Looking Forward



Premier League

Sunday 16th March 2003

Like every other side in the League, Liverpool start a nice little run to ease them out of their difficult period of the season, just in time ... to meet Spurs !!

Two wins, not convincing, but wins none the less and a draw against Celtic in the UEFA Cup means that they will approach this match in good heart.  Even an away tie in Europe, which we would hope would tire them out, is nothing more than a trip up the motorway to Scotland.  Owen scoring again and even Heskey getting on the scoresheet ... what chance do we stand ?  Well, not a bad one really.  We have a good record against Liverpool at the Lane and although that is no guarantee, the side have been comfortable at home, while not always being as superior to the opposition as they might be.

Dudek has taken the place between the posts, after Kirkland got injured and has been performing well, taking the man of the match in the Worthington Cup Final.  He handles the ball well (a good quality in a goalkeeper I always think), but he is sometimes a bit ambitious on crosses and gets nowhere near them.  Shots will have to be good ones to get past him.

With Henchoz out injured and Xavier having departed, Hyypia, Traore, Carragher and Riise could comprise make up the defence.  The Finnish central defender is a rock, who Sheringham might find it hard to win anything in the air against, but on the ground, he is not as strong.  Carragher is an old fashioned English defender, who gets stuck in, but has a habit of scoring for Tottenham in this fixture.  Can get dragged out of position if the movement amongst our players is good enough.  Traore has looked the weak link in the back four when I have seen him recently.  His positioning is poor and distribution woeful, but he did have a reasonable game against Celtic.  Riise is a powerful player who looks to get forward at every opportunity and when he does, he is a good finisher.  We will need to shut off the areas he wants to move into.

The midfield will contain the likes of Gerrard, Murphy, Hamann, Diao and Diouf.  The Senegal pair have not had a great season, but Diao is a powerful presence in midfield and when we lack a natural ball-winner, we might struggle with him in opposition.  Diouf has been moved back to midfield, after he found it tough up front.  He tries hard, but has yet to find his feet in the Premier League.  Let's hope he is still looking after Sunday.  Gerrard is the creative heart of the Liverpool team.  He has energy and a good passing range, linking up with Owen almost telepathically.  He tackles and heads and has the almost perfect all-round game on his day.  We cannot allow him to get time and space, so whoever opposes him will need to be everywhere.  Murphy is another who is very mobile and prefers the shorter passing game, while getting into shooting positions, where he scores a fair few goals.  Tracking back with the forward movement of the Liverpool midfield could be the key to keeping them quiet, but the success will depend on who we have available to play there.

In the forward line, Heskey and Owen will most likely start.  Owen has come into something like form, with a couple of goals, while Heskey too has got on the scoresheet against Celtic.  Owen is sharp and mobile, but with a suspect hamstring that might subconsciously affect his speed off the mark, while Heskey is the exact opposite.  Big, lumbering, but when he gets going, he is hard to stop.  By edging him out wide, it might be possible to marginalise his effectiveness.

Among the subs will probably be Neil Mellor, a young forward who looks strong and a likely successor to replace Owen in years to come.  Also on the bench could be Vladimir Smicer, who is widely disliked among Liverpool fans as being "useless" (according to one source); Milan Baros, who started scoring last season, but has dried up somewhat now and Bruno Cheyrou, a French midfielder, who we are told is very talented, but has yet to show that on a regular basis.

The Reds squad is not as deep as you might think with all the money they have spent, but the first team is strong.  Houllier has had a tough time and despite winning the Worthington Cup, their fans expect a decent League challenge, but that seems to have faltered in the pos-Christmas crash.  It will be a tougher match for Tottenham than it might have been a couple of weeks ago, but with the impending return of Gus Poyet and hopefully, Robbie Keane, that might be enough to turn the match in Spurs' favour.  There will have to be some determined play from the midfield though, with Ledley needing to keep a rein on Owen like he did on his full debut for Tottenham, while the others need to be alert to runners appearing from the midfield.  Upfront, we will need Keane's guile and Teddy must pull a performance out of the bag to help keep the pressure on the visitors defence.  It might just ensure that we come away from the game with a narrow winning scoreline of ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  2    Liverpool  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.



