Liverpool win keeps pressure on United

 

LIVERPOOL TWICE caught Arsenal on the rebound at Highbury last night as they resumed their pursuit of Manchester United at the top of the Premiership. Stan Collymore and Jason McAteer scored in the second half after David Seaman - back after a knee operation - had saved, but not held, a shot from Stig Bjornebye and a penalty from Robbie Fowler.

Arsenal briefly entertained hopes of an unlikely point after 78 minutes when Ian Wright chested down Dennis Bergkamp's ball into the area, kept his balance well as he bustled his way between two defenders and neatly lobbed David James. But as the game drew on, it was Liverpool who looked more likely to score again.

In simple terms, last night's match needed to produce a winner to keep up some sort of pressure on Premiership leaders Manchester United. So far as winning the championship was concerned, a draw would not have suited either side.

That said, simply denying Arsene Wenger's team victory had its attractions for Liverpool. Given that this season's runners-up will go into the qualifying round for the next season's Champions' League, in Liverpool's case, at least, a point would have done.

Not that they set out to draw the match - under Roy Evans they never do. Last night Collymore, starting his first match in five, struck up an immediate rapport with Fowler, offering a threat to Tony Adams and his suspect ankle.

In fact, the first victim of Liverpool's instinctive passing was Marshall, who was left helpless by the pace and accuracy of a sixth-minute move between Fowler and Steve McManaman which set Collymore up for a shot.

Three successive victories, with no goals conceded, had made Arsene Wenger's dismissal of Arsenal's championship chances following the home defeat by United appear a little premature. And, with Seaman back in goal after a knee operation and Lee Dixon restored on the right after suspension, Arsenal looked more like their usual selves.

But it was the precision of Liverpool's movements that looked more likely to force opposition errors and one of these, on the quarter-hour, should have produced a goal. David Platt mis-hit a ball straight to Collymore, who again surged for goal. But, again, he shot wide, this time as Adams lunged in to put him off his stroke.

As Patrick Vieira and Bergkamp became more of an influence, Arsenal began to gain parity with Liverpool between the penalty areas. But still their defence remained vulnerable to quick movements through the middle, and when Jamie Redknapp found Collymore running past a square defence in the 25th minute, Liverpool, yet again, looked like scoring. This time, however, Collymore neither shot nor delivered a quick-enough pass to Steve McManaman.

Arsenal may have dominated the last 10 minutes of the first half, but within five minutes of the second, Liverpool were ahead.

The goal followed a typically patient piece of football on the left involving John Barnes, Steve Harkness and McManaman. The ball eventually fell to Bjornebye, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area was blocked by Seaman, but not held. This time Collymore, with all the goal to aim at as he pounced on the rebound, did not miss.

Five minutes past the hour Fowler, staying onside as he raced on to Mark Wright's clearance, was brought down by Seaman and although the Arsenal goalkeeper saved Fowler's penalty, McAteer scored from the rebound.