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STAN-DING OVATION!; LIVERPOOL 4; NEWCASTLE 3.

A LOOK to the skies gave us a sighting of the brightest comet this century and an eclipse of the moon.

But back down on earth at Anfield we were privileged to see something that was out of this world. Football not of our planet, with enough shining stars to send Patrick Moore into overdrive.

It was unbelievable, mind-blowing experience that will live with me and the other privileged spectators forever.

We sat in awe of two teams challenging for the championship of England. But I would have made them both kings of the universe.

I have never been so elated and totally drained after 90 minutes of football that saw Liverpool finish winners.

Rivals

But how the hell can you describe Newcastle as losers? That's an insult.

True, the defeat leaves rivals Manchester United in the driving seat at the top of the table and will be a much needed pick me up for flu ridden boss Alex Ferguson.

But who can count out either of these two greats sides from getting their hands on the three foot high piece of silverware next month?

This famous ground has seen many memorable matches, but none of the 40,000 jammed noisily into Anfield could have expected the action that was to follow before the cameras had rolled on this greatest show on earth.

It was like buying a ticket for a pleasure flight and finding yourself upgraded to Concorde. We were treated to a supersonic flight of fancy which included seven goals of breathtaking magnificence that deserve equal billing.

The first took our breath away after 97 seconds and the last found the net two minutes into injury time to keep the crowd behind long after the final whistle with endless choruses of You'll Never Walk Alone.

They came thick and fast these seven wonders of the soccer world.

The first went to Robbie Fowler as he ended a marvellous move he'd begun far out on the right. Jamie Redknapp took over the challenge to sweep the ball out to Robert Jones lurking on the left of the box.

His deft touch dropped to Stan Collymore who stepped past Steve Watson to deliver the perfect cross for Fowler to head down into the net.

But in the ninth minute Newcastle were level. Faustino Asprilla looked to be facing the immovable object of Neil Ruddock when he found the ball at his feet and causing no apparent threat.

Suddenly he nutmegged Ruddock and pulled the ball back for Les Ferdinand to swiftly turn and shoot home through the despairing hands of keeper David James.

Phew! You didn't think there was any more to come but oh, how we were mistaken as Newcastle blazed into the lead after 14 minutes.

Ferdinand, with his back to goal, controlled the ball in one brilliant moment and then sent it swerving into David Ginola's path in the next. The fantastic Frenchman out-paced Jason McAteer and then hammered into the net for his first goal since January 2.

We then had to wait another 40 minutes for the fourth goal of the night but we were kept well entertained in that period with some gobsmacking football.

The next strike came courtesy of Fowler who leap-frogged England striker Alan Shea-rer with his 35th goal of the season.

Steve McManaman embarked on a weaving run with Philippe Albert backing off for safety.

But just when the Belgian thought the danger was over McManaman picked out Fowler who drove home the equaliser and then finished up in the back of the net after a bellyflop on the turf.

Sixty seconds later Newcastle were back in the lead and looking a safe bet to claw back Manchester United's three point lead. Peter Beardsley linked with Robert Lee who sent Asprilla on his way with Liverpool desperately appealing for off-side.

Referee Mike Reed would have none of it, allowed play to continue and the Colombian cockily screwed the ball in past stranded keeper James.

The Newcastle bench erupted. They thought it was all over. But it wasn't.

McAteer sent a swerving ball into the area and beyond keeper Pavel Srnicek and there was Stan Collymore to prod the ball home to make it 3-3.

And with referee Reed adding on a couple of minutes at the end Collymore struck to dig the dagger deep into Keegan's heart.

Nerves

Wise old head John Barnes did all the hard work in shielding the ball and laying it across for Collymore to steady his nerves before drilling the ball into the bottom corner to lift the lid off Anfield.

Seven magnificent strikes and too many chances to mention. We had a couple of Redknapp thunder-bolts, a McManaman left footer which was deflected over the bar.

A push from Barnes on Asprilla in the box that looked a penalty and then a John Scales header which hit Fowler on the line and bounced away from the danger zone.

We saw, too, Srnicek push away a Barnes pile driver and then somehow beat out a snap shot by Redknapp.

In fact we witnessed everything that is good about our national game.

