Saturday 14th August 2004
sides under new management meet on the opening day of the season and
both new men at the helm will be keen not to lose out.
Liverpool have only added defender Josemi and forward Djibril Cisse to their ranks, but they have a core of sound players to build on and the fine tuning that Benitez undertakes will be minor in comparison to what is needed at Spurs. Barcelona's winger Luis Garcia, Real Sociedad's Xabi Alonso and Carlos Nunez of Real Madrid might be joining as the club go Spanish, which is exactly what Michael Owen will be doing soon, with a fee agreed for his move to the Bernabeu. He will leave Merseyside after eight years in the side and becoming one of their most famous forwards.
But Liverpool will move on into a new era with a squad of players who will want to try and break into the top three this season. That will be a tough task, but Benitez had great success with Valencia, who were not a top team when he arrived.
Spurs will hope for the same result with Santini. His organisational skill swill be put to the test and he might start by detailing a marker to Stephen Gerrard to prevent him making the Liverpool team tick. The England midfielder has been at the heart of the good form that the side exhibited towards the end of the season, but his lack-lustre Euro 2004 was perhaps a result of the injuries he suffered during 2003-04.
Alongside him in midfield, Dietmar Hamann has a wealth of experience and Spurs were linked with a move for the German when it looked like he might not be retained by the Reds. He tackles strongly, passes and moves well, much like an older version of Gerrard and with Smicer out, his tenacity will be needed. Harry Kewell is more intent on attacking options from midfield. He had a tough first season at Liverpool, but is a class act and can produce a finish as well as lay chances on for others. He also enjoys playing against Spurs ... or did when he was at Leeds. Those who might feature include the fringe players Igor Biscan (who was responsible for our win over 'Pool at the Lane last season) or Salif Diao. Neither has impressed the Anfield crowd. Youngster Darren Potter is an option after playing against Graz in midweek and John Welsh is another rising star.
Polish keeper Dudek is an under-rated goalie and it will take a good effort to beat him, with our providers needing to produce a string of chances for Defoe and Kanoute. He's not brilliant on crosses, but his forte is shot-stopping. In front of him, he has Sami Hyypia to deal with high balls and Jamie Carragher also is brave in the air. Both players are settled at Liverpool and provide some continuity to the team, through all the changes. Josemi, I haven't seen, but he is a player who was well regarded in Spain, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the Premier League. On the other flank, John Arne Riise attacks from deep to provide another threat going forward. The Norwegian is good in that aspect of his tasks, but his defending is not of the highest quality, so there might be an opportunity to exploit the back four in this area. Both Riise and Steve Finnan can play in midfield if required and the Irishman looks to be on his way out of Anfield, with Spurs again being mentioned in transfer rumours to secure him to replace Stephen Carr.
All that leaves is Cisse and Baros up front. Cisse is tall and physical, while Baros is quick and tricky. The Czech had a great Euro 3004 and the big question is can he do it regularly in the Prem ? Now that Owen is going, he might get a regular opportunity to show if he can. Cisse will be a handful and he has already got off the mark in pre-season, so expect him to hit the ground running.
The unity of the Liverpool side looks to be more firmly in place than in the Spurs team at the moment. Mind you, I thought we were going to get a tonking at Anfield last year and did well. But realistically, we will probaly put up a good fight, but slip to a narrow defeat ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 2
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
How do you think your
team will play this season under new management ?
Were you sorry to see Houllier go ?
Only sorry it took so to actually happen. I actually wanted him gone before last season. The whole of last season was a nightmare for me in which I was frequently bored by negative football. I didn't see any real outlet in the game. We started last season well and then Houllier reverted to type and bored us. The only game after that I enjoyed was the last one because I was told that Houllier was on his way before I watched it.
Who do you think is your best player will be this season ?
Same player as last
season to be honest - Steven Gerrard. He's simply awesome and I
can only be made up that he decided to stay with us in the end.
The move to Chelsea was a dead cert until a late change of heart.
The move certainly brought about high feelings round here that's for
sure. The thought of Stevie upping sticks and going really got to
people and it turned to anger towards him.
Well it's looking
more likely that he's off and to be honest even though he is a great
player I'm not gutted. I think the reasoning behind that though is
his attitude. The club have offered him a contract and he's always
stalled on it. It is also Owen who has instigated this move to
Real Madrid so his heart isn't with us. At that point what's the
point of keeping him. We'd be better off getting what money we can
and bringing in a couple of players who want to play for the shirt.
