By Dermot Clarke
A little over a week ago, Gerard Houllier probably had the suitcase out from beneath the bed. A second dismal 1-0 defeat in a row an trip to Leeds coming up and then Arsenal and United to follow. He must have been thinking, this is curtains.
Liverpool began to play the football they are capable of last week at Elland Road, though. They fell behind to an own goal by Rigobert Song, but kept the heads up and took the points with goals from Titi Camara and Lucas Radebe, who returned the O.G. compliment.
Dave O’Leary was disappointed with his charges. It was rated as a poor Leeds display by many and few recognized Liverpool’s part in the defeat. If O’Leary had been at Anfield last Saturday, he might have forgiven his side, because the truth is in their last two games, Liverpool resembled the Reds of old. On Saturday, they didn’t just beat Arsenal, they ran them ragged.
Gerard Houllier spent a lot of money in the preseason, but it was a player purchased last term that may prove to be his most astute signing. Rigobert Song had an excellent game on Saturday and indeed against Leeds on Monday. The young Cameroon player, who in fact is a veteran of two World Cups, seems to be improving with each game.
Robbie Fowler, who became a father on Thursday with the birth of daughter, Louise, opened the scoring with a thunderous drive from 25 yards on 9 minutes. Patrik Berger’s free-kick took a deflection before going in and wrapping it up late on but in between Liverpool hustled for everything and played some sparkling one-touch football when in possession. Now it could be said that Arsenal lacked invention, but the truth is they hadn’t got time to think. It was encouraging for Houllier, but what was encouraging also was that in the these days of unpronounceable foreign names in the Premiership, six of the 13 players used by Houllier on Saturday came up through the ranks.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Jamie Carragher, Dominic Matteo, David Thomson, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and, the sixth, entered the fray with two minutes left, to the biggest cheer of the day — Michael Owen.
So are Liverpool back finally? Too early to say, but perhaps Sept. 11 will tell us more, Manchester United visit Anfield then and a repeat of Saturday’s performance at least will be required if the run is to continue.
Cole buries former mates
Andy Cole, it seems, has little sympathy for the plight of his former club, Newcastle United. Steve Clarke took charge of the Magpie, after Ruud Gullitt’s resignation, and Cole made it a baptism of fire with four goals in a 5-1 thrashing. Ryan Giggs supplied the other and all that the sorry Geordies could muster was an own goal from Henning Berg. Bobby Robson, the former England boss, is being tipped for the job and he can be happy in the knowledge that they won’t drop any lower in the division should he take charge.
Keane tallies, etc.
Robbie Keane took his tally this season to five with a goal against Sunderland, it was canceled out however by another man taking his total to five, Kevin Phillips, who gave his side a share of the spoils. Dave O’Leary went to visit his old boss and came away with the points thanks to a cracking goal from Ian Harte. Leeds beat Tottenham 2-1 and I’m sure Harte’s day was brightened even further when his Uncle Gary came on to play after a very lengthy injury spell. Perhaps he can have a word with Mick McCarthy about his in-form nephew.
Dan Petrescu is a Romanian Denis Irwin. Lost among an array of high profile foreigners, Dan’s heroics often go unnoticed, but he just gets on with it. Many are tipping Chelsea for the title this year. If they do win it, they can look back to two 1-0 wins in August when Dan Petrescu secured full points for the team. His shot may have been helped in by Ehiogu against Aston Villa, but just when it looked like Wimbledon were about to hold on for a point up stepped Dan to rifle home the winner and move Chelsea into third spot.
Irishman Richard Dunne was sent off by rookie ref Andy d’Urso as Everton fell to Derby via an Esteban Fuertes goal. There should really be a Worst Refereeing Decision of the Week" award, with a stipulation that anybody that wins four in a season has to pack it in. I failed to mention it earlier, but Dermot Gallagher awarded Arsenal a penalty in the last minute against Rigobert Song. Suffice to say Dermot is this weeks winner by a street.
Mark Kennedy probably scored the goal of the week for Manchester City. Kennedy will be hoping Mick McCarthy saw it as he joins the Irish squad for the game against Yugoslavia. We could see a really big performance from the Irish in this one. Robbie Keane, Roy Keane and Niall Quinn all buzzing at present. Alan Kelly will be hoping to stake a claim to the goalkeeper spot and add to this that the Yugoslavians could be missing up to five regulars and, well we’ll see. There is a very strong possibility that Gary Breen will play also and that’s a bit of a worry. A 2-0 victory will do nicely.
Celtic on track
After a wobbly couple of weeks Celtic seem to be back on track. A 4-0 win over Hearts keeps them on the heels of the Huns. Rangers had beaten Hibernian 1-0 on Saturday, Goals from Mark Viduka, Henrik Larsson and two from Eyal Berkovic secured the win in a game that saw the return of Craig Burley and Jackie McNamara. John Barnes almost has a full strength squad to choose from at present and that can only augur well for Celtic.
Two goals from Tony Cousins gave Shamrock Rovers a 2-1 victory over St. Pat’s in the League Cup at the weekend. Marcus Hallows got one back for the reigning League champs, but the Hoops held on to keep their 100 percent record. Shock of the round was Munster Senior League side Rockmount’s penalty-kicks victory over holders Cork City.
And, finally, congratulations to Scot Shevlin’s "Bravehearts" team, who won the Shamrocks five-a-side tournament on Sunday last. Shevlin wore his lucky socks, believed to be from the William Wallace era for the occasion and goals from Mick Haley and Tim Cummins won the day for him. This completed a double for "Bravehearts," who also won the title last year. Asked what the secret to success was Shevlin replied, "I think it’s my ability to find good goalkeepers at the last minute." John McDonald, or "Macker," as he is affectionately known, scooped the Player of the Tournament award.