Articles

Grobbelaar blows it

Grobbelaar blows it

By Ken Rogers of "The Liverpool Echo"

Hero or villain ? Genius or clown ? Will the real Bruce Grobbelaar please stand up.

For 73 minutes the controversial keeper was in line for Liverpool's man-of-the-match award as the 134th Merseyside derby unfolded in dramatic fashion at Anfield.

Then the Jekyll and Hyde streak that haunts him mercilessly, more often than not in front of a television audience of millions, reared its head once again to leave the red army stunned. Kevin Ratcliffe's 25-yard shot took a slight deflection off Gary Lineker, but Grobbelaar still seemed to have the effort covered every inch of the way.

The ball suddenly squirmed away from him and rolled into the net and in that split second the Anfield star contrived to make himself the scapegoat for a defeat that left Everton riding high at the top of the table, eight points clear of their great Merseyside rivals and three ahead of second placed Manchester United.

It was inevitable that Grobbelaar found himself facing more flak than he ever encountered as a bush soldier in Zimbabwe, but Liverpool were on a loser long before Ratcliffe made his speculative strike for glory. Frustrating injury doubts meant that Kenny Dalglish's team plans had to remain shrouded in mystery until the kick off, while Howard Kendall's side effectively picked itself. Jan Molby was used as an auxiliary attacker with Paul Walsh and Dalglish both unavailable for selection.

The battle plan, be it an emergency one, clearly didn't work in a hectic first half in which Everton always looked the most likely to score. The big Dane was often caught in no-man's land between Ian Rush and midfield and Liverpool's chances were restricted to a shot and a header from the busy Ronnie Whelan, both efforts whistling wide of the target.

A shin injury forced Molby out of the action at the interval, but Dalglish would almost certainly have shuffled his ranks anyway to try to step up the pressure on the Blues.

Everton, with Reid an imposing and inspiring character in midfield, came out fighting from the start. Grobbelaar, having survived a late fitness test on his injured elbow, had to launch himself to his right to hold a fierce Kevin Richardson volley after just six minutes.

The keeper was then involved in an incredible mix-up with Mark Lawrenson which ended with a desperate goal line clearance by the Eire defender and loud penalty appeals by the visitors who claimed Richardson was impeded as he tried to cash in.

Both teams made half-time substitutions, Kevin MacDonald coming in for Molby with Johnston switching to the attack. Alan Harper replaced Paul Bracewell who continues to be plagued by a nagging foot injury. The one thing that didn't change was the fierce commitment on both sides.

A penetrating through ball from Whelan saw Neville Southall race out to save brilliantly at the feet of Johnston and at the other end Grobbelaar palmed a Trevor Steven shot wide at full stretch. The brilliance of both saves made a mockery of the incident that followed, the Liverpool keeper's moment of agony unfolding and - true to form - the goal getting the full action replay treatment on television later in the evening when it was flashed across our screens five times.

We might have been discussing a very different derby finale if Pat van den Hauwe had not cleared off the line moments later after Ian Rush, who battled away tirelessly, rounded Southall and slid his shot goalwards. It was left to another lethal striker to have the last word, Gary Lineker getting in behind the home defence 13 minutes from time to clip an inch perfect shot beyond the advancing Grobbelaar - his 30th goal of the season.

The England striker had a comparatively quiet afternoon, yet he tucked away his one chance with clinical precision, the hallmark of a top class striker. His supreme confidence reflects the mood of the champions. They have got that title feeling once again and they are going to take some shifting at the top.

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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