Resurgent Reds

Robbie Fowler gave watching England coach Terry Venables a timely reminder of his prowess with a golden double at Anfield.

Fowler grabbed the limelight from his in-form Liverpool team-mate Steve McManaman, to send Villa crashing to a fourth consecutive Premiership defeat.

Defender Neil Ruddock also took the opportunity to impress by putting Roy Evans' men on the path to victory.

McManaman, meanwhile, did his call up chances no harm by again showing he is back to the form he produced when breaking into the team under Graeme Souness.

McManaman freed Rob Jones down the right in the first minute before collecting the right-back's cross, only to see his shot blocked for a corner by Paul McGrath.

But Liverpool's bright start nearly paid dividends as Villa 'keeper Mark Bosnich, returning after three games out with a knee injury, showed some early jitters by failing to cut out the resulting corner.

The Australian international was a relieved man as Ugo Ehiogu blocked on the line from Ian Rush's half volley.

Bosnich was then troubled by a tame header from Rush, but found his form minutes later with a smart save to deny Fowler.

But rampant Liverpool were not to be denied the breakthrough, though when it came in the 21st minute they had to rely on the intervention of the linesman, who ruled that Bosnich had controlled an Andy Townsend back pass with his hands.

Rush tapped the free kick sideways to Ruddock whose cannonball shot burst through the massed ranks of the Villa defenders for his first goal of the season.

Fowler increased the advantage six minutes later with the first of his two stunning strikes, scoring from the edge of the area with a shot that was no less ferocious than Ruddock's.

Villa looked set for a hiding, but after Dean Saunders headed badly over and then saw claims for a penalty turned down the visitors snatched a goal seven minutes before the break.

Garry Parker found Guy Whittingham clear in the area and the former Portsmouth man beat David James with a low shot.

Dwight Yorke prodded a half chance over the bar soon after the interval after Jones had seen his clearance roll just past the post before Liverpool struck again after 58 minutes.

Fowler's quick thinking was again decisive as he took advantage by beating a slow Bosnich with a crisp shot into the corner of the net.

Saunders gamely tried to drag Villa back and saw one stinging shot saved by the fingertips of James before skimming the bar with another effort.

Republic Of Ireland international Phil Babb went close for Liverpool before Fowler and McManaman also had opportunities to cap their displays.

McManaman ended a lightning break down the left by cutting inside and curling a shot just past the post. Then Fowler was only inches away from his hat-trick.

Villa gave the scoreline a lop-sided look when Steve Staunton netted against his former club, rolling the ball home after Whittingham's pressure on James had created the opening.

Disappointed Aston Villa manager Ron Atkinson complained about Liverpool's first goal.
Atkinson believed that 'keeper Mark Bosnich controlled Andy Townsend's back pass with his chest, not his hands, so no free kick should have been awarded.

He said: "The referee was 10 yards away and the linesman was 50 yards away with his flag up and it goes on his decision. I thought he controlled it with his chest. And I'd like to see a replay of a penalty I thought we might have had in the first half. I thought at half-time we could still pinch the game after we had weathered their early storm and got ourselves back into the match just before the break. But I was not very happy when we went 3-1 down because I felt some of my players accepted the fact that we were not going to win. I always thought there was going to be goals for us and for an away performance we were in a lot of situations where I would have expected us to score."

Liverpool boss Roy Evans said he did not fully see the Bosnich incident, but added: "I don't give the decisions. It looked the way he went down as if he was going to use his hands, but to be honest I didn't see it."

Two-goal hero Fowler said: "We knew Terry Venables was here but it did not make me play any different. I just tried my best as I have in every other game."

Asked about his nine-goal start to the campaign, Fowler said: "I didn't know how many goals I had - I don't count them." 

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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