We have three other top strikers at the club and will no doubt replace
Owen as well. This day has been coming for a long time to be
honest. A very sad day obviously as we can think back to great
days of Owen. For Spurs fans as well who can forget the one nil
down 2-1 up Michael Owen won the cup in 2001 over Arsenal. Thought
that might bring a smile to you :o)
Any exciting new additions to the squad that we should look out for ?It's strange because at time of writing this we've actually only added two men from last season. Both look good though. Josemi is an improvement for us at right back. Up front though Cisse could prove awesome. He'll take time to settle but once he does then he could take the premiership by storm. I can virtually guarantee you can watch out for a bicycle kick of some form within this game if he plays. I think he's tried it on every game so far. Even pre-season at Wrexham he did one just to try and get a cross in.
If there was one player you would have liked to have brought in, who would it have been and why ?A tough one really but looking at the premiership and where our team is vulnerable then I would have liked to have seen Shaun Wright Phillips come in from Man City. He could do an excellent job down our right side and certainly improve us. He's used to the premiership and to be honest with his contract talks stalling we might yet get him.
What are your hopes for 2004-05 ?
To close the gap on
the top three has to be our aim. I don't expect the league this
year but if we could move up to third and stay around to be kind
of in contention for longer that's progress. A reasonable run in
the Champions league would be nice as well to push us forward again.
I'd say expect the
same lineup as against GAK in midweek to be honest.
What do you think of the new Tottenham set-up ?
I never have worked
out these football directors and managers in two jobs. The team
though from what I can see is no different to last season. Naybet
has just arrived, who will need time to settle in, but after that it's
the same side. I don't see an awful lot of change to be honest
other than binning Pleat off. I'd expected a couple of other buys
to be fair. I know these things take time, but Santini - he is
still your manager isn't he ? I only ask as he's been like the
invisible man to the outside world so far.
Spurs 1 Liverpool 2
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Robbie Keane (ankle); Stephen Kelly (ankle); Anthony Gardner (foot); Simon Davies (shin); Lee Barnard (fractured collar bone); Jamie Slabber (dislocated collar bone)
LIVERPOOL : Vladimir Smicer (knee)
Prem Plus - Sky TV (Pay per view)
Fox Sports World (US) - 04:30AM Pacific / 05:30AM Mountain / 06:30 AM Central / 07:30 AM Eastern
For other coverage see http://www.knplogic.co.uk/sport/
|Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 1 (Half-time score : 0-1)|
|Premier League||Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Saturday 14th August 2004||Kick Off : 12.45 p.m.|
|Crowd : 35,105||Referee : D. Gallagher (Oxfordshire)|
|Weather : Hot, sunny|
|Teams : -|
Jackson (Atouba 71)
Cisse (Sinama Pongolle 65)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
Kanoute (foul) 5
Sinama Pongolle (foul)
|Match Report : -|
The refreshing sight of a Tottenham team putting in a concerted effort to pull back a one goal deficit in this opening match of the season was a welcome one with the last few seasons teams seemingly going through the motions. A draw was probably a fair result, but the two teams could not have been any more different.
The Liverpool side had been together for quite a while in America and although Michael Owen left their fold for Real Madrid yesterday, players were available to drop into his place. Spurs had recruited players from all over Europe (and further afield) over the summer and some had not even had the opportunity to train together.
The early possession and chances came from the visitors. Gerrard could not wrap his head around a cross from Kewell and nodded over, while Baros hit a shot that Ledley managed to get in the way of. The front two of Kanoute and Defoe were closing down quickly and Fredi did it a bit too vigorously and got an early yellow card. Six minutes in and the first caution of the Premier League season ... from one of the most unlikely sources !! 'Pool were trying their luck from distance with Hyypia and Cisse taking shots from long range, but one missed and Robinson took the other comfortably.
It was fifteen minutes in before Jackson put the Reds' defence under any pressure and hit a waist high cross that Defoe looked to latch onto, but it was hooked out by a defender's boot. Phil Ifil was starting for Spurs in what was a three-quarters new back four and when Gerrard ran at him, the TV shots later identified that he pulled the red shirt, but the England international's dramatic fall probably persuaded the ref that he was exaggerating. The visitors then enjoyed a slice of luck when Hamann's shot sliced right and fell to Finnan, who pulled the ball back to Baros 15 yards out. He let fly, but a superb diving block by Naybet took the ball over the top, although Robinson and King were covering behind him.
