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Fowler back with a bang

Robbie Fowler dramatically revived his Anfield partnership with Ian Rush and delivered an historic victory for Liverpool in the 150th Merseyside derby.

The 18-year-old, back after a two-month absence, and his veteran mentor both scored memorable goals in front of football's most famous Spion Kop, sadly celebrating its last derby game before demolition and replacement by a sterile all-seater section this summer.

They cancelled out Dave Watson's header which was a false dawn for new Everton boss Mike Walker in his first exposure to the intense and unique rivalry between Stanley Park's famous neighbours.
Instead, a magnificent last-minute save by David James from Peter Beagrie at the end of an action-packed second half, gave Anfield's rookie manager Roy Evans only the second victory of his six-match reign.

This was a rare occasion when the bi-annual party between the Merseyside giants passed the rest of football by, with nothing but local pride at stake.

But that was more than enough to invest the game with all its usual passion and excitement.
The teams were led out by Roy Castle, the entertainer launching an appeal for funds for research into lung cancer, the illness he is battling so bravely.

For 20 minutes it was frantic, fierce but toothless. Matt Jackson was booked for slicing through Rush, both goalkeepers were comfortably onto shots from Ronnie Whelan and Peter Beagrie in the gusty wind which made conditions difficult.

But then another Julian Dicks foul on Preki sparked the game into life. The Yugoslav picked himself up to deliver a perfect free-kick onto the edge of the six-yard box where Dave Watson rose to plop a header past the unbalanced James.

But Watson's euphoria was punctured within 30 seconds as Liverpool went straight from the restart to equalise. Rush's volley was set up by Redknapp and Dicks, his 16th goal of the season and the 25th of his record haul in Merseyside meetings.

Man-of-the-match Steve McManaman was involved in a punishing duel with Everton's stand-in centre-half Ian Snodin, who was twice fortunate to escape a caution. When McManaman got the better of him in the 44th minute, he was only denied by a flying save by Neville Southall.

But within seconds the Welsh goalkeeper was grasping thin air as John Barnes' sweet through ball put Fowler away. With the linesman's flag staying down, his crisp and accurate low drive into the corner reopened an account which had brought him 15 goals from 24 games before he fractured a shinbone in January.

Southall, making a record-equalling 34th derby league appearance, kept Everton in the game, saving well from Rush and then breathtakingly from McManaman. Surprised by the England Under-21's dipping 20 yard shot on the turn, he arched back to claw the ball out and then recovered to deny Fowler as it ran loose. But Everton, who have climbed close to safety under Walker, did not take advantage of his performance.

Preki wasted a good chance, while Beagrie whistled a shot just wide. But the costliest miss was Watson's in the 71st minute, firing over an exposed goal from 14 yards.

They deserved a draw but Beagrie's last-gasp strike looked like securing it, James flew across goal to make the one-handed save which puts Liverpool ahead by 56 wins to Everton's 50 in the derby league sequence.

"To come back was great, to score was a bonus," said Fowler.
"It's extremely special to me because it's a Merseyside derby. All the fans will be gutted to see the Kop go at the end of the season but it's nice to leave them with a happy memory. It was a great ball from John Barnes and I hit it well. But I thought it was going wide until it just crept in at the far post."

Fowler renewed his partnership with Ian Rush, who scored his 25th goal in Merseyside meetings to give new manager Roy Evans only his second win in six games.

It left Everton's new manager Mike Walker gutted: "I didn't think we deserved to lose," he said.
"It was a great day apart from the result, everything I expected. But it's the result that matters most and we didn't get it - it's three points down the drain."

Evans said: "Obviously I'm delighted. It's customary of us to give everyone a start but for once we dragged it back and deserved to win."

Evans, in charge at Anfield after 30 years as a player and in the backroom, added: "It's a proud day for me. But all the years I've been here I've always wanted to win the derby game desperately, whether it was as reserve team coach or in my current job. That's what derby games are all about if you are a Liverpudlian you either leave them elated or gutted. Everton have been crowing over us for the last few months - now it's our turn."

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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