Beardsley perfectly at home

Beardsley perfectly at home even on Watford's rice-field

by Stuart Jones of "The Times"


Through all kinds of weather and on all manner of surfaces the quality of Liverpool will shine. No matter how foul the elements or how ludicrous the conditions, they can adapt to them, turn the difficult into the easy and transform a potential farce into yet another triumphant showpiece.


Vicarage Road is not so much a pitch, more of a testing ground. Cut into a mosaic pattern it resembles a footballing skidpan. Players must perform on water, mud, grass and sand. They must do so with a ball that is liable to stick, skim, hop or jump.

Add persistent rain, which dampened the arena, wind which dried it, opponents such as Watford, who were prepared to run willingly around it, and one could have designed a more awkward proposition for Liverpool. For a dozen minutes even their first League defeat of the season seemed a possibility.


Grobbelaar had tipped over Senior's drive and McClelland, without the goalkeeper's assistance, had lifted his attempt in the same direction. But once Liverpool had adjusted, the afternoon became a sparkling exhibition studded with four gems. On a field more suitable for growing rice, their own simple game might have withered. Instead it flourished.


No one made lighter of the heavy conditions than Beardsley. He scored two individual goals that would have been dazzling had the sun been shining on his back and had the earth been firm under his feet. Steve Harrison, the Watford manager, joked later that, "I've just offered 25,000 pounds for him."


He only cost 1.9 million pounds.


Harrison would also have preferred Barnes, a pupil he himself nurtured, for five years, to have been "substitutes ten minutes into the first half rather than ten minutes from the end."


By then Barnes and Aldridge had tapped Liverpool into into an unssailable lead, allowing Kenny Dalglish to introduce Molby for the first time this season.

Although Harrison conceded that "we couldn't get near them for those first 20 minutes after the interval," his side never resorted to illegitimate tactics and their supporters, in spite of the damaging defeat, stood in appreciation after it was over. So, Watford and their crowd (at 23,838, the biggest since Liverpool's visit last season) deserved some consolation.


Blissett, a substitute, provided it. He closed in on one club record (he is now six short of Barnett's total of 144 League goals for Watford) and broke another. In holding off Hansen to reach a through ball he became the first player to beat a Liverpool goalkeeper in 11 fixtures.


"If you have to concede a goal," Dalglish said, "it is better to concede one when you are four up."


But for Coton, the margin would have been more substantial, but in accepting the size of the first League defeat since taking over, Harrison concentrated on the positive aspects, meagre though they were. In spite of their recent recovery, Watford remain a mere two points off the bottom of the first division and have played more games than their rivals.


"We started and finished stongly," he said. "We must maintain our attitude and enthusiasm if we are going to stay up. We may have lost our bearings but we have to keep our heads up. This is our first setback and we've got to be able to handle it."


His audience was still left wondering if, within the next three months, Dalglish might be prompted to utter the same words.

Copyright - The Times

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