Tottenham   2       Liverpool    3                        (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League
Sunday 16th March 2003
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Bright, sunny, 
Referee : -  U. Rennie (Sheffield)
Crowd : -  36,077
Teams : -  
Tottenham : - Keller; Carr, Thatcher, King, Taricco (Freund 69); Davies, Poyet, Bunjevcevic, Etherington; Sheringham, Doherty (Slabber 79)
Unused subs: Sullivan, Acimovic, Toda.

Liverpool : - Dudek; Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Riise; Diouf, Hamann (Diao 88), Gerrard, Murphy; Heskey, Owen.
Unused subs : Arphexad, Smicer, Baros, Biscan

Colours : -  
Tottenham  -  White shirts, Navy Blue shorts, White socks with navy blue turnover

Liverpool  -  Red shirts, Red shorts and Red socks

Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Taricco 48, Sheringham 88

Liverpool  -  Owen 51, Heskey 73, Gerrard 83

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  Carr (foul) 14

Liverpool -  Hamann (foul) 40

With both sides recent form, an away win looked on the cards and that was exactly what happened, although the second half fireworks seemed at odds with what had gone before in the first period.

Tottenham opened brightly with Sheringham and Davies almost getting efforts on goal, but it was Gus Poyet who was the most prolific in trying to score.  His first effort went wide from about the penalty spot, before Stephen Carr drew the first card from Rennie's pocket with a clumsy although not malicious foul.

Liverpool started to push on and when Diouf was left in acres of spec on the right wing, his low cross was only kept away from Michael Owen by the sheer number of Spurs players at the back stick.  Owen's second major involvement almost saw him score.  Running at the heart of the Tottenham defence, he had Ledley King at his side and Bunjyman behind him, but suddenly Goran peeled off and this allowed the space for Owen to turn inside and hit a fierce drive.  Keller did well to keep the ball out with a strong arm.  Spurs were affording Liverpool the space to move and pass into, so when Gerrard played a one-two and hit a shot about a foot wide, it should have been a warning to Tottenham.  

With some good moves, Spurs found space n the flanks, but some of the crosses found only Dudek's hands, while others found themselves begging to be buried in the net, but with no recognised forward in the side, they were not anticipated and went unclaimed.  One from the right by Sheringham was headed behind with no Spurs player challenging and another by Davies was driven in, but no-one was in front of Dudek to tap home.

The only other incident of note in the first half was the continued booing of El Hadji Diouf after his spitting incident at Celtic in the week preceding this match.  It certainly seemed to bring about a confrontation or two between him and Taricco, who squared up to each other on occasion, produced a whinge to the ref by the Senegal striker about a harsh tackle and ended up with the Argentinian being floored off the ball with the Liverpool man in close proximity.  For Houllier to subsequently come out and say the Spurs defender was playing to get him dismissed is to ignore his own part in the vendetta.  As it was, only Hamann ended up in the ref's book from the visiting side for what was his first bad tackle.  It makes you wonder what officials see, because Gerarrd inflicted two bad challenges that could really have damaged Spurs players in the space of a minute and was not even spoken to by the flamboyant Rennie. 

Into the second half, Spurs again pressed forward from the kick off and Poyet found himself in space about 20 yards out, when Teddy fed the ball to him.  Gus flicked it up and hit a dipping volley that just went over the bar.  It was brief respite for Liverpool though, because Taricco strode forward with the ball and without a red shirt closing him down, hit the ball from 30 yards out.  The ball did not touch the turf that had been watered at half-time, but it caught Dudek hopelessly out of position to take it and he fumbled the catch, with the ball rolling agonisingly over the line in slow motion.  So, after 111 games, Taz finally managed to break his duck at the club.

