Terry Venables' chief scout Ted Buxton was watching as England outcast Le Tissier, who had already collected his fifth booking of the season for a foul on Ian Rush, slid in clumsily on defender Phil Babb in the 68th minute. John Barnes led the mercy pleas from Liverpool and home players but Banbury official Dermot Gallagher showed none as he flourished the yellow card again, followed by the red. The 27-year-old Saints captain was cheered to the dressing room by the home fans.
For Le Tissier this offence is yet another nail in the coffin of his international ambitions.
By the time he departed, his side were already beaten, having surrendered the early lead he created as McManaman showed the kind of skill England tried unsuccessfully to harness in Norway earlier this month. Roaming at will, he scored twice and then made the 73rd minute third for partner Jamie Redknapp which plunged Southampton, watched by new 850,000 pound capture Barry Venison, to their sixth defeat in 10 games this season and stretched Venison's old club's unbeaten run to 10 games since September 9.
Southampton could not have had a better start, David Hughes sending David James full length to earn the second minute corner from which they went ahead. Gordon Watson claimed the goal though Sky replays suggested Le Tissier's curler from the left might have sailed in untouched as the little striker stooped low at the near post.
The home side hustled and got tight on Liverpool, threatening to stifle their natural passing game. Had Hughes hit the target five minutes later when Le Tissier, grasping closer to his old form, slipped him clear, it would surely have been a different story.
But slowly Redknapp and McManaman broke the shackles. Supported by new signing Jason McAteer and with Robbie Fowler buzzing around the box, Southampton's five-man midfield disintegrated. Nine-goal Fowler had already brought Dave Beasant dashing to the edge of his box and clashed off the ball with Francis Benali before he set up the 22nd minute equaliser.
Southampton claimed he was offside as he dashed onto Redknapp's pass on the right, but he was allowed to go on and pull the ball back for McManaman to wallop in from the edge of the box.
The same trio nearly earned McManaman his second moments later, Beasant saving well.
Southampton, who gave a first start to Paul Tisdale, a 22-year-old with A-levels in Art, Law and English, had few chances to restablish their advantage.
Neil Shipperley wasted the two best, firing straight at James when Tisdale prodded him through just before the break and then heading woefully over from five yards when Watson's weaving run and cross found him unmarked at the far post.
Beasant meanwhile was keeping his finger in the dyke, making a series of excellent saves, none better than his 52nd minute parry from Steve Harkness. But his resistance crumbled two minutes later when McAteer, in for the suspended Rob Jones, swooped past Charlton down the right, Saints claiming in vain that the ball briefly went out of play. He cut into the box and hammered a right foot shot which slammed off the chest of the goalkeeper back into the path of the predatory McManaman.
It was all over in the 73rd minute, McManaman running at the 10-men home side before finding Redknapp whose left foot gave Beasant no chance.
Matthew Le Tissier's dismissal against Liverpool had nothing to do with his England frustration, Southampton manager Dave Merrington insisted after today's 3-1 defeat. The international outcast was shown the red card for two late fouls on Ian Rush and Phil Babb, classed as "ungentlemanly conduct" by referee Dermot Gallagher. "I'm not sure about the first one -- it might have been a bit 'iffy' -- but I have no grumbles with the second. He's gone in a bit late and the referee had no option but to show him the second yellow card," said Merrington. "It's nothing to do with the England squad, more to do with the fact that he's trying so hard. When he's at the top of his form everything he tries comes off, but at the moment they're not happening for him. It's frustration with himself. We've tried lots of things to help him and he's just got to get back on the training field and work it out. Sometimes when you're going through a bad spell, you have to go back to simplicity and start again."
Liverpool's players tried hard to persuade Mr Gallagher not to dismiss Le Tissier and two-goal man-of-the-match Steve McManaman said afterwards: "It was a pity he had to go."
Liverpool boss Roy Evans added: "It's sad in a game that has had no ill-feeling. He's got sent off for two bookable offences but in the old football they were never bookable offences. It makes the game look ridiculous."
Saints have now lost six out of 10 games this season but hope the signing of Barry Venison, to be completed tomorrow, will give them a lift after they threw away a goal start at The Dell.
"No grumbles, they're a good side and I'm delighted with the way my lads worked," added Merrington.
But Evans had a moan at his side for not following the high-scoring lead of Newcastle and Manchester United in finishing off the home team. "We couldn't have won more easily but we could have won by more," he said. "For all the possession we had in the last 20 minutes it was a bit negative. On the back of a 3-1 win away from home it's sensible to have a little go -- then it becomes constructive criticism rather than sour grapes. We over-elaborated but if we had kept it simple we could have had three or four more goals. I thought Steve McManaman had an average game. He didn't want to pass to a yellow shirt."
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