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Last gap Fowler stuns Palace and gives Liverpool the edge

Robbie Fowler struck two minutes into injury time at Anfield last night to give Liverpool a slender lead in their Coca-Cola Cup semi- -final against Crystal Palace, just as the Londoners appeared to have ridden the first-leg storm.

Liverpool forced no fewer than 17 corners but Palace, marshalled by Chris Coleman and with goalkeeper Nigel Martyn a commanding presence, held firm until the death.

Steve McManaman, not for the first time, got away on the right, Ian Rush allowed his low cross to run and Fowler connected with his right foot to claim his 24th goal of the season with a low shot into the corner.

Palace, who made three changes from the side beaten by Coventry on Saturday, began determined to give nothing away but they should have been ahead in the sixth minute.

Phil Babb's woeful back-pass put John Salako in possession with no cover in front of David James, but as the former England winger attempted to round the keeper he pushed the ball too far.

Liverpool took that let-off as the cue to push forward, with Mark Walters seeing a lot of the ball on the left.

A Walters shot was deflected wide before Jamie Redknapp, played in by Rob Jones, dragged his 18th minute effort wide of Martyn's goal.

Martyn then denied Rush when the Welshman's back-heeled flick from a Walters corner was dropping into the net.

But for all Liverpool's possession, they rarely threatened and it was Palace who were the width of the woodwork from snatching an interval lead.

Salako, picking up the ball on the Palace right, cut inside Neil Ruddock and when the ball took a slight deflection off Babb, James could only watch as it smacked against a bar, Dean Gordon failing to get real contact on the rebound.

At the start of the second half the unmarked Andy Preece - in because Chris Armstrong was suspended and Iain Dowie cup-tied - headed John Humphrey's right-wing cross wide.

Copyright  - The Scotsman
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