Robbie Fowler claimed a hat-trick as Liverpool overcame Southampton despite two fine goals by Matthew Le Tissier in an action-packed Anfield thriller.
The hat-trick goal four minutes from time was shrouded in confusion after Fowler curled in a free kick from the right.
Ian Rush ran in to confuse goalkeeper Tim Flowers but most observers thought the Welshman failed to connect with the ball, which sneaked home at the far post.
But there had been no question about Fowler's first two goals. The teenage striker pounced after 14 minutes, flicking a perfect downward header beyond the reach of Liverpool transfer-target Flowers from a Rob Jones cross.
His second goal 13 minutes later was even better as he chested down Neil Ruddock's long ball beautifully to take it round his marker and arrow a low drive into the far corner.
But neither of these quality efforts bore comparison with a magnificent Le Tissier effort five minutes before the break. Iain Dowie headed the ball down to Le Tissier, who flicked the ball from his left foot to his right and back onto his left again, comprehensively beating Mark Wright before drilling precisely past Bruce Grobbelaar on the half-volley.
Liverpool began the second half on all out attack and after 62 minutes got their reward when Flowers could only parry Paul Stewart's back-heeled flick from Dominic Matteo's cross into the path of ian Rush, who scored from close range.
But after 78 minutes substitute Glenn Cockerill put Le Tissier through and he clipped the ball deftly beyond Grobbelaar's dive and just inside the post with the outside of his right boot. Flowers pulled off a series of fine saves to keep his side's hopes alive after the break, denying Stewart, Matteo and Rush, and when the ball broke to the unmarked Steve Nicol at the end of Fowler's superb solo run, the woodwork came to the rescue of the busy 'keeper.
Fowler was later confirmed as the scorer of Liverpool's fourth - giving him his first Premiership hat-trick.
Boss Graeme Souness brought the 18-year-old striker into the Anfield press room proudly clutching the match ball and declared : "I think you saw a young man out there today who could one day be anything he wants to be in football. He's played eight games and has now scored ten goals, and that speaks for itself. Apart from the goals, he has a great awareness and a great understanding of the game of football. He is playing against people who have been around the Premiership for many years now and he out-thinks and outwits a lot of them. That's something that will only improve."
Fowler admitted he hadn't been looking to score when he swung in the free-kick to complete his hat-trick. "I saw Rushie make his run and I was trying to find him," he said. "Anyone would be pleased to score three in the Premiership, so I'd say it's better than the five I got in the Coca-Cola Cup. Since I've been in the side the service to the front men has been really good. Anyone who doesn't learn from Ian Rush needs shooting."
Saints manager Ian Branfoot said: "We were 2-0 down before we started to play. The younger players were a bit overawed but once we started playing, I fancied us and thought we would get something out of the game."
He confirmed that Liverpool had made an offer for 'keeper Tim Flowers that had been accepted by Southampton, and that Blackburn had made an offer which had been turned down. There had been no further developments, he stressed.
Flowers was taunted by the Liverpool faithful throughout and Branfoot said: "I thought he did extremely well today under a lot of pressure."
Branfoot said Le Tissier's two goals had come close to being as good as his two against Newcastle.
"Matthew has worked extremely hard during the last five or six weeks. He looks fitter and sharper, and he's getting back to the Matthew Le Tissier that we all love."
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