TOP OF TABLE

P W D L F A Pts

Man Utd 32 20 7 5 59 30 67

Newcastle 31 20 4 7 58 32 64

Liverpool 32 18 8 6 64 30 62

Aston Villa 32 16 8 8 46 30 56

Arsenal 32 15 9 8 44 28 54

RATINGS

LIVERPOOL

JAMES: Won't be happy with Ferdinand goal but made fine second- half saves from Lee and Ferdinand. 7

McATEER: Non-stop display down the right flank. Kept Ginola well shackled in second half and laid on a Collymore goal. 8

WRIGHT: Not his normal strong self and withdrawn at half-time with an injury. 6

SCALES: Had his work cut out to keep Asprilla and Ferdinand quiet but as dependable as ever. 7

RUDDOCK: Stret-ched in the first half but improved as the match went on. 6

JONES: Solid show but hit by a back injury that eventually forced him off. 6

REDKNAPP: Continued his comeback with another mature display and some great long-range shooting. 7

BARNES: Kept his cool and his experience was vital - and he set up the winner. 7

McMANAMAN: Another brilliant display. There's simply no stopping this kid. Set up Fowler's second goal. 9

FOWLER: Two more dazzling goals to take his season's tally to 35 and ran his legs off. 9

COLLYMORE: Bou-nced back to form by making Liverpool's first and scoring their third and fourth. 8

SUBS - HARKNESS (for Wright 46min): Slotted effortlessly into Liverpool's defence 7

RUSH (for Jones 88 min).

NEWCASTLE

SRNICEK: Produced some superb saves but looked at fault for Collymore's first goal. 7

WATSON: Surprise inclusion for the axed Warren Barton but didn't let his side down. 6

HOWEY: Enhanced his growing reputation with another good show. 7

ALBERT: Not at his majestic best but still had a solid match. 6

BERESFORD: Hard-pressed to stop the dual threat of McManaman and McAteer down the right flank. 6

BEARDSLEY: Does not look happy on the right hand side of midfield but still had his moments. 6

BATTY: In a typically combative mood but still couldn't stem the irrepressible McManaman. 6

LEE: Worked his socks off in the engine room and didn't deserve to finish on the losing side. 8

GINOLA: Took his goal well but otherwise made little contribution and got rattled by McAteer. 6

ASPRILLA: Made Ferdinand's goal and scored one himself but faded. 7

FERDINAND: Scor-ed one and made one and saw James produce a superb stop when the score was three-all. 7

SUBS - Peacock (for Howey 83min).

REFEREE: Mike Reed (Birmingham) 8.

Compiled by

RICHARD TANNER

ST R

WATCH

FOWLER v

FERDINAND

THERE is simply no stopping Robbie Fowler at this moment in time.

He took just 97 seconds to open his account after ending a brilliant move that he himself had began on the right-hand side of the park.

The youngster added a superb second 10 minutes into the second half.

His second goal puts him ahead of Blackburn's Alan Shearer with 35 for the season - and his work- rate was just as impressive as his finishing skills.

It was yet another reminder of his enormous value to England's squad for the European championship.

But Les Ferdinand was also impressive, with a clinical finish for Newcastle's ninth-minute equaliser.

He then turned goal maker with a superb cross-field pass to put Ginola through for the second.

And his partnership with Asprilla looks to be gelling.

Ferdinand always looked lively - and his pace and awareness on the break kept the Liverpool defence on their toes.

McMANAMAN

v GINOLA

STEVE McManaman shaded this duel with a magnificent non-stop performance in which he kept Newcastle at full stretch throughout the 90 minutes.

Even the attention of David Batty couldn't stop the fleet-footed raider from setting up Fowler's second goal and generally giving the Geordies the slip.

His football was a joy to watch for most of the game, and he really looked in control and knowing where best to pass next when in possession. This player seems to get better and better - a fact he surely proved again last night.

He also seems to thrive under big pressure - and the heat was really on at Anfield.

Ginola took his goal clinically - it was an excellent run and finish.

But he was well-shackled for the most part by Jason McAteer.

He hardly contributed to his team's cause in the second half when he got involved in some running battles and appeared to get rattled.

COLLYMORE

v ASPRILLA

IT was another even contest between these two last night.

Collymore made Fowler's first goal with a superb cross and then struck Liverpool's 57th minute equaliser.

He made amends for his FA Cup semi-final nightmare against Aston Villa with a truly hard-working display throughout.

But the exciting Asprilla also had a fine game.

He set up Ferdinand's goal with a fine piece of trickery - which was typical of the player -and had Liverpool at full stretch with some of his mazy runs.

And he put his team ahead with a coolly-taken third goal for Newcastle.

A couple of times he looked like he might blow his top - but it was understandable such was the electric occasion.

But Colly had the last word with that sensational winner.

The match had all the makings for a last-gasp decider and cool Colly was in the right place to strike.
COPYRIGHT 1996 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Millar, Steve
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 4, 1996
Words:1748
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