Just when you want the team to sit on the ball for ten minutes to consolidate the lead, Teddy gave the ball away when back defending and Gerrard whipped in a  low cross into the area and it evaded everyone, except Owen at the far post and he was left with a simple tap-in.  So, three minutes, that was the sum total time we were in the lead.

The game started to get moved from one end to the other very quickly now, with Davies trying a 'Redknapp' free-kick, but even though Dudek was unable to move, the ball went wide of the mark.  Then, when Owen was through Thatcher did enough to see him wide, where he got a shot in, but Keller was equal to it.  A couple of minutes afterwards, with 25 left, a Spurs corner caused panic in the Liverpool area.  The ball dropped to Davies and his shot cannoned around, fell to Poyet and his effort taken instantly was well wide, with the goal right in front of him.

Five minutes after the chance to regain the lead, the Reds had achieved that.  Kasey tried to release Etherington with a quick throw out, but Jamie Carragher got there first, sent Gerrard away down the right and his cross at the far post was headed in by Emile Heskey, with the Spurs players hoping for an offside flag that didn't come.  The lead was stretched even further, when, from a Tottenham corner, Murphy drilled a pass that skimmed off the wet turf and split the Spurs defence.  Gerrard went racing away with Thatcher completely cut out of the game by the pass.  The England midfielder hit an early strike that skipped past Keller and left Spurs 1-3 down.  It only stayed like that for five minutes, as Spurs hit back.

A Carr corner (he was entrusted with the duties in Anderton's absence through suspension) was headed down by substitute and debutant Slabber, leaving Teddy the job of turning to hit the ball straight into the unguarded gap on the line.  Although Tottenham wanted to press for the equaliser, Liverpool tried to run time down by the corner flag and they managed to escape with the win intact.

There was not a great deal in the match in the first half, but the pace that Liverpool showed was the key factor between the two sides in the end.  Tottenham had nobody to match it and in Sheringham and Poyet, the old legs showed their age.  There were some signs that Tottenham might be playing to Doherty's strengths in getting crosses in for him, but they were mainly played in when he wasn't in the box.  It's not his fault that Hoddle picks him to play there, but if he is going to be in the forward line, why don't they try to pick him out from set-plays instead of the "I'll roll it back for you to chip into the box" tactic, that has yet to come off.  Spurs looked solid for the first half, but in the second, we got done down our left flank, where two of the goals came from.  Freund could still do a job for us, but as he is on Hoddle's hit-list, he will be out at the end of the season.  Slabber did OK when he came on, despite Hyypia trying to put him off his game.  He's a big lad, but young and will need to be nurtured.  Having said that, if Keano is still out for the Bolton game, he might get a start, just to try and out-wit the opposition.

I didn't think Thatcher played too badly, but there was plenty of disagreement around me, but Ledley shone head and shoulders above everyone else, even without Dean Richards alongside him.

I think it's a shame that Hoddle doesn't start with Blondel or Ricketts on the bench, as they could both do a job for Spurs in midfield and also provide some fresh legs to chase back when we lose the ball, as we inevitably do.

Games like this are not out of our reach.  With a couple of changes in personnel, the challenge we all hope for could occur.  It just needs a little bit of funding.


The Polyphant




With Gerard Houllier carping on about Taz trying to get Diouf sent off and Steven Gerrard scoring one and creating the other two, it became a name that would not be welcomed at White Hart Lane for a while.  It was a depressing day ... not just because we lost - that was half expected, but the nature of the defeat.

It was yet another match like West Ham.  Ted and Doc up front, so we need to defend well ... so what do we do ?  Give them two goals to help them on their way.  And when we were one up as well !!

Taricco has taken 111 games before today to get anywhere near scoring and luckily for him, Dudek was fielding shots like an English fielder in the cricket World Cup.  His mistake to spill Treacle's shot and let it dribble in, was like taking candy from a baby.  Good while it lasted, but you soon felt bad about it a couple of minutes after.  And so it proved.

