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Premier League

Sunday 16th August 2009

Well, here we go again ... starting the season as we finished it, but hopefully with a different result.

Losing just two matches last season, the Reds must have thought they were in with a good opportunity of winning the league, but too many drawn games cost them points in the log run, leaving them trailing Man U.  This time around, they will realise that they have to make sure that no mistakes occur in losing leads.

One of the two games lost came here at the Lane, as Spurs nicked a last minute winner against the flow of the game, but Tottenham ground out a result and it was perhaps indicative of Liverpool's lack of killer instinct.

Much of the Merseysiders' play goes through Steven Gerrard and his fighting attitude can sometimes lead him into places he would rather not be, but he is an integral part of the side and any moves might end up with him on it even if he started it.  Missing Xavi Alonso, with his passing ability, there may be more of a reliance on Mascherano to get forward more rather than just being a destructive influence.  The team will use the attacking tendencies of Glen Johnson, but there might be some space in behind him, as he isn't the greatest defender.

It will be a shame if Jamie Carragher misses the game, as he is always likely to stick one pas this own keeper for us, but he will also be missed at the back, with Hyypia having left, Agger out and Skrtel doubtful too.

For Spurs, it will be Harry's decision about who plays in the side up front.  The form players are Defoe and Pavlyuchenko, but will he go for Keane and Crouch to wreak revenge on their old team ?  Whatever happens in the front two positions, Luka Modric must be supported to give him space to create the chances for Tottenham.

I would love a repeat of last season's result, but feel that a draw might be the best we can hope for against a Liverpool side who will be keen to start well and improve their away form from last year. 

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  1    Liverpool  1

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin); Michael Dawson (out - Achilles); Gareth Bale (out - ankle);  Jermaine Jenas (doubtful - calf); - (-); 

LIVERPOOL :  -  Alfredo Aquilani (out - ankle); Steven Gerrard (doubtful - groin); Jamie Carragher (possible - ankle); Martin Skrtel (possible - hamstring); Daniel Agger (out - back);  Fabio Aurelio (out - knee); El Zhar (out - knee); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   2    Liverpool   1      (Half-time score : 1-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Sunday 16th August 2009
Kick Off :  4:00 p.m.
Crowd :   35,935
Referee :  Phil Dowd (-)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Dry, very warm sunshine
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes     

22  Corluka
19  Bassong 
26  King
32  Assou-Ekotto       

  7  Lennon     
12  Palacios
  6  Huddlestone
14  Modric  (24  O'Hara 83)

18  Defoe  (  9  Pavlyuchenko 90)
10  Keane (c)  (15  Crouch 68)

Unused subs: 
23  Cudicini
  2  Hutton
  5  Bentley
16  Naughton

Liverpool :

25  Reina

  2  Johnson
23  Carragher     
37  Skrtel      (40  Ayala 75)
22  Insua

  8  Gerrard (c) 
20  Mascherano       
21  Lucas
18  Kuyt  (10  Voronin 79)

  9  Torres
19  Babel  (15  Benayoun 67)

Unused subs: 
  1  Cavalieri
34  Kelly
26  Spearing
38  Dossena

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur



Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Assou-Ekotto  44
Bassong  59


Gerrard (p) 55

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Lennon (foul)  25
Gomes (foul)  55
Assou-Ekotto (foul)  67



Macherano (foul) 32
Skrtel (foul)  51 
Carragher (foul)  59


Match Report : -  
With the sun shining down and all hopes for the new season buoyant, the game kicked off and 90 minutes plus later, the hopes were still there and Liverpool had been vanquished by two goals to one, in a game where Spurs rarely were threatened by the visitors, who are viewed as pretenders to the title.

Harry Redknapp had chosen to go with Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane up front to start with, but he had options available from the bench and with the Reds having walking wounded in the line-up, their bench was thin on names you had even heard of, let alone quality.  So when Spurs had a welter of chance sin the first half, they deserved a four goal lead at the break, but let Liverpool back in before clinching it two minutes later.

