Saturday 10th September 2005
stunning comeback in the Champions League Final against AC Milan,
Liverpool showed that their ability is sometimes belied by their
approach to games. The lack of consistency in the Premiership
cost them their automatic Champions League place for this season and
the wrangle over whether they would be allowed to defend their
trophy. We saw flashes of what they are capable of in the 2-2
draw with Spurs at Anfield at the end of last season.
It is now Rafa Benitez' task to instill that consistency in the side for 38 games across the league season. He seems astute enough to work out tactics against opponents, but he might not know his best team yet. And with more players arriving over the summer, that could still be a problem.
Obviously Steven Gerrard is the one player that is crucial to the Liverpool team. In the early Champions League qualifying rounds, he virtually pulled them through on his own. When he is not firing on all cylinders, the team seems a little under par. With Alonso and Luis Garcia in the team, the Reds have two very talented players. Alonso is a deadly accurate passer and Garcia has a deft touch and can wriggle past opponents to get his shots in. Without Morientes, we might find Garcia and Cisse as the Liverpool front two, with the Frenchman's strength and pace points to watch out for. Crouch's signing is an odd one, but his presence in the squad gives them something different in an attempt to mix up the style of attacking options. His height is a threat, but it is not his only good point. He is tricky on the floor and difficult to mark, because he is so gangly, you never know where he will turn next.
New goalie Jose Reina has had an early run between the posts thanks to Dudek's injured shoulder and he looks a good keeper, but might be a bit too keen to come for crosses, fearing an old-fashioned buffetting and that could lead to some handling mistakes. The defence of new England call-up Stephen Warnock, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Steve Finnan are a solid four and there is a fair bit of experience in the defence. It might be useful to try Aaron Lennon up against Warnock and get Andy Reid taking on his fellow countryman Finnan on the other flank. With Rasiak bound to start, it would be interesting to see his aerial ability testing the Liverpool back men.
The missing Mido might have provided more of a physical (but not too physical) presence, but with Rasiak and Defoe to start, they might link up well. Lee will probably make his debut on the left side of defence and his pace will lend Spurs some options both in attack and defence. Jenas might start on the bench, but could appear at some stage and might come on for one of the tiring midfielders. The options for Spurs might be a bit more varied and the changing formation might cause Rafa to make some changes of his own. With home advantage, I take Spurs to have a narrow win, but it will be an open and attacking game I believe.
PREDICTION : - Tottenham Hotspur 2 Liverpool 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
With the Champions
League in the bag, what is expected of Liverpool by the fans this
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Noe Pamarot (knee); Wayne Routledge (broken foot); Mido (suspended);
LIVERPOOL : Fernando Morientes (thigh); Zak Whitbread (leg); Neil Mellor (knee); Djimi Traore (thigh); Jerzy Dudek (shoulder)
of the Day - BBC
|Tottenham Hotspur 0 Liverpool 0 (Half-time score : 0-0)|
|Premier League||Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Saturday 10th September 2005||Kick Off : 15.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 36,148||Referee : Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)|
|Weather : Dry at start, then rain from thundery showers|
|Teams : -|
Lennon (Brown 83)
Rasiak (Keane 83)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
Davids (foul) 77
Hyypia (foul) 60
|Match Report : -|
A 0-0 draw might be about the right result for a game in which each side's goalkeepers had to make saves, each side had a goal disallowed and there was enough possession for each side to say they had roughly half of the ball during the match (Spurs 51%, Liverpool 49%).
With the three late transfer window signings included in the Tottenham line-up, as well as returning captain Ledley King, it was a much changed line-up from the team that finished the Chelsea match. It resulted in a little disjointed play, as players were not sure where their new colleagues were going to make their run, but on the whole all three - Grzegorz Rasiak, Jermaine Jenas and Young-Pyo Lee showed that they will as something to the Tottenham team.