Of the players in white today, skipper Jamie Redknapp perhaps was the most disappointing. He was off the pace and that was eminently demonstrated when he was robbed of the ball by Steven Gerrard and Jamie scythed him down as he ran away from him. In truth, Redknapp was lucky only to see yellow. But then he showed just what he can do, when he spread the play to Jackson on the left and his cross into the box was met by the in-running Davis, but he could not aim his header on target. Jackson also had a later shot on goal from the left that flew across the face, which was closer than his right foot effort in the second period. A high bouncing ball was volleyed over by Redknapp, before Kewell wriggled past him and Ifil at the other end and his low cross was sliced just over his own bar by Naybet. From the resulting corner, Finnan had a second chance to knock it back in and Carragher's knock down was swept in from close range by Cisse, who crept in behind Mendes.
Spurs had done well up until that point and only a yard separated us from going two down, when Gerrard hit a spectacular volley over Robinson's bar. Going into the break a goal down was not too bad in my eyes, but what of the second half, with players having put a lot of effort in under the hot sun ? And what would the first half-time team-talk in anger produce ?
Well, they came out with the same line-up as they finished the first half and immediately went at Liverpool. Only a quick interception stopped Jermain seizing on King's flick on, while Jackson had his rising shot and then crossed for Fredi, who couldn't trouble Dudek. The inconsistent refereeing throughout the game spoiled it as a true spectacle. Frequent stoppages and decisions given one way and not the other, made it a frustrating match. Kewell thumped a free-kick into Davis' midriff as he blocked and Redknapp habitually hit the wall with his free-kicks. Spurs only got close when Defoe ran at the Red's defence and got into the box, but toe-ended his effort wide of the mark.
Pedro Mendes made a good impression on his debut and surged forward and hit a shot way over in his impetuosity to score. Kewell was also off target, but his shot had a bit of fortune about it, as it flew between Ifil's legs and past the post. It was at this point that Benitez made his first change. Cisse was withdrawn and Sinama-Pongolle came on. Cisse had proved a handful for the Spurs defence and they must have been relieved to see his replacement lining up in midfield, leaving Baros alone up front. However, he gave a few problems, like when he ran at Ifil and was caught as he ran past him. He crumpled and the ref pointed for a Liverpool dead-ball situation, but although it looked in the box, Gallagher gave it just outside. Riise hit the ball into the wall and off for a corner.
Inspired by the lack of attacking intent by Rafael Benitez, Santini brought on Doherty for Naybet, who had an outstanding debut, using his experience to the maximum and Thimothee Atouba replaced Johnnie Jackson, who was having a difficult second half. It was inspired, as Spurs scored straight away, although neither new man had anything to do with it.
Spurs took a free-kick into the penalty area and Kanoute knocked it on to Defoe. He brought the high ball down well, tricked it around Carragher, took one touch and hit it into the net at Dudek's near post for the equaliser. It was all his hard work deserved, as he had chased and harried all afternoon, even going wide and deep to get the ball. And it was a typical finish by the little striker, which propelled him into England's squad for Wednesday's friendly with the Ukraine. However, in his celebration of his strike, he ripped off his shirt and threw it into the air. Thanks to Baros being the devil on Gallagher's shoulder, the ref booked Defoe for removing his shirt. It really is a ridiculous rule and as long as it is not directly in front of the opposition's fans, I cannot see the point of a caution for such a natural outburst of emotion.
Liverpool almost responded immediately, with a corner flighted in and Carragher rising highest to head powerfully goalwards. Although it was straight in the middle of the goal, Robinson did well to react and throw a hand up to get it over the top. Benitez' reaction to the attacking of his side was to bring Baros off with Warnock (who ?) coming on. This virtually finished any hope that Liverpool had of winning the match.
Atouba stated to come into his own, as he used his power down the left. A really big lad at just 22, I am already a big fan. Soccernet rate him as a comedy character, but this athletic left sided player with a sweet left foot will be one to keep an eye out for. He utilised his strength to power through challenges and when he lost the ball, he went straight back on regained possession. It will take a tank to knock him off the ball !! He hit a wicked cross in from the left and although Hyypia got it away from the six-yard box, Defoe was on the loose ball in a flash and could not keep it down as it went over the goal. Thimothee won the ball out on the left and moved to the edge of the box before trying to pick out a shot that would have curled in at the far post, but he failed to get enough swerve on it and it went wide, but it showed invention.
All that was left was for another sub, Biscan, to hit a low drive that Robinson fielded easily, before the final whistle blew, as Spurs pressed forwards for the winner. A good first day's work and a point that perhaps was not the most likely outcome after the pre-season Spurs fans had suffered !!