The game revolved around some very good midfield play in the Tottenham midfield, with Wilson Palacios providing the tackles and a bit more in terms of running and shooting and Luka Modric providing the slide-rule passing to open up the square Liverpool defence.

A second minute corner saw Modric's cross find Assou-Ekotto and his shot was way too high from outside the box.  But then Ledley King came to Tottenham's rescue as Ryan Babel threatened to break into the Spurs box, then Gomes plucked an Insua cross out of the air with little problem.  With three goals for Spurs, Jamie Carragher must have been a good bet for first goal-scorer and that nearly came to fruition when Palacios hit a shot across goal and the Liverpool defender almost put it past his own keeper, but managed to get the ball wide.

With Fernando Torres limping almost from the start, his effectiveness was extremely limited.  Every time he went in for a challenge, he came out wincing or lay on the floor for a bit, whinge to the referee or appeal for a foul/penalty.  It was a shame, as he is a fine sight in his pomp, but I am pleased that today, that he, Carragher, Skrtel and Gerrard were clearly not 100%.  It also helped when Carragher and Skrtel clashed in the air, with the former needing stitches in his head, while the latter needed attention for a cut mouth.

Unfortunately, Phil Dowd did not have his best game, with penalties being denied later in the game to the Reds, but the fouls he let Liverpool get away with without bookings amazed many.  It was his leniency and inconsistency that infuriated the Spurs fans.  With three bookings on either side, it could have been more, with Carragher throwing an arm across Defoe to stop him getting past; this after he had already put in some harsh tackles.  Skrtel continued pulling Defoe's shirt off him, with his replacement Ayala coming on to do the same.  Torres continual back-chat would have earned most other players a yellow or a sending off, as proved by Sammy Lee's low level abuse of the fourth official.

The nearest Liverpool got in the first period was a cross shot dragged wide by Gerrard from 20 yards, but Robbie Keane should have had a 12 minute hat-trick with some better finishing.  Palacios ran down the right wing and crossed over everyone to the left side of the box.  Luckily, Modric was there to keep it in and flick a right foot half volley, with the outside of his foot, to Robbie Keane.  Inside the six yard box and with Reina covering across his box, he put his diving header low, but straight at the middle of the goal, where the keeper got back to block the effort with a very good save on the half hour.

When Modric took a 34th minute clearance from the defence that had eluded two Liverpool defenders, he slid Keane through on the right side of the box, but his shot was at a nice height for Reina to throw up a hand and knock the ball out for a corner.  From it, Defoe lost his marker with a darting run to the near post and got a powerful header on the ball, but it went wide.  The skipper's last chance of the first half came when Carragher could only knock a ball high into the air with a defensive header, leaving Tom Huddlestone to nod the ball back into the centre of the Liverpool penalty area and find Keane, who lashed it first time at goal, but the ball headed for the upper tier.

Spurs needed a goal before the break and when it came, it arrived from an unlikely source.  A free-kick for another foul, on Palacios this time, was given to Spurs about 30 yards out - just to the right of the centre.  As had happened before, Tom Huddlestone stepped up to take it and it hit the wall, as it had before, but this time hit Insua in the face and bounced back towards where the kick was taken from.  This time Benoit Assou-Ekotto took a touch to get it on his left foot and rifled the ball like a bullet past the diving Pepe Reina, who could not get a touch on it as it flew into the top right hand corner of his goal.  It was a cleanly hit shot that showed that the defender has come a long way since his injury of about eighteen months ago.

Coming a minute before half time, it was a good time to score, especially with previous openings not being capitalised on.  There were no changes at the break and Tottenham had been passing and moving very well, as they had been closing down the Liverpool player son the ball too.  And the way they started the second half, it looked as though they would go further ahead.  Aaron Lennon took a pass from Corluka and sped past Carragher and Mascherano, neither of whom were good enough to even be able to foul him moving at that speed.  With 50 yards behind him, Lennon tried to take the ball into the box, but as he cut into the middle, he was dispossessed with three team-mates to his left.

