Wednesday 27th August 2003
After two games of this season, I would not have thought we would be above our opponents as we arrive at Anfield. The New Money, New Chelsea side were odds on to take three points from whoever they played first match, although they left it late, but the dull 0-0 against Villa has cast some "Glenn Hoddle early season" type pressure in the direction of Gerard Houllier.
With some new players coming in and not quote gelling yet, it is far too early to say that Liverpool are going to struggle this season, much the same as the same aspersions being cast at Tottenham. Kewell is obviously not functioning as designed and his selection on the right is odd seeing as how he usually plays off the other flank. Perhaps Gerard wants him to come inside on his good foot ??
The Pool squad have enough big names in there to make a big hit. Jerzy Dudek is a sound enough keeper, with good hands and a continental way of dealing with shots, involving punching them a mile. A more conventionally English keeper is reserve Chris Kirkland. Signed from Coventry, he has suffered with a nasty injury last season, but is back to fitness and will be pressing for his chance between the sticks. A talented goalie, Kirkland is the great England hope of the future and if he makes continued progress, then he should take over from James, when he steps down.
In front of the keeper, the defence is familiar to Spurs fans who have seen us face Liverpool over the last few years. One of our regular scorers against the Reds - Carragher - is still there, while Hyypia and Henchoz pair up in the middle. I still fail to see the attraction of Henchoz, but he works well with the big Finn and with the addition of Steve Finnan at right back, Liverpool will be hoping for some reward over the rainbow. John Arne Riise is not your normal left back, as he is intent on getting forward to hit long range bombs at goal or put in dangerous crosses for the forwards to latch on to. Simon Davies and Steve Carr will have to work hard to keep him in his own half.
The midfield is an area where Liverpool are very strong, with the addition of Kewell making it a surplus of riches. The former Leeds man is a very good player, who can produce skill to turn a game around and there are not too many players like that around. With pace and a fierce shot, Harry can prove a handful for the best of defences. Alongside him, Murphy and Gerrard are the two who are expected to win the ball. Stephen Gerrard is having a bit of trouble getting caught up in controversy ... some of which is of his own making. His two footed tackle on Sunday at Villa looked nasty and echoed that in the Merseyside derby last season, so he needs to keep his eye on the ball and leave the studs for the turf. He is an exceptional player, who has great drive in midfield, but with incidents like that and the pre-season sending off against Galatasaray, he is getting a reputation he doesn't need. Igor Biscan came as a big money signing from Yugoslavia and has had little impact in his time at Anfield, but now appears to be getting a run in midfield. A strong runner with the ball, he is more of a creator going forward and could prove problems on the left side if he gets the nod against Spurs over Diouf. Another who has a chequered career so far at Liverpool, the African Player of the Year needs to prove Houllier was right to splash out on him after the World Cup. A good finisher, he also has the ability to play as a supplier on the left wing. Has a trick or two that can get him past defenders, who have to be alert to his skills. Vladimir Smicer is now a regular on the bench, but has not let Liverpool down when used, although he is not one of the favourites of many Anfield fans. A hard worker and a willing chaser, he can score useful goals and pops up in a position where he is coming on to the ball from deep to hit it from the edge of the box. Making late runs will require someone in the Tottenham side to track him carefully and that is not a strength of the midfield.
Up front, Heskey is struggling with a shin injury picked up on Sunday, so Milan Baros is most likely to partner Michael Owen. Owen, we all know about. Quick, deadly and very rich !! Baros is a bit less well known away from Liverpool, but he has pace and an eye for goal that is almost as keen as Owen's. Both have good movement in trying to lose their markers, so they might cause Deano problems, but Gardner and King should be able to cope with their runs. It could be that Hoddle brings back Perry in Richards' place, as the aerial threat will not be as great.
Tottenham impressed in the second half of the Leeds match and after the start the Reds have had will see them working extra hard to shut down any space we have, as they know we like to pass the ball around. This will mean that a repetition of the movement we saw needing to be produced and also effort to close down the Liverpool midfield and not let them settle. Gerrard and Murphy are very good passers, so need to be given little time on the ball. Ricketts could be a must to put in a lot of legwork to do this sort of "dirty" work.
It will be interesting to see how Hyypia and Henchoz cope with the movement of our own front line, as Zamora will hassle if he starts, Postiga will be nippy and sharp on the floor, with Fredi a handful in the air as well as on the grass if he plays. Our front line could worry most defences these days ... when they are all fit !!
Despite all the above, I am a realist and with only one point on the board, Liverpool will be desperate to record a home win, so I am going for a home win, but the longer it goes without a breakthrough, Spurs might stand a chance of getting something from the match.