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - SEAN DAVIS
|BENI AND THE BETS|
This is a strange one. Opening day of the season and the sun is blazing down and here I am saying "Good Morning" to people !! The 12.45 p.m. kick off was putting people out all over the place. Empty streets at that time on a Saturday morning were heaving and the main roads to Tottenham flowed well considering the 35,000 who travelled to the game. It was like having a Boxing Day match in the middle of summer !!
Everybody seemed oddly optimistic and the general feeling was that it would be a 2-2 draw. Was there something going on that I didn't know about ? A Far Eastern betting syndicate fix ? Would the floodlights fail at 13.00 ?? Was there something in the air that I had failed to latch onto ? It all seemed very weird indeed.
As the new build-up blared from the new speakers inside the ground, the atmosphere built until the teams came out of the tunnel. The lush green pitch, the stadium looking great in the sunshine and the bright whiteness of the Tottenham shirts give a special feel to the first game of the season. This was only our fourth Premiership start, but with a record of won one, drawn one and lost one, something had to give. It didn't and for that we should be grateful for a well-structured side and the determined play of the Tottenham players.
The first half showed that Liverpool have had a bit more time together than our team. They linked well and played triangles, which our side found difficult without having trained together before. Defoe and Kanoute did not pair up and there was a yawning gap between the forwards and our defence, with the midfield stretched.
Santini played the team deep and invited Liverpool onto the edge of our penalty area, where they found the massed ranks tricky to break down. The ploy worked well, with Ifil tying up Kewell for the majority of the match and Edman getting stuck in when the ball ran 40-60 in the opponents favour !! However, the Reds were getting the luck running their way and when a corner was cleared and knocked back into the box, it fell nicely for Cisse to score his first Premiership goal from a couple of yards out, with the Spurs defence standing.
It was a slack goal to concede and for the bulk of the first half Naybet had been marshalling the defence with pointing and indicating, while Ledley had got on with his job alongside the experienced professional. Naybet showed he has class and eased people off the ball with a well positioned body or short burst of pace that took him into a position where he was the favoured ball-winner. Laying simple passes off, he made the game look easy. He will be a good asset to the side. And King seemed to do well playing alongside him too ... another good sign !!
The second half saw a change with Spurs attacking the Liverpool goal more and the long ball being utilised better than in the first half. Kanoute's chest control was very good and he seems averse to heading the ball if possible. His ability to hold the ball up brought others into the game and helped the flow of Tottenham's play. The balls played forward were pushing Liverpool back and this made their midfield a bit redundant, thus when they did get the ball, they invariably were lacking options to use it, with their players being mostly behind them. It produced a few over-hit passes from Gerrard as he tried to find killer passes to his forwards.
Redknapp failed to get into the game and he might be ousted from the side when others get up to speed. It is a shame, but he tried to help Ifil out on our right side, but sometimes the 17 year old was faced with two opponents and he did very well in getting to the ball first in a way reminiscent of a young Stephen Carr. He did get caught out a bit, when Gerrard and Baros ran across him in the penalty area and he will need to learn quickly that such tactics are applied in the top flight.
The best chance of the half for Spurs fell to Sean Davis, who got into a good position to meet Johnnie Jackson's cross, but powered his header wide. Davis started quietly, but gradually got more into the game ... mostly after Hamann studded him up the thigh in a sliding tackle. He prompted and prodded passes through to the front men and linked up with Mendes and Ifil making the triangles which failed to be realised in the first half. Mendes was also more influential as the game went on. A willing runner, he also moved the ball about the pitch and was more effective with his sort passing rather than his attempted long through balls.
Jackson had a couple of decent efforts at crossing, but he tended to run down blind alleys and it was no surprise when Atouba was introduced in the left midfield position. A man mountain at just 22, the Cameroonian will be a strong feature of our side in the months to come I feel. He looked like he could run through brick walls and was willing to as well !! He showed he could put in a neat cross with his left foot and with Edman behind him, it might be a good combination on that flank. The side didn't demonstrate a great deal of width, which limited the balls being played into the box, but perhaps the return of a fully-fit Simon Davies will add some right-sided width.
At the back, the new keeper Robinson could regularly be heard shouting instructions to his defence and his reflexes were tested when Carragher's header produced a sharp tip over from close range. I think he will keep the gloves despite Kasey's two year reign in between the posts. With Defoe scoring a goalscorer's effort out of very little, the side have the component parts and have to put the bits together to make a consistent outfit and then we might be able to talk about progress.
It was also cheering that the players applauded the fans at the end of the game. Edman looked like he might have played his last match for Tottenham as he made a tour of the ground clapping the supporters !!
After the game, we filed out, optimistic for the coming campaign, but realistic in our expectations. Walking AWAY from the stadium at 2.45 p.m. was a very strange one indeed !!