Sheringham's fancy flicks are not working in attack at the moment, thus producing more pressure on the midfield, who have to try and win it back, because Teddy and Poyet can't get back to do that.  When he loses the ball on the edge of our own box, we are stuffed.  And Owen's poacher's instinct took him to the far post to convert Gerrard's cross.

It is becoming a bit of a liability, Teddy's ability to hand the ball to the opposition.  The whole side wilted when it happened and when Keller decided to try and put Matty away, his throw-out was taken gratefully by Carragher.  One pass to Gerrard and another cross to Heskey's head and it was 1-2.

Gerrard should have been in the book at least by then though.  Two bad tackles in a minute, including one down the back of the calf, saw him get away without entering Uriah Rennie's book.  How Carr and Hamann managed to go there for their first tackles, I am not really sure.  It wasn't a dirty game, but the way it was handled showed little understanding of the spirit of the game.

When Gus fell over Heskey's legs in the box and cried for a penalty, the Reds moved the ball upfield and two passes later, it was nestling in the back of the net.  A slick move no doubt helped by the watering of the pitch at half-time.

Poor old Doc couldn't get anything going, so was taken off and Slabber nearly made a dream start when the ball came to him quickly from a corner and hit his thigh, without him having time to readjust to get a decent contact on it.  His next involvement was a nice control and pass out left to Etherington, while his third piece of action saw him drop off at the far post for a Stephen Carr corner and nod it back into the danger zone for Sheringham to steer home.  

This should have set up a grandstand finish, but it didn't and we sloped off with another home defeat, after our record had been so good at the Lane.  Few players played awfully, but too many appeared to have left their effort in the same place as the recent attainment.  The scoreline makes it look close, but those of us there will know that in the second half, Liverpool were a country mile ahead of us.  I half thought Hoddle would say after the match that Liverpool are two or three years ahead of us in the rebuilding stakes and we did well to get so close this time, but perhaps even he didn't have the gall to spout that. 

There does not seem to be the collective will to move the club forward, both on and off the pitch, which seems strange when all you get coming out of the official channels is that the UEFA Cup place is still on.  In games like these, it is little things that change the course of them and one might hope that the players would look to do so and change the game in our favour.  There's bad luck and injuries, but the excuses have to stop sometime and we need to see the results evident in our points total.

I'm not sure that will happen before the end of the season though.  And next season looks like being a long haul already.

Chris Manning



Other scores this weekend :
Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 1 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 0 Newcastle United 2 Saturday
Everton 0 West Ham United 0 Saturday
Fulham 2 SCBC 2 Saturday
Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 3 Saturday
Manchester City 1 Birmingham City 0 Sunday
Sunderland 0 Bolton Wanderers 2 Saturday


0 Chelsea 2 Sunday


League Table
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 30 19 6 5 64 32 63
2 Manchester United 30 18 7 5 48 27 61
3 Newcastle United 30 18 4 8 49 34 58
4 Chelsea 30 14 9 7 52 31 51
5 Everton 30 14 8 8 38 34 50
6 Liverpool 30 13 10 7 44 30 49
7 Blackburn Rovers 30 12 10 8 37 32 46
8 Charlton Athletic 30 13 6 11 39 38 45
9 SCBC 30 11 10 9 32 30 43
10 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 30 12 7 11 43 43 43
11 Middlesbrough 30 11 8 11 38 34 41
12 Manchester City 30 12 5 13 40 44 41
13 Fulham 30 10 8 12 35 37 38
14 Aston Villa 30 10 5 15 31 35 35
15 Leeds United 30 10 4 16 37 42 34
16 Birmingham City 30 8 8 14 27 42 32
17 Bolton Wanderers 30 6 11 13 33 47 29
18 West Ham United 30 6 9 15 32 53 27
19 WBA 31 5 6 19 21 46 21
20 Sunderland 30 4 7 19 19 48 19


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