Robbie's message to Tel

Robbie Fowler struck at the double in front of England boss Terry Venables to kill off 10-man Leeds and move Liverpool into second place in the Premiership. Venables controversially omitted 20-year-old Fowler from this week's England squad get-together, despite the run of form that made him player of the month for December.

Fowler responded to the challenge of putting his international case by taking his tally for the season to 23 with two strikes in six minutes after Gary Kelly was sent off for bringing down Rob Jones in the box.

And with spectacular goals in the final minute from two of the men capped by Venables -- Stan Collymore and Neil Ruddock, who had shown the way before the break -- Liverpool proved they were ready to pounce should Newcastle show any signs of slipping up.

Yet the goal glut could hardly have been anticipated in the opening spell, with Ruddock's 27th-
minute header almost the first incident of note as Leeds -- with Lee Chapman isolated up front -- were quite content to sit back and blunt what little threat Liverpool posed.

Apart from one Steve McManaman shot wide of the target, nothing had happened of any consequence before Carlton Palmer gave the ball away to Jason McAteer. David Wetherall's brave block on McManaman momentarily got Palmer out of jail but from the reslting corner Liverpool took the lead. McManaman played short to Jones and with Leeds static and ball-watching, Ruddock powered in to head home his fourth of the season. The goal was what the game desperately needed, and only Mark Beeney's agility prevented Fowler from doubling their lead after neat interplay between McAteer and McManaman had created the opening.

Belatedly, Leeds realised they were allowed to attack as well and David James was called into action three times in the five minutes before the break. The first save was the best, a flying leap to turn aside Gary Speed's sweetly-struck effort, and then the keeper foiled Rod Wallace by his right-hand post and a Gary McAllister pile-driver on the stroke of half-time.

After the break, though, it was one-way traffic. Jones was denied what seemed as blatant a penalty as the one that was to be given when he was bundled over by Wetherall, Fowler's effort was saved and McManaman shot wide.

But then Fowler took centre stage once again. It was from the striker's ball that Jones was brought crashing to the ground by Kelly, the Irish international barely off the pitch before Fowler stroked home the spot-kick.

Six minutes later it was Fowler again, giving another demonstration of his growing understanding with Collymore by moving to the back post as the £8.5 million man galloped down the right and converting number 23 of the season when the ball came over. For Leeds, who had replaced the labouring Chapman with Andy Couzens after Kelly's departure, it had long become a damage limitation exercise -- and it was a task in which they failed miserably as Liverpool put icing on their cake late on.

Collymore's goal was the pick of the game, a superb strike after McManaman and Fowler had combined to roll the ball into his path. And Liverpool were not content with four. The game was deep into injury time as McAteer prepared to take a corner on the right, and Ruddock -- determined to add to the attack -- gained reward when the ball dropped perfectly for his left foot with his volley as unstoppable as Liverpool's momentum.

Liverpool boss Roy Evans and Leeds counterpart Howard Wilkinson agreed that the "harsh" dismissal of Elland Road full-back Gary Kelly had been the decisive moment in the Anfield side's 5-0 win.

The Republic of Ireland international received his marching orders just after the hour when he brought down Rob Jones as the England defender dashed into the box. Robbie Fowler converted the spot kick to extend the lead given Liverpool by Neil Ruddock's first-half header, and further goals from Fowler, Stan Collymore and Ruddock completed the rout.

Wilkinson raged: "I've said before that football is about being fair, with the players supposed to be fair and honest, and the rules as well. But I just think the rules as they stand are an injustice. I don't think what Gary Kelly did was preventing a goal scoring chance by deliberately bringing Jones down. He did what I expect him to do which is go for the ball. Once he committed an error of judgement the penalty is right, but I just don't see that that should mean a sending off. The courts say that you can't be done twice for the same offence."

Evans concurred adding: "It was a harsh punishment for him. I think sending him off was over the top because he had attempted to get the ball. It has to be a goal scoring chance and you've got to remember that it was Rob Jones who was going through!"

The victory took Liverpool up into second in the Premiership, 12 points behind leaders Newcastle, and Evans was clearly delighted at the performance of his men.

"Even before the penalty I thought we were worth the lead we had and after that we kept it quite simple, maintained good possession and took the chances," said the Anfield boss.

Copyright - "Press Association"

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