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Liverpool's style converts even grudging admirers

Liverpool's style converts even grudging admirers

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"

Defeat sits on Alan Ball like a heavy, black cloud. Losing invariably stirs the dark of the fiery emotions of the Portsmouth manager and provokes scowls. Since his side was also the victim of misfortune, his reaction on Saturday was therefore uncommonly and laudably cheerful.

"Liverpool play my type of football," he said. "The way they work for each other, close down the opposition and pass the ball - fabulous stuff. They are a great side with right good players. If you have to get beaten, it is nice to enjoy it. I enjoyed watching that today."

Ball admitted that he was envious of the season ticket-holders at Anfield, but they would have persuaded him that Liverpool's triumph was one of their least attractive and least convincing. So would Kenny Dalglish and he offered his own confirmation during an appraisal that was equally magnanimous.

Liverpool's customary early vulnerability might have been severely punished by Portsmouth, "a better side than they have been credit for." Quinn allowed them to escape. Three times in the opening nine minutes, he re-enacted his youth and stood, as he once used to do on the Kop, frozen in admiration.

With 10 unbeaten games behind them, Portsmouth needed no more than an initial nudge of encouragement. Without it, the full momentum of their challenge lasted effectively until the interval. They were then pushed in the opposite direction, though one of their own men was inadvertently resposible.

Gilbert, stretching in vain throughout the afternoon to block the path of Barnes, had a foot in the first goal. "A deflection changed the course of our game at Anfield," Ball claimed, "and a fluke had the same effect today." Only half as much damage was subsequently inflicted as last October.

Barnes' second and, notably, his fifth in his last six appearances, could not have been comparatively cleaner. Ushered in by Beardsley and Houghton, he stroked in a goal which was hailed by Ball as "a classic". Dalglish conceded that the description did not fit the game itself.

Nor, doubtless, will it be applicable on Saturday. Queen's Park Rangers, who are now at the head of the queue of those waiting to be the first League club to beat Liverpool, have a unique advantage. Their artificial surface, less acceptable even than that of Luton Town, is despised by the leaders.

Liverpool's defence, whose efficiency tends to be overshadowed by the proficiency of their attack, must protect the club's sequence as well as their own. Their goalkeeper, who has remained unbeaten in more than two-thirds of their 34 fixtures, has conceded only one goal in the last 13.

Copyright - The Times

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