PREDICTION : - Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE
How do you think your team will play this season ?
Before the first two
games I'd said we'd possibly battle for places 3, 4, 5. Now we've
kicked off I'm ruling out third. We're still playing too much
aimless hoof ball and couldn't pass to save our lives which should be
fun when you lot arrive and pass to one another. A real case of -
and now for something completely different. Yesterday we drew at
Villa 0-0 in a game most people fell asleep in and Le Boss described it
as a possible springboard to the season - well all I can say to that is
those springs must be pretty knackered!
Of those playing in the
first team Owen and Gerrard are the true stars BUT therein often lies
the problem. We rely too much on individual stars to get us
through with other players there who aren't always as great. Milan
Baros and Chris Kirkland are great stars too on the bench who could do
with a long run in the side.
Emile Heskey and so far
Harry Kewell. Emile has turned full circle here. He came and
I didn't like him. He played great though and won me round.
Now he falls over a lot, complains he's injured and then takes a miracle
pill to be back for the next game. Kewell just hasn't slotted in
yet. He'll come good no doubt but just a bit slow for me yet.
It doesn't help playing him on the right when he's a left footer though!
Harry Kewell is the
obvious one but everyone knows of him. The only other additions
this year. A young French centre back - well he's French so we
bought him. The only kids promoted this year are OK but I'm not
sure they'll ever make it big time.
Cockneys! :o) In
fairness - a decent side who can pass, but they're never really going to
challenge anything at the top. A high mid-table side who can win
cups at times. The problem of course would be turning that around
to challenge the top five.
Based on this season so
far Postiga looks a great buy. I've always liked Steve Carr though
as a great full back who gets forward well. And of course Redders.
2-1 to the Reds with Owen and Gerrard scoring.
Thanks to Andy from
Liverpool - Emile Heskey (calf), Didier Hamann (shin)
Tottenham Hotspur - Christian Ziege (thigh), Kazuyuki Toda (calf), Robbie Keane (ankle), Gus Poyet (broken wrist), Jonathan Blondel (finger)
TV : No live coverage in UK. Highlights on "The Premiership" ITV 11.20 p.m.
Radio : TalkSport (in the London area) 1089 medium wave (programme starts 7.30.p.m.)
Internet : www.spurs.co.uk Live webcast
|Liverpool 0 Tottenham 0 (Half-time score : 0-0)|
|Wednesday 27th August 2003|
|Venue : - Anfield|
|Kick Off : - 20.00 p.m.|
|Weather : - Dry, warm|
|Crowd : - 43,778|
|Referee : - Uriah Rennie
Linesmen : - Linesmen : Mr. Russell Booth; Mr. Andy Garratt
Fourth Official : Mike Jones
|Teams : -
Liverpool : - Dudek; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Biscan; Gerrard, Smicer (Murphy 68), Kewell, Diouf; Owen, Baros
Unused subs: Kirkland, Riise, La Tellec, Diao
Manager : Gerard Houllier
Tottenham : - Keller;
Gardner, Richards, King; Taricco, Redknapp (c), Davies, Ricketts, Carr;
Postiga (Anderton 86), Zamora (Kanoute 66)
|Colours : -
Liverpool - All red
Tottenham - White shirts, navy blue shorts, white socks with navy blue turnover
|Scorers : -
Liverpool - None
Tottenham - None
|Cards : -
Liverpool - Diouf (foul) 45, Finnan (foul) 48,
Tottenham - Redknapp (foul) 9, Richards (foul) 26, Carr (foul) 36, King (foul) 59, Gardner (foul) 71
With Anfield being one of those grounds where Spurs never do well, a point from our efforts is to be welcomed. The team put in some hard work and had the odd chance, in what was a good time to play against the Mersey Reds, who had yet to win this season.
The first half was a fairly even matched affair, but Liverpool controlled possession a bit better than Tottenham. They moved the ball crisply, but found a determined Tottenham side in their way. The number of bookings picked up by Spurs did not really reflect their play, more the erratic nature of Rennie's officiating. Too many fouls blown up for and offsides, when he could have waved play on. Out of all the refs in the Premier League he is my least favourite, as he has an ego bigger than any match he takes "control" of.
Little rhythm could be built up and therefore, chances were at a premium. Spurs had the first clear chance, when, in the 11th minute, Ricketts burst into the box and hit a shot that Dudek spilled, with Zamora unable to get a touch on the follow-up and Carr flashing the loose ball wide. A goal at that stage for Spurs might have piled more pressure on Liverpool and their manager Houllier, who (according to one radio station this afternoon) has few fans on his side. Five minutes or so later, Postiga produced a neat shot that had Dudek clawing the ball out for a corner. From the corner Zamora caused havoc and the ball fell to Anthony Gardner, who screwed the ball wide, with the goal right in front of him.
