Liverpool fail to bridge the gulf on the field

by Gerry Harrison of "The Times" 

Liverpool, more than most of us, will have that Monday morning feeling after their 1-0 World Club Championship defeat here yesterday. It is bad enough that their scheduled return to London after an 18-hour flight is at 5.15am, followed by a five hour coach journey back to Liverpool. It is worse that the nature of their defeat by Independiente, of Buenos Aires, should be so unsatisfactory.

Despite being deprived of Mark Lawrenson because of a hamstring injury in training here, Liverpool were much the better team for most of the match. Independiente had more chances, perhaps, but Liverpool controlled the game territorially, dominating the second half, but never looked like scoring. That in itself was a tribute to how well the Argentinians and their Uruguayan goalkeeper defended. It was also a commentary on Liverpool's lack of ability to supply the ammunition for the marksmen up front.

Dalglish was outstanding, Rush is regaining his sharpness by the day, but there was neither the stealth nor subtlety to correct their bad start. After only six minutes Marangoni, once of Sunderland, picked up a rebound. His floated pass over Liverpool's last line of defence left Percudani free. He kept cool enough to beat Grobbelaar comfortably.

Thereafter, it was a story of Liverpool's struggle to get back on top, the occasional Independiente counter-attack, and some inadequate Liverpool finishing.

Neither side liked the brown, bumpy pitch. Liverpool thought the referee was biased against them and should have awarded them two penalties. Independiente believed the linesman's decisions were questionable in the early stages when they were getting the better of Liverpool's ponderous defence.

They both had a point. It is a long way to go for inadequate services and the prize-money of $200,000 is little consolation. One of FIFA's first jobs this week will be to investigate the claim by the Brazilian FA that the match should have been declared illegal because the referee, Romualdo Filho, from Santos City, was in the middle of a two-month ban.

So no European club has won this title in five years. On the bright side, Liverpool continue their rise from mediocrity and in some small way this affair could have done something to repair the relationship between England and Argentina. It was a competitive game, and the behaviour and sportsmanship were reasonable. There were only two cautions, Liverpool's Dane Jan Molby was booked for uttering a four-letter Anglo-Saxon swear word, which allegedly was the only English the Brazilian referee understood. Long live international sport.

The Liverpool manager, Joe Fagan, said he had no excuses for his team's defeat. "Independiente are a good defensive tactical team and we could find no way through," he said. "The weather was ideal, we were just as fit as they were. The South Americans have better ball control than we do. We were disappointed with the result but I wasn't disappointed with the display."

Copyright - The Times

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