For once Liverpool broke well as the Spurs attack broke down.  Torres and Gerrard exchanged passes, leaving the Scouse skipper to run onto a lay back and hit a shot that went a foot wide, with Gomes seeming to get a touch on it.  In the 52nd minute, it was Reina getting a touch on a shot, when Defoe laid a pass into Palacios' path and the Honduran struck it with power, but it was on the rise and might have just gone in had Reina not pushed it over the top.

Two minutes later and some sloppy defensive work allowed Glen Johnson on the Liverpool right to manoeuvre past Hud and BAE, leaving him on his own running into the box.  Gomes decided to come for the ball and took the player out too, leaving the linesman and the ref to award the penalty, for which he got a yellow card.  Gerrard rarely misses and struck it down the middle with some height on it as Gomes dived to his right.  It was an equaliser they hardly deserved, but their lead did not last for long. 

Modric had already put Defoe in to turn and shoot at goal in the 58th minute, but Carragher blocked his effort, before the striker was chopped across his throat by Carragher's arm as he went to go past him once more.  A free-kick and the Croatian midfielder swung a neat cross to the far post, where Carragher was denied another own goal by Sebastien Bassong getting there first to power the ball into the top corner in the 59th minute.  It was a prodigious leap and one that showed Bassong's athleticism and strength.

Not that the lead should have been taken for granted, with a cheap free-kick given away 25 yards out on the left, which Gerrard smashed at goal, only to see Heurelho Gomes push it over the top.  When a Babel cross was headed up in the sir, Gomes collected it well and Torres tried to knock into him and then whined that Gomes had fallen on him.  Aaahh !!  But Spurs had an injured player of their own and Robbie Keane was limping around after taking a whack on his ankle, but he summoned the strength to hit a fierce drive at goal after running from deep.  The power in it surprised Reina, who could only beat it down and take it at the second attempt, but it was to be Robbie's last contribution before leaving the field to be replaced by Peter Crouch, making his debut nine years after joining the club as a junior.

And Crouch almost got on the end of an Aaron Lennon cross, but the low ball was behind him, although Modric had a shot clocked as he followed in, then his former Liverpool team-mate Torres put an acceptable chance wide when he headed Johnson's cross off target.  Spurs were now tiring and when Corluka won the ball, only to see it bounce forward past him to Gerrard running through, it looked a dangerous situation.  But Ledley covered and did enough to push Gerrard wide and his shot across Gomes was taken low down quite easily.

There was little chance for Crouch to show his best abilities, but he did get on the end of a cross from Modric, but although he got his header on target, it was not powerful and Reina picked up easily.  At the other end, substitute Yossi Benayoun was dictating the tempo of the Liverpool midfield play and was causing problems, none more so than when he picked up a one-two from Kuyt and hit a shot that King blocked away for a corner, which could have ended up going past Gomes on another day.

Into the last five minutes, there were a clutch of penalty claims.  Firstly, Carragher clearly had a hand in Crouch's back as the ball came in from the right, with the linesman having a clear line of sight, but failed to even consider it, then Liverpool broke and substitute Vorinin claimed he had been shoved off the ball by Assou-Ekotto as he ran onto Benayoun's pass.  BAE stood strong and went shoulder to shoulder with the Russian, who crumpled under the challenge.  Again, the referee wanted nothing to do with it, much as he turned down Tottenham shouts for a spot-kick when Jamie O'Hara struck Ayala on the arm with a stinging volley.  When Voronin hit a shot at BAE from a couple of yards away, he shouted for a penalty, but once more there was little interest shown by the officials.

As time ran out, Huddlestone did well to throw a block to stop Gerrard shot getting on target and then the big man was involved in an exchange with the petulant Torres, who might be showing signs of losing it, but the ref just spoke to them as there were only a couple of minutes of added time left.