Liverpool were reduced to hitting long range efforts with Smicer hitting one that missed right, then Gerrard hit a poor free-kick wide with little power. The closest they came to a goal, was when a deflection off Postiga took the ball out for a corner from a Kewell shot. The only other action Liverpool got involved in was a two footed tackle by Diouf on Stephen Carr that rightly earned a booking; a bit more justified than some of the earlier yellow cards that Rennie dished out in his usual manner.
The second half saw Tottenham tire and withdraw a bit to defend their point ... always a bad sign. However, Liverpool did not have the guile to set up Michael Owen. His only real involvement was a header that beat Keller and nestled in the net, but it was disallowed for a push by Hyypia on Deano from the corner. Baros tried an ambitious overhead kick, Murphy a long, long range effort over the top, Smicer a shot that forced Keller to dive an gather, then Gerrard hit one straight at the Spurs keeper. It was in the 72nd minute when they came closest to scoring, when the ball bounced just right for Stephen Gerrard to unleash one of his powerful drives, but fortunately for Tottenham, the ball went straight at Keller, who produced a fine save to push the ball out. Gerrard had tow more goes, as did Baros and Kewell, but none troubled Keller any further.
With last season's lack of clean sheets, the final whistle welcomed not only that, but a hard earned point to keep the momentum going. It was not as good a performance as the second half of the Leeds game, but Spurs did play with some confidence ... especially Ricketts and Redknapp, who were really up for it. The defence was solid in the face of ever frantic Pool pressure and the wing backs got back well to prevent any width being offered to the home side.
Hoddle should take some credit for the team's achievement. Spurs have played well at Anfield in the last few seasons, but come away with nothing, so his game plan looked as if it was a success in terms of picking up valuable points away from home, where in the last couple of season, Tottenham have been dire on the road. Postiga chased back and worried the Liverpool defenders, while Zamora put in another hour of hard work tracking back and graft up front. Both will be good players for Spurs.
A point to be proud of, but one that will only mean anything if it is followed up with the right result against Fulham on Saturday.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - DEAN RICHARDS
|Level Play Anfield|
|For once a Spurs side travelled to
Anfield with a belief that they could get something from the match and
even though there were periods of the second half where Tottenham soaked
up pressure from the home side, the defence played their part admirably
to gain a point from the trek North.
With an onus on passing and moving, Spurs gave Liverpool a few things to think about in this match and only Dudek's flying save to keep out Postiga's volley prevented our Portuguese import from getting his name on the scorer's list for the first time. Gardner also had a chance to give Spurs the lead, but when in front of goal from a corner, he stuck his shot outside the frame of the goal. But the passing had worried Liverpool, most notably the move that had Ricketts played in on goal, forcing the Polish goalie to another save, before Zamora and Carr tried to get it in and failed.
But Tottenham's game plan was to frustrate Liverpool too and their work rate made it possible, closing down in midfield and marking up well off the ball. It worked to such an effect that Owen didn't have a meaningful effort on goal all night. Kewell did go close with a header that flashed wide, while Gerrard made Kasey palm his fierce rocket shot wide of the goal as about the only thing he had to deal with. By shutting off the options available to Gerrard and Kewell, Spurs restricted the home side's progress into their half and forced them into panic shooting from distance.
It was nice to see a Spurs team playing in a way where they looked fairly comfortable sitting back, although it is never good for the nerves of a Tottenham fan. Although that was a plus, the negative aspect taken from the game was the collection of five yellow cards. Not all were deserved from Uriah Rennie, who likes to play to the crowd. It was not a dirty game and the imploring by Milan Baros did not help matters, but Tottenham picked up six in the first away game and now another five here, with a couple particularly naive in earning the caution. Once again, the team will suffer if players get suspended later in the season for silly offences now.
Anderton came on near the end to replace Postiga, which gives Hod another option in midfield and he might get a start against Fulham, who look light in that area of their side. That will mean Ricketts will need to retain his place to run his legs off for the others there. Zamora and Postiga will probably start, with Fredi coming on to terrorise the tiring Cottagers' defence. Here he proved a handful for the Reds when he got the ball. unfortunately, towards the end, it was anywhere will do !! Kanoute had to chase down what he could.
A bonus point and one which goes some of the way to off-setting the first day loss at Birmingham. What the side really need is a run of six or seven games without defeat and goals from Postiga and Zamora would further bolster their and the team's confidence.
Benny The Ball
|Other scores this mid-week :|
|Blackburn Rovers||2||Manchester City||3||Monday|
|Manchester United||1||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||Wednesday|
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