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Liverpool rise once again to haunt title challenges

Liverpool rise once again to haunt title challenges

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"

Liverpool started yesterday afternoon amid unaccustomed alarm and discomfort. For the first time in two decades, they found themselves sitting in the basement of the first division but, after an exhibition of stunning authority, they finished in a position more suitable for the reigning League champions.

 

In an hour and a half, Liverpool climbed from twentieth to thirteenth place and rose in stature from the most unlikely relegation candidates to possible title contenders. That may sound far-fetched, but there was an awesome familiarity about the manner in which they took immediate, irresistible control and about the inevitability of the outcome.

 

Nottingham Forest had not previously failed to score at home against domestic opponents and had dropped only two out of 15 home points. Yet Liverpool's superiority was so overwhelming, their control so complete that one home supporter stood up after half an hour and begged them "to give us the bloody ball back".

 

Forest had seen little of it and used it productively scarcely at all. With Lawrenson continuing in his role as a steel girder in midfield, with Johnston willingly prompting at the front and with Gillespie bringing assurance to the backs, Grobbelaar was troubled only by abusive chants.

Hodge, free apparently to move to Queen's Park Rangers for 200,000 pounds but not to Manchester United for 250,000 pounds, did disturb him on three occasions in the final half-hour and so, within a minute, did Bowyer and Davenport.

 

Although Fairclough, Rush's partner for the afternoon, confirmed his reputation as one of the most promising young defenders in the country, danger seeped through the rest of Forest's defence like some poisonous gas.

 

The booking of Hansen was all that interrupted Liverpool's flow, seemingly as effortless as ever, and they scored with their usual efficiency either side of the interval. Dalglish, whose aging talents have yet to me markedly impaired, created the first with a cross designed specifically for Whelan's forehead. With the assistance of Neal, who feels that Liverpool have "broken through a psychological barrier", Dalglish laid on the second as well. His low cross was turned in by Rush, and astonishingly Liverpool have yet to lose a senior game in which the prolific Welshman has claimed a goal.

 

Although he raised his total to 74 in 116 first division fixtures, his three against Benfica last Wednesday were perhaps the most significant. The self-doubt that had enveloped his colleagues during his absence has now blown away and, as Neal said later: "The clocks were turned back this morning and we went back to the old days."

 

The evidence, displayed in front of a live television audience as well as Forest's biggest crowd of the season, will hurt more than those who prematurely dismissed the champions. Tottenham Hotspur, their Milk Cup hosts on Wednesday night, might wish that they had gone for an afternoon stroll rather than watch ITV.

 

Copyright - The Times

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