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Walsh strikes as Anfield has that familiar air of inevitability

Walsh strikes as Anfield has that familiar air of inevitability

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"

 

Whereas Old Trafford had vibrated with apprehension on Saturday, Anfield was filled with the heady air on inevitability yesterday afternoon. Whereas Mancunians had formed huge queues in stifling heat to view their team's fresh challenge for the championship, Liverpudlians wandered in almost unhindered to find a place in the sunshine. They, after all, had seen it all before.

 

But this is a changed team. There is, crucially, no Souness and, temporarily at least, no Rush either. He is to test his fitness in a practice match today and, rather than undergoing a cartilage operation and missing the first 10 weeks, he may be able to resume his normal duties much earlier than expected. If he is selected, that is.

 

Rush's understudy, Walsh, wasted no time in announcing his arrival at Anfield. He scored what is likely to remain the fastest goal of the season. Whelan, looking as though he has regained his form of two years ago, intercepted decisively and invited Walsh to run through and beat McAllister. The official time elapsed was 14 seconds.

 

The atmosphere was immediately enriched by the usual choral chants. For some 20 minutes the songs for Europe continued unabated as the champions threatened to swamp a West Ham side shorn of such experienced representatives as Brooking, Devonshire, Lampard, Parkes and Orr. Some of their silken moves were dazzling even by their own elevated standards.

 

But for McAllister, Liverpool would have increased their lead during this period. With his fingertips he denied Walsh, after Dalglish had shown one of his supremely imaginative touches, and with his body he thwarted Kennedy, put through by a delightful chip from Molby, enlisted from Ajax to fill the enormous chasm left by Souness in the heart of their midfield.

 

Molby looked the part. Tall, muscular and elegant, he enjoyed initial success in his new home. But, as West Ham began to climb cautiously out of their own bemusement, so he faded into the background. For almost an hour, at a time when Souness would have assumed control, Molby's contribution was scarcely noticeable.

 

Hansen and Lawrenson, the central defenders who were so accustomed to handing responsibility over their departed captain, occasionally had little choice but to carry the ball far upfield themselves, leaving gaps behind them. A sharper attack than West Ham's might have punished them more severely. As it was, there were moments when Liverpool's authority was shaken if not broken.

 

Neal cleared off the line from Barnes, Swindlehurst hooked narrowly over the bar, Pike's forceful header was saved by Grobbelaar, and Goddard, released through the open middle by Stewart, lost control as he closed in on the edge of the area. But West Ham, unable to complete their recovery, were to suffer heavily by the end.

 

After the audience had grown increasingly disenchanted with a shattered jigsaw of a game, Liverpool suddenly lifted themselves out of their own unusual confusion and finished as they had started. For the opening and closing 20 minutes, at least they recalled echoes of seasons past.

 

With a quarter of an hour to go, Walsh, who like his new colleagues was to visit both the highest peaks and the lowest valleys during his first appearance at home, lofted a cross into the path of Wark, always a danger when breaking from midfield, and he nodded home with both accuracy and power.

 

Ten minutes later Wark, in attempting to use Walsh as a wall, found that a West Ham defender had generously given him another opportunity. At full speed, he accepted it with a firm 20-yard drive. For the moment at least, there are not clouds in the air of inevitability.

Copyright - The Times

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