Rush of emotion

Liverpool 1 Collymore 70 Middlesbrough 0 Attendance: 40,782
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Liverpool faithful, freed from the tension of the title race, packed Anfield yesterday to celebrate Ian Rush's second leaving do. His first, in 1987, preceded a 12-month spell at Juventus. This time one of his possible destinations is the colder climes of Middlesbrough.

Despite such emotional pressure Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, still found himself in a selection quandary, having to leave Rush out of the starting line-up in favour of Robbie Fowler, who was more concerned, it seemed, with attempting to catch Shearer as the Premiership's top scorer than resting his England-weary legs in anticipation of the Cup final.

The first half soon settled into a pattern dominated by the fluctuating triangle of Stan Collymore, Steve McManaman and Fowler, who created all manner of possibilities without managing to stretch the lively Boro goalkeeper Alan Miller. Time andagain, McManaman's runs promised more than they delivered and Boro harassed the attack with determination.

On 22 minutes, Collymore cut in from the left to release McManaman, who fired heartily into Miller's midriff as the predatory Fowler loomed with intent. But Middlesbrough battled solidly, and Anfield was silenced by Juninho who, in the 32nd minute, picked up a ball from 35 yards and stormedthrough a surprisingly stagnant Liverpool defence before firing directly at the grateful home goalkeeper, David James.

Two minutes into the second half McManaman flicked a ball over to find Neil Ruddock steaming in and accidentally causing Nigel Pearson, Boro's influential skipper, to crash into the post. After off-field medical attention, Pearson limped away clutching an ice pack to his forehead.

Redknapp enlivened the Kop by hitting the bar from 20 yards in the 57th minute. Two minutes later the Rush party finally began as he eagerly took the place of Fowler. Within 60 seconds he came within two inches of connecting with a McManaman cross and the expectant Kop was denied. Despite several painful near misses from Rush, it wasCollymore who broke the deadlock by firing in from the centre of the box after being released by John Barnes.

Nevertheless the glory belonged to Rush and only a heartless Mancunian could have failed to shed a tear, as the Kop gave him a final reception worthy of a Cup final.