When the final whistle sounded, there was a great cheer from around White Hart Lane, although one corner was quiet.  For all the hype surrounding Liverpool's good season last time out and their ambitions to win the title, they showed that they are along way off the usual suspects, as their comments about Spurs on the opening day being a tough fixture were sounding hollow, as they need to come to places like ours and win if they are to be considered serious contenders.

Having only lost two games last season, they are already one down and their title challenge might be over before it had begun.  While not as bad as their city rivals, it was a bad opening day for Merseyside and with all five London teams winning, could the balance of power in the Premier League be moving South ??

And for my favourite moment of the match ?  Well, it had to be man-of-the-match Wilson Palacios' pass off his back to Modric on the right wing.  Outrageous and effective, but sometimes, Wilson needs to keep it simple when we are not quite out of sight.



Reaction : -



Rafa Benitez reckons Liverpool were robbed.  Robbed of any flair and style by his dodgy selections more like.

His whingeing press conference about the referees missing two penalties Liverpool should have had are nothing but a desperate excuse for what was an appalling display by the side he put out and he should have been critical of his own selection for the match.  Picking players who were not fully fit smacks of not having the confidence nor the depth in his squad to be able to pull players in to cover.  WHile Tottenham have suffered injuries, they have gone out and bought to address that and the bench included Crouch, Pavlyuchenko, Bentley, O'Hara, Naughton, Cudicini and Hutton. The Liverpool subs were Cavalieri, Spearing, Kelly, Voronin, Benayoun, Ayala and Dossena.  Not much of a comparison is it, with Liverpool having two players they can't wait to get rid of, a spare keeper, two youngsters, Ayala (who I had never heard of) and Benayoun.  One out of seven ain't bad. 

He has the money form the Alonso deal, but the player would have been a better option, as he has bought a player who is crocked to replace him.  By the time he is fit, if he is nay good, their chances of taking the title will be gone at this rate.

But Spurs played very well for 70 minutes.  They tired in the last third of the game, as it was very hot and they put a lot of work in.  Something that cannot be said of Babel, Torres, Inusa or Lucas.  For Tottenham Bassong played like he had been at the club for ages, while Modric was adept in nicking the ball away from incoming tackles and slipping passes through to the forwards.  It reminded me how Spurs played in pre-season last year.  Bassong's header was good news, with Spurs scoring from a set-piece for the first time in living memory.  And the first goal from Assou-Ekotto was a revelation.  No longer will he be the natural successor to Didier Zokora for being the one who never scored.  No longer will be be called Benoit Over The Bar and perhaps he might get a sniff at free-kicks now ?

A solid display that was good enough to see of the Merseyside side, but we must ram home the benefits from that win on Wednesday at Hull.

bobby gee

For Wyart Lane's reaction in the Times Online Fanzine Fanzone, click here.






Other scores this weekend :
Aston Villa 0 Wigan Athletic 2 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 0 Manchester City 2 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 0 Sunderland 1 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Hull City 1 Saturday
Everton 1 Arsenal 6 Saturday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 West Ham United 2 Saturday
Portsmouth 0 Fulham 1 Saturday
Stoke City 2 Burnley 0 Saturday
Manchester United 1 Birmingham City 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 1 1 0 0 6 1 3 +5
2 Manchester City 1 1 0 0 2 0 3 +2
3 Stoke City 1 1 0 0 2 0 3 +2
4 West Ham United 1 1 0 0 2 0 3 +2
5 Wigan Athletic 1 1 0 0 2 0 3 +2
6 Chelsea 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 +1
8 Fulham 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 +1
9 Manchester United 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 +1
10 Sunderland 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 +1
11 Liverpool 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 -1
12 Hull City 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 -1
13 Birmingham City 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1
14 Bolton Wanderers 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1
15 Portsmouth 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1
16 Aston Villa 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 -2
17 Blackburn Rovers 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 -2
18 Burnley 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 -2
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 -2
20 Everton 1 0 0 1 1 6 0 -5

Position before the match :  -  N/A
Position after the match :  -  7th


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