Stan Collymore set up three goals and scored one in his first Premiership match against his old club Nottingham Forest as Liverpool staged a dramatic fight back after leaking two goals in the first 18 minutes. The morning papers had been buzzing with stories of the £8.5 million striker's planned appeal bid to get his 5% cut of his transfer fee from Forest.
But Collymore had his eyes firmly set on football business as he turned in one of his most effective performances for Liverpool as they moved to within seven points of leaders Newcastle.
Collymore's goal after 62 minutes came courtesy of a defensive blunder, Steve Chettle and goalkeeper Mark Crossley getting in a tangle as the striker chased a John Barnes long ball.
The Liverpool star's run was more in hope than expectation, but he was presented with a relatively simple chance to steer the ball into an empty net.
The striker had suffered "Judas" taunts from the visiting fans, but they could only watch in resigned silence as Collymore and his new colleagues celebrated right in front of them on the pitch.
Liverpool had found themselves a goal down in the 13th minute after Steve McManaman lost possession to Paul McGregor in a dangerously deep position. McGregor fed Ian Woan whose instant through-ball sent England midfielder Steve Stone scampering clear of the home defence to slot a low drive neatly inside the post. McGregor played an even more telling role in the second goal five minutes later, crossing low from the right flank for Woan to tuck the ball away with almost embarrassing ease at the near post.
But Liverpool began their recovery in the 31st minute when Collymore crossed from the left for Robbie Fowler to head deftly across Crossley and into the net for his 19th goal of the season.
Then Fowler twisted athletically to unleash a dipping drive that Crossley tipped superbly over his bar.
But after 41 minutes Fowler got the equaliser Liverpool by then deserved -- and it was almost identical to his first goal. Collymore crossed from the left for Fowler to head, and although Crossley this time got a hand to the ball he could not keep it out. A minute from the interval Collymore surged powerfully down the inside right channel and arrowed a powerful low drive just wide of the far post.
Fowler came close to completing his hat-trick in the closing stages, Crossley again tipping over his dipping drive. But with three minutes left Forest's misery and Collymore's satisfaction were complete when he fired in yet another left wing cross. And with Fowler hunting his treble, defender Colin Cooper forced the ball into his own net as he tried desperately to clear.
Liverpool manager Roy Evans praised his team's character tonight after watching them fight back from two goals down to beat Nottingham Forest. "I think we were still singing Auld Lang Syne for the first 25 minutes," joked Evans after the 4-2 Anfield victory. "We made a horrendous start defensively. "But I have got to take my hat off to them. They are a frustrating bunch but what character they showed when they were 2-0 down."
Evans felt Liverpool could have been ahead by the interval and thoroughly deserved to win.
He said: "It was a tremendous game from a spectator's point of view and our spectators were different class. When we went 2-0 down, they didn't half get behind us."
Evans admitted that Forest could easily have been 3-0 up, with Ian Woan missing a headed opportunity. But he added: "After that I thought we had so many efforts at goal it was unbelievable." "That is the frustrating thing about them -- they can be so fantastic but in that early period they were so poor."
Evans said of Stan Collymore: "He is the centre of attention because he came from Forest and because of all the off-the-field rubbish that goes on. But when it came to the football he turned in a great football performance from our point of view. His last three or four performances have been top class and he has had a hand in goals in the last four games He is fitting into the team pattern. He is keeping his own personality but also providing a platform for other people to play off."
Forest boss Frank Clark said: "Stan is a good player -- there has never been any doubt about that. If you give him that sort of room he will hurt you. It was as if at 2-0 we suddenly thought 'we can win this game' and we just seemed to take a step back, everybody. From Liverpool's first goal going in until half-time we were an absolute shambles and we were fortunate to come off at 2-2. I thought we fought our way back into a little bit and got into the game after that but the third goal was a real killer -- you can't give a team like Liverpool goals like that."
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