore. Substitutes not used. Rush, Redknapp, Warner (gk).
Leeds United (5-3-2): Lukic; Kelly, Palmer, Pemberton, Radebe, Worthington; Ford (Gray, 60), McAllister, Speed; Deane, Yeboah. Substitute not used: Beesley, Brolin.
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).
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