I thought that I’d better sleep on this one before articulating any thoughts. I found it all a bit different yesterday almost like I was returning to White Hart Lane after an absence of several years rather than just a week. It only really hit me, shortly before kick off, of how things have changed since last season. Ledley King is now the longest serving member of the squad ! Seven new players on the field, with names that we’re still getting to grips with. Was it was the overload of pre-season matches, the hot sunny day, the new flavour of ‘pitch side’ announcements from Brian Alexander or quite simply the abrupt entry to a new season ? It took me a while to settle into the game and to realise that we’re playing for crucial points.
A lot of us (all of us?) have felt uneasy about how things have been shaping up, pre-season, and perhaps slightly bewildered by the constant reference to rebuilding and the new management structure. I didn’t feel encouraged, on my train ride from Cambridge, by reading that Santini has ‘written off’ the rest of the month, or by the familiar nagging worries about injuries. I had a chat with the amiable Gary Doherty after the match, who reckons that Robbie might be fit for the Birmingham game at the end of the month.
I note that Frankie Arnesen has picked up the booing and jeering antics that shame some of our supporters and I particularly amused by the fury (the veins in his neck were bulging) of a South Lower ‘fan’ who stormed out in disgust (he swore repeatedly, barged past a charming WPC and dropped his lighter on the stairs) when Doherty and Atouba came on. It was his loss to miss highlight of the match: Jermain Defoe’s excellent goal from the penalty box. This magnificent signing is distilled quality with magnificent ball control and power. Long may it last !
All in all, being mindful of the circumstances, we came through the first day of the season really well. Players giving 100% in each and every match has been a bugbear for many of us and I believe that we did just that for the 90 minutes. Paul Robinson has instantly endeared himself to all of us, not only by his shear ability but also by his attentiveness (where time permits) to the supporters. England’s number one ? I think so. Naybet, I believe to be a shrewd buy, experienced and hard working. Shoring up our defensive frailties and building a bond and understanding with Ledley would be real progress. Certainly I felt safer, from where I sat behind the goal, that we’d be able to deal more confidently with Liverpool’s strike force than we had against others last season. That Naybet and Robinson have more to say that the reticent King might reduce the uncertainties, errors of communication and downright mistakes that have cost us recently.
Our free kicks were disappointing and far from the awesome accuracy of Christian Ziege. If Redknapp was a free kick merchant he certainly lacked that form yesterday. It was thoughtful and helpful of Benitez to take Cisse and Baros off in the second half and if their tiredness was anything to do with Tottenham’s long balls so much the better. Philip Ifil did well, looking confident and committed, and a really good prospect for the future. Doherty won headers and got some tackles in when he came on for the tiring Naybet, which warded off the boo boys.
The atmosphere, at the Park Lane End was excellent: happy and entertaining and no doubt really appreciated by those on the field particularly when we started battling in the second half. I love that insulting version of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and the casual assumption that all Liverpool supporters are unemployed Liverpudlians. ‘Sign on, sign on, you’ll never work again’ (with exaggerated hand actions). Very good! I went home happy. I think that we’ve got something here, embryonic now, but capable of rapid cell division. Sure we can be patient. We’ve no choice. Here’s to better days, and lots of them, in the not so distant future!
What exactly have
Tottenham ever done to Alan Hansen ?? He has the biggest chip on
his shoulder about our club and never has a good word to say about them,
last night being a prime example.
A very good, classy defender in his day, he now seems to revel in picking holes in other people's games and he had a pop at Naybet last night on one isolated incident, which could have resulted in a goal, but didn't. He failed to mention the quality of the rest of his time on the pitch. Then to pick on a 17 year old defender making his Premier League debut just strikes me as cowardice.
And would you believe it, the Liverpool performance was exemplary. Not a bad word to say about anything in the Anfield neck of the woods. While it is all scripted, I was a little disappointed that Gary Lineker didn't challenge him on the points he raised and also point out that the wonderful Liverpool Red Machine failed to beat such a shoddy outfit as Spurs.
I looked forward to the return of "Match of the Day" after Spurs regularly being on past midnight on ITV's "The Premiership". Perhaps I will video it and fast forward through the sweaty's comments in future.
Pete Carter (North Upper)
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Blackburn Rovers||1||West Bromwich Albion||1||Saturday|
|Bolton Wanderers||4||Charlton Athletic||1||Saturday|
|Norwich City||1||Crystal Palace||1||Saturday|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||1||0||1||0||1||1||1||0|
Back to homepage