Articles

No stopping Liverpool

No stopping Liverpool

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"

 

The admirers of Liverpool can now indulge in another game of prediction. Instead of wondering when or if the seemingly invincible side will be beaten this season, it might be more productive to consider when their apparently impregnable defence might next concede a goal.

 

They should have been at their most vulnerable yesterday at Villa Park where the noise was so deafening that the players communicated through hand signals. Even though the FA Cup fourth round tie was televised live, the crowd of more than 46,000 was the biggest for a Villa home game for some seven years.

 

For the intimidating occasion, Kenny Dalglish had to select an unfamiliar left back, Ablett, and employ Nicol for the first time as a central defender. The reshuffle was caused by the absence of Gillespie and Whelan as well as Lawrenson. Liverpool's manager also chose to recall Grobbelaar.

 

His back four were understandably tentative for the first 20 minutes. It was then, as Graham Taylor conceded, that Villa "should have made the most of our opportunities when we had two crosses which should have been tap-ins."

 

Once Liverpool had become accustomed to each other, to the lively environment and to their robust opponents, they moved as smoothly as usual towards yet another club record. Only once were they genuinely in danger of failing to complete their ninth successive fixture during which their goalkeeper has remained unbeaten.

 

Shortly after the hour Daley might have unhinged them. His first attempt was blocked by Venison, his second was parried by Grobbelaar and a third effort, from Gallacher, subsequently struck the referee. Apart from the brief flurry of discomfort, Liverpool's new defence was as sturdy as coiled barbed wire.

 

The Villa attack was subdued until midway through the first half. Keown, fortunate not to concede a penalty when he brought down Aldridge, and Evans closed the central doors but Barnes, McMahon and Houghton started inreasingly to open up the more spacious areas that lay on either side of them.

 

In a competition famed for its romantic tales, it was appropriate that Barnes should ultimately be responsible for dismantling the challenge of the side being rebuilt by his former manager. "Give him five or 10 seconds," Taylor was later to say, "and he will do something that will turn a game."

 

His decisive intervention was an unlikely header in the 56th minute. Aldridge had already struck the bar for the second time before Beardsley released Houghton on the right. His cross was floating behind the advancing Barnes, yet he was still able to lean back and nod with enough power to beat Spink.

 

It was "a great goal" in the opinion of Taylor, who had persuaded Barnes to move from Vicarage Road to Liverpool rather than abroad. "Players of international class, like him and Beardsley, work so hard throughout a game. Even when they were ahead, they never gave us time to rest."

 

Beardsley completed the last of Liverpool's fluent approaches a few minutes from time when he deflected Aldridge's low cross inside the near post. His strike was watched, among others, by Bobby Robson, who is shortly to announce his England squad for the forthcoming trip to Israel.

 

Copyright - The Times

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