Articles

Various reports from the Press Association, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

Liverpool safely through

by Peter Went of "Press Association"

Neil Ruddock walked into a European suspension as Liverpool were made to roll up their sleeves to repel Russian invaders Vladikavkaz.

A goalless draw was good enough to send the Merseysiders into Friday's UEFA Cup second round draw, but hard man defender Ruddock will be ruled out of the next stage after collecting his second booking over the two games.

He was cautioned a fortnight ago in Northern Ossetia where Liverpool ground out a superb 2-1 first leg win.

And he went into the book again tonight at Anfield after Liverpool conceded the initiative during a nervy second-half.

It just wasn't Ruddock's night -- and four minutes from time a post prevented him signing off in style with the goal which would have rewarded the Merseysiders' skill and endeavour.

Boss Roy Evans, however, will be relieved with a goalless draw against a side he expected to cause problems.

Evans opted to repeat his first leg five-man midfield formation -- and the only difference this time was that Robbie Fowler was left as the lone raider rather than British record buy Stan Collymore, who has not trained this week because of a throat infection.

With man of the match Steve McManaman ready to join in at every opportunity -- he led the Russians a merry dance in midfield -- Liverpool had threatened to add to their advantage during a bright start.

But they were a bit too hasty in their finishing and Vladikavkaz steadily grew in confidence.

News that fellow Russians Volgograd were leading by two goals at Old Trafford added to their urgency after the interval when coach Valery Gazzaev made a double substitution.

Suddenly, Liverpool were forced to defend deeper and the one-touch triangles involving McManaman, Redknapp and Fowler all but disappeared.

Some of the first-half passing and swift, incisive breaks were reminiscent of Liverpool at their best, but all that changed as the visitors roared forward.

Russian League leaders Vladikavkaz are likely to qualify for next season's European Cup and they certainly tested Liverpool to the full during that second 45 minutes.

Ruddock and keeper David James were giants in defence, while the fans finally got their way when Ian Rush replaced Fowler after 76 minutes in a bid to kick-start Liverpool's performance.

But in the end, Ruddock's effort was the nearest that they came to a breakthrough -- and now he has to take a back seat.

Discipline pulled us through - Evans

A solid performance from Liverpool was enough to give them a 0-0 draw with Spartak Vladikavkaz at Anfield tonight -- and send them through to the second round of the UEFA Cup with a 2-1 aggregate victory.

And manager Roy Evans, in his first European tie as Reds boss, felt his side would profit from their encounter with the talented Russian side.

"I thought we learned a bit of discipline tonight," said the Anfield boss. "We worked really hard for each other. Possibly we defended a bit deep and that was maybe down to my tactics -- but it worked."

"I think they're a fantastic team, but possibly a bit vulnerable at the back and maybe we should have capitalised a bit more. In the end, effort and determination saw us through."

Evans added: "It was a matter of getting through to the next round -- and it's mission accomplished!"

"We said they were a really good side and this makes our first leg performance look even better. You never know how far you are going to go in a competition, but I don't think we'll meet a better team."

More than 35,000 fans turned out and Evans acknowledged: "If we'd stepped out too often we might have been punished. It may not have been the prettiest to watch -- and if there's any flak to take, I'll take it."

"But we are in this together and the fans will understand that we didn't need to chase the game."

Neil Ruddock, who will miss the next round through suspension, said: "The fellow ran into the back of me and I got another booking."

"But the most important thing is that Liverpool are through and I'll go along and cheer them on!"

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Liverpool defence hold firm to see off Russian threat

by William Johnson

LIVERPOOL wobbled at Anfield last night but they were understandably content to let the excellent job they carried out in the away leg prove decisive in what was always going to be a tough UEFA Cup first-round tie against an accomplished Spartak Vladikavkaz outfit.

Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, had warned about complacency; indeed he had extolled the virtue of the opposition who, three points clear with only four games remaining, are on the verge of winning their national title for the first time in their history.

