Reds home and dry on bitter night

by Ken Gaunt of "Press Association"

Liverpool found themselves home and dry tonight and still well on course for the Premiership title.

Manager Roy Evans emphasised before the game the need for his side to re-establish their credibility at Anfield and pick up maximum points.

And they did not disappoint him -- or the Kop -- with a vintage display that left Leeds reeling.

Stan Collymore took his tally to 13 for the season with a double tonight after Robbie Fowler had given Liverpool the lead.

Jamie Redknapp sewed up a comprehensive victory with his first League goal of the season three minutes from time.

Torrential rain throughout the day had put the match in doubt but referee Alan Wilkie gave the thumbs up after a pitch inspection two hours before kick-off.

Leeds must have wished for a postponement as they have started shipping goals after looking so secure over the last couple of months.

Manager George Graham was looking for his team to bounce back after the FA Cup defeat by First Division Portsmouth on Saturday, but they never came to terms with Liverpool's power and pace.

Graham employed Lucas Radebe to man-mark Steve McManaman but he picked up a booking after only 39 seconds for a challenge on the England winger.

Leeds keeper Nigel Martyn twice came to Leeds' rescue before Fowler opened the scoring after 22 minutes.

Collymore went on a surging run after being released by Fowler. He got away from three players only to see his shot tipped round the post by the keeper.

Then Fowler saw his effort beaten away by Martyn before getting off the mark following a sweeping move.

Stig Bjornebye picked out Collymore on the left and his cross into the six yard box was precise.

And Fowler, unmarked, was able to steer the ball beyond Martyn for his 22nd goal of the season.

Leeds should have levelled after 35 minutes when Gary Kelly and Tony Dorigo linked up with Liverpool defender Dominic Matteo failing to cut the ball out. Rod Wallace was left in the clear but from six yards out thudded his shot against the bar.

It proved to be a costly miss as a minute later Liverpool went 2-0 ahead when John Barnes dispossessed Lee Bowyer and steered the ball through to Collymore. His finish was perfect, giving Martyn no chance.

Collymore was back on target two minutes later when McManaman skipped away from Radebe and squared the ball into the penalty area.

Collymore came racing in to steer the ball beyond Martyn and give Liverpool a distinct advantage going into the second-half.

Leeds boss Graham brought on former Liverpool idol Ian Rush for the last 17 minutes and he was given a thunderous reception by the home fans.

But the travelling Leeds fans were less than pleased at his arrival and were obviously looking for Tony Yeboah to get a run.

And Graham was left in no doubt about the message in their chants 'Are You Wilko in Disguise', a clear reference to the former manager Howard Wilkinson who captured Rush in the summer.

Substitute Patrik Berger should have extended Liverpool's lead when Jason McAteer put him in clear, but he hurried his shot from the edge of the area and sent it high into the crowd.

Redknapp completed the scoring three minutes from time when he blasted in a fine free kick from the edge of the area as keeper Martyn was still setting up his defensive wall.

Leeds manager George Graham believes the title race will still be fought out between Manchester United, Liverpool and his former club Arsenal.

Goals from Stan Collymore (2), Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp gave Liverpool a comprehensive 4-0 victory tonight against Graham's side at Anfield.

And they remain one point behind United who defeated Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury in an explosive match.

Graham said: "Liverpool are a very good side and I don't think there is much to choose between them, Manchester United and Arsenal."

"They are all equal and any one of those three clubs could win it. It is that tight."

"We came to Liverpool and hoped to make it difficult but some of the goals were elementary."

"The second-half was a damage limitation exercise but then we got hit with a sucker punch from a free kick."

But Liverpool manager Roy Evans remained cautiously optimistic despite this stirring performance on a dreadful night.

"I don't think it is a two-horse race," he said. "There are 12 games to go but we will be doing everything we can."

"It was a very pleasing performance against a team we knew would make it difficult for us."

"Our movement in the first half was superb and Steve McManaman dragged (Lucas) Radebe all over the park."

Graham incurred the wrath of the travelling Leeds army by bringing on former Liverpool idol Ian Rush, instead of Tony Yeboah, for the last 17 minutes.

The Leeds boss was greeted with chants of 'Are you Wilko in disguise?', a clear reference to former manager Howard Wilkinson, who signed Rush on a free transfer in the summer.

Graham said: "I am not afraid to make decisions that I feel are right for the club."

"If you do well the fans will cheer you, so have got to accept the flak as well. It is part of the job."

"Rush was returning to his old club and Tony is the kind of player who takes a long time to get fit."

Copyright - Press Association

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