At the start, it looked like Liverpool would pass Spurs to death. I am sure they had the ball for the majority of the opening six minutes. But they did little with it to tell the truth. Playing the lighthouse-man up front, Crouch's head was a beacon for their long balls. He had one goal disallowed in the second half for pushing, which was no different to one in the first half that went over, which the referee let go. Unfortunately, we were treated to another inconsistent display from an official, who seemed to favour the red of Liverpool with most of the decisions. I mused as to why, when Dietmar Hamann stood in front of a free-kick and got it full on the back of the head after taking two steps forwards, he didn't get a yellow card. It wasn't just that, but as he stood clutching his head, the referee allowed him to have treatment on the pitch when he was perfectly capable of walking off to have it ... thus not holding up the game. You always start to wonder when a shirt is pulled in the area (Rasiak's by Finnan) without a whistle and another out by the touchline brings a free-kick. Why ? Who can answer with consistency ? Who knows.
Even Hyypia's booking was nothing more than a free-kick. Davids' yellow card was a case of notching a famous name in the ref's notebook of shame, as Sissoko performed a two-footed stamp on Davids with not so much as a talking to. That was the punishment for Peter Crouch's late swipe at a Spurs player when no such leniency was offered to Spurs players.
Jermain Defoe looked lively early on, before he got a bit frustrated with the lack of service (shades of his England sub performances). He bent a shot wide of Reina's goal and then put in a delicate cross to the penalty spot and as the Spanish keeper came for it, Jenas rushed in, distracted him and he let the ball go through the area, with Aaron Lennon just too far behind the ball to get in at the far post. The goalkeeper looked decidedly dodgy and I suspect the Liverpool fans will be glad when Dudek is fit again, as he pushed out Davids' free-kick and as it bounced up into the air, Rasiak jumped to direct it goalwards from about 12 yards out, but as he tried to drift it into the top corner of the net, it hit the crossbar and bounced out.
Liverpool's efforts were more irregular and Luis Garcia kept pulling away at the far post when the diagonal ball was played to Riise on the left wing, in behind Stalteri. The Spanish striker hit one volley straight at Lee and another into the side netting, when he tried to fool Robinson that he was going to pull the ball back across goal. Cisse was keen to try and take the leather off the ball, but accuracy was not his strong point today.
Into the second half, Spurs started slowly, allowing Liverpool to dictate the play. There were a number of incidents which were all happening at the Tottenham end. Garcia hit a shot from out on the right, that Robbo had to dive forward to hold, then Ledley King, who had a fine game, got his chest in the way of Garcia's effort after Cisse pulled the ball back from the right wing. Then came the moment that Paul Robinson produces at least once every game. As the ball dropped for Cisse on the edge of the box, he struck a dipping volley that Robinson did well to get to let alone knock out to the edge of the box with his palm. He was called into action again as Riise drove a low shot off the turf that gathered speed, leaving Robbo to dive low to his left to keep the ball out.
After the 55th minute, Spurs started to get back into the match again. Defoe turned Hyypia in the box, but could not get any power on the shot, after Stalteri had given him the pass from the right wing, but as the play switched tot he other end, the crossbar must have wondered what it had done in a previous life to deserve this. The ball was headed out and John-Arne Riise was 20 yards out and hit a stunning volley that left Robinson helpless for once, as it smacked against the bar, bounced down and away. It was Tottenham's one moment of luck in the match.
Especially as in the next Spurs attack, Carrick blasted a drive that Reina pushed straight out (he seems not to have been taught to get the ball wide of the goal if you can't hold it) and Jermain Defoe rushed in to put the ball over the Liverpool bar, only to see a linesman's flag as he was offside when the first shot was struck. More of the same was to come on the hour. A Spurs corner was taken on the right by Carrick and his flighted ball to the far post saw Reina struggle underneath it and Rasiak crashed a header into the net, but the ref disallowed that goal because the linesman said the ball had gone out of play before coming back in to meet the Polish striker head.
I must say that with a performance like this, I struggle to understand Spurs fans not liking Michael Carrick. He was everywhere today. Heading balls out of our penalty area from corners, taking our corners at the other end, tackling, looking for a player to find in space with his 50 yard passes. He is not the complete player, as he does not score enough and we might need him to move forward a bit more to create more goals, but he is a Tottenham player. Make no mistake about that.