That message was almost endorsed in the first Spartak attack which should have brought a goal for Anatol Kanichev but in the main during a tight first period the visiting threats were minimal.

Liverpool called the tune and will feel they should have extended their aggregate advantage by the interval. Neil Ruddock, who won most aerial duels in defence, won a crucial battle for Michael Thomas' in-swinging corner but was unable to direct a header on target.

The England midfielder showed uncharacteristic hastiness with the angled drive

The same could be said of Jamie Redknapp when Steve McManaman gave him what looked like a scoring pass at the end of a flowing Liverpool passing movement. The England midfielder showed uncharacteristic hastiness with the angled drive, which flew well wide.

Redknapp was at the sharp end of another incisive Liverpool break when McManaman got behind the Spartak defence and crossed invitingly for his international colleague. This time Redknapp opted against the shot, choosing to aim for the in-rushing Robbie Fowler, who was unable to make contact with the pass.

Liverpool's anxiety grew as the finishing line got closer and their opponents demonstrated how to take the initiative without rushing into relentless attacking. It would have been a nervous last 40 minuutes for the Merseysiders if Inal Djioev, having beaten David James to Kasimov's corner, had found the target with a close-range header.

Kasimov was then given a chance to shoot from a similar position to that from which he scored a fortnight ago following a body check by Ruddock on Omari Tetradze, an offence which rules Ruddock out of Liverpool's next European engagement because he was also booked in the first leg.

James, who allowed a swinging free kick to slip through his grasp in Vladikavkaz, was alert to the danger on this occasion.

Liverpool would have liked a goal to confirm their wobbly passage and McManaman was closest to providing it in a Spartak-dominated second period but, after a thrilling dribble, failed to hit the target from Redknapp's return pass.

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Stalemate suits Liverpool

by Dave Hadfield of "The Independent"

The hard work, it turned out, had all been done in the first leg, as one of Liverpool's less distinguished European performances still saw them safely through to the second round of the Uefa Cup.

In a game of little real excitement, Liverpool's 2-1 lead they brought home from Vladikavkaz rarely came under threat and if they were well below their best, they will be relieved to have negotiated this first hurdle.

There were significant changes up front for both sides at Anfield last night. Stan Collymore was ruled out with a throat infection, leaving Robbie Fowler to stand alone, something he looked eminently capable of doing in scoring four goals against Bolton on Saturday, while Spartak had back their leading scorer last season the Azerbaijan captain, Nazim Suleimanov.

It was Fowler who made his mark first, flicking the ball cleverly into the path of Steve McManaman, who shot into the side netting.

For all Liverpool's current swagger and confidence, Spartak also had an early chance, Suleimanov getting the ball to Anatol Kanichev who was not far off target.

Michael Thomas, getting another of his rare first-team outings, had the ball in the net after 20 minutes, but the flag was already up for offside after an interchange of passes with Fowler.

Clear chances were at a premium as both sides found it difficult to bypass a congested midfield, but McManaman's cross, swept low across the area, could have paid off if it had reached Jamie Redknapp at a better angle. There were intimations of a goal to make the tie safe as well when Neil Ruddock came bearing down on Thomas's corner, but his header flew too high.

Spartak made two substitutions at half-time and the switch to attack almost paid off. A downward header from Inal Djioev bounced past the post, and Bakhva Tedeen shot just wide of the target.

Omare Tetradze became the first Spartak player into the Czech referee's book when he fouled McManaman. Redknapp's free-kick was too straight to trouble the goal-keeper or to quieten the Liverpool fans calls for Ian Rush to be introduced.

Liverpool were still a little ragged. Even when McManaman produced the best run of the match, down the left-wing, a return pass from Redknapp ended with a weak, lofted shot.

They had a scare when a foul by Neil Ruddock was ruled just outside the area and Murgidal Kasimov's free-kick swerved into David James's arms.

Even the arrival of that most distinguished of European campaigners, Rush, failed to ignite Liverpool. As he knows better than most, it is the result rather than the manner of it that matters in these affairs.

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