Fantastic Fowler's net profit
Robbie Fowler, who cost the price of Liverpool's best football education, put the millionaires in the shade yesterday with the precious performance of a goal scoring natural.
The 19-year-old scored a hat-trick in four minutes, 35 seconds -- one of the fastest in top-flight football -- and admitted: 'I didn't really have a clue today's goals came so quickly. I thought they were 15 minutes apart.'
While the English game decided to spend itself into a state of apoplectic frenzy, the boy from the back streets was being taught the game at one of its finest cradles of learning. To Liverpool yesterday went a delicious profit. Sutton and Shearer, Cole and Colleymore have gone for fortunes. The price tags get attached to them whenever they take the field and their performances are judged in terms of cost and investment, not their talent.
The most refreshing aspect of Fowler's high-speed hat-trick was the sheer delight that one of Liverpool's own should score with such relish for the club he undoubtedly loves. He took part a defence of mean intent, occupied by four internationals of varying quality, with scoring of the highest pedigree.
The outcome was of scorching importance, giving Liverpool the belief that this start can really lead to something. With Coventry City's 3.75 million pound defender Phil Babb likely to make his last appearance for the sky blues against Aston Villa tonight and join the red campaign later this week, there is a buzz of anticipation at Anfield.
Arsenal are left to contemplate two defeats in six days -- with Blackburn to come on Wednesday, smelling blood. The surprise was that defeat arrived so much out of the blue, just at the time Arsenal seemed to have everything nearly packaged and parcelled. There was nothing between them -- then suddenly the difference was astonishing. It isn't often that Arsenal are mugged.
It wasn't all Fowler, by any means. But any move of note, any string of passes so blissfully laced together, any positive intent, requires someone special to grace it with a finishing touch. Fowler graced three and just could have had a few more just to put the boot in.
The goals were lapped up by a Liverpool crowd driven to ecstasy and quite forgetting the first sight of Anfield without a standing Kop.
Arsenal contributed considerably to their own downfall. The loss of Steve Bould to an injury which may deprive him of an England squad place meant that Martin Keown was moved into central defence. He was to have a game he'd rather forget. It was his mistimed clumsy lunge on Rob Jones, who was moving with no great threat towards the touchline, which gifted Liverpool with a free kick. The precision in Jamie Redknapp's kick was followed by a touch from Ian Rush which granted Fowler the chance to swing a left-footed shot past David Seaman.
The impact of that had not died when Steve McManaman, let loose to roam at his discretion, cut a swathe through the middle and slipped the ball sideways to Fowler. He had all of a yard to aim at but his aim was true, his left-foot shot driven in against the foot of the far post.
The coup de grace followed almost immediately as John Barnes -- as good as his word in these pages on Saturday -- clipped a delightful ball over the befuddled heads of the Arsenal defence for Fowler to slip in, hold off Keown, collect a rebound from the fallen Seaman and arrogantly clip the ball in from the byline.
The goals were over but the joy had only just begun. For this was a Liverpool performance to blow away the cobwebs of the distressing Souness era and indicate that, in Roy Evans, they have a manager with all the Boot Room savvy and the quiet resolve to play the Liverpool way.
Arsenal weren't at the races. Sluggish at the back, indifferent in midfield, lacking any bite up front, this was a ghoulish display which brought the expected condemnation from manager George Graham. 'It was way, way below the level of performance we expect at the club,' he said. 'We were a yard slow today'. ' We looked like a side that had played an away game with a long journey in midweek, they looked like a side who had a break in midweek. I thought their front was excellent, they caused us problems and we couldn't handle them.'
You could see the pleasure brimming inside the Liverpool manager, but Evans is not one to bow to hyperbole. 'The lad Fowler is obviously an immense talent, frightening,' he said. 'but it's about other people as well and he's got to learn to appreciate what they do for him. I think he's getting there.' He's getting there fast. Liverpool expects, and one day England will too.
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