A Liverpool goal was ruled out after Crouch climbed all over Gardner (not for the first time this afternoon) on 70 minutes, then four minutes later, the ball was played into Cisse around the penalty spot, looking for all the world to give the Reds the lead, but Ledley got in front of him to block the ball and nick it away. There were a couple of half-chances at each end for the teams, but the draw was played out in the tail-end of the storm that started at half-time. For all the blood and thunder, a point apiece was a good day's work for each side.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - MICHAEL CARRICK
The Heathrow Spur
|LIGHTNING STRIKES ... NOT ONCE BUT TWICE|
|How dangerous is it to play
football in a storm ? Well, very if you want to avoid getting
struck. But there was little chance of anyone striking like
lightning this afternoon, two eagle eyed linesmen preventing either
side scoring. I wonder if they would have noticed when Paul
Robinson went to get the ball back from the crowd and was thrown back
a beach ball !!
Spurs started with four players taking the field for the kick off for the first time. It had been a bit of a rush for most of them to get to the club, with transfer deadline day coming amidst an international week. So, by the time they had returned to England, there was just about time for one or two training sessions, which meant that they were not that familiar with their tem-mates nor the style of play.
With Edgar Davids and Young-Pyo Lee on left, it worked well, until Edgar tired and some gaps opened up behind them, as Lee pressed forward and Davids found it hard to get back. The Dutchman got his yellow card to keep up his average fo one per game, while Lee showed good skill and pace in marauding up and down the left wing. Playing through the middle, Jermaine Jenas showed a natural athleticism that will benefit Tottenham in the future. Nice running by Jenas opened up the Liverpool defence, with his well timed forays into the area causing problems for Reina in particular, as he completely missed Defoe's cross, as he had his eyes on the young England man.
The picking up of Liverpool players between King and Gardner was impressive, as Anthony's partnership with Michael Dawson was outstanding in the first few games, while Ledley came in for his first of the season. Both had solid games, making good blocks and interceptions, with Gardner retained to counter the height threat of Crouch and when the former Spurs reserve went down with cramp and left the field, it was a victory for the Spurs defender who nearly joined Charlton in the close season.
Polish striker Grzegorz Rasiak might have looked rusty, but he will improve with more training/playing time with team. He had played twice in the week for his country and only arrived on Friday, when he was still going through his medical. As the game went on, it was a learning experience and before he was replaced by Keane, he showed he has assets, which Spurs might capitalise on.
Young Aaron Lennon showed good quick feet and no lack of confidence on the ball, which will mark him out as a reliable replacement for Wayne Routledge. Jermain Defoe has a quiet game, but kept making his runs, even though the ball sometimes did not arrive, while Keano didn't have much time to make an impact.
Stalteri shows good ability to recover his position, just when it seems he might get beaten. Like Lee, he also likes to get forward and on a couple of occasions put decent passes in to the forwards, but he will need to pick up on his crossing, which often failed to clear the first man.
What can you say about Paul Robinson that hasn't been said ?? The man who said of his goal-saving touch around the post to John Hartson's header last week "That is what I am there for, to make those saves." Well, I am glad to say that he is always there for Tottenham and his palm away from Cisse's powerful dipping shot was excellent and his low dive to stop Riise's skidding shot was not as spectacular, but equally as important.
Both sides had goals chalked out as corners bent out of play before being headed in by Rasiak and Crouch. Both sides cracked the crossbar with Rasiak heading a rebound over the keeper but back off the woodwork, while Riise's volley rattled the bar with Robinson beaten for once.
A good game football and one which ended all square, with a point each fair fare for the two sides, who are making a habit of drawing, with all three of their last meeting ending equal. Spurs will play worse and win this season and with Michael Carrick pulling the strings, they have a player who will make the transition to the England side ... if the watching Sven Goran Eriksson knows what is good for him.
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Birmingham City||0||Charlton Athletic||1||Saturday|
|Manchester United||1||Manchester City||1||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Wigan Athletic||2||Saturday|
|Bolton Wanderers||0||Blackburn Rovers||0||Sunday|
|West Ham United||4||Aston Villa||0||Monday|
|7||West Ham United||4||2||1||1||8||3||7||+5|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||5||1||1||3||5||10||4||-5|
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