Saturday 16th April 2005
Winning their Champions League quarter-final will have given the whole club a boost. Not just because it means a lucrative semi-final against Chelsea, but because they will gain a lot of confidence from gaining a draw at Juventus against their Euro-savvy side full of top names. With injuries having deprived them of a couple of players, they will now know that there is depth in the squad to cover for such losses.
With Gerrard set to return, this will further strengthen their position for this match at Anfield, where they will also have Xabi Alonso, Fernando Morientes, Mauricio Pellegrino and Djibril Cisse also available.
Spurs have not been travelling well this season, despite playing a more offensive style than the apologetic performances put in last season away from the Lane. It has been the lack of clinical finishing that has let Tottenham down, as the opportunities have been made, but not converted. Having said that, the games we have won have been because of the good taking of a chance that has seen our forwards (and a defender in the match at Everton) claim the points.
The goalkeeping position has been a bit problematical for the Reds this season. Jerzy Dudek has been prone to the odd mistake and in came Chris Kirkland, who then did his back in (not picking the ball out of the net, I hasten to add), leaving January signing - former Leeds young protégé - Carson to take the gloves. He then let a Cannavaro effort in against Juventus in the first leg, swiftly being replaced by Dudek, who was solid in the return leg. Expect the Pole to be in position against Spurs and he might not have the threat of challenge in the air, with Mido being out, but Keano will need to push forward if Jermain is out and he might be the main threat alongside Fredi. Lee Barnard might be on the bench and if he gets on, his energy might disrupt the Scousers defence.
That defence will consist of Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, John-Arne Riise and Steve Finnan. With Riise and Finnan both keen to overlap, this would give our wide midfielders the problem of stopping them advancing and so, it will mean lot of hard work for both Ziegler/Reid and Davies. With Djimi Traore and Antonio Nunez also up for consideration, there are options in Benitez's squad. Both have shown this season that they can come in to do a job for the manager and Traore has had good and bad times. It was his own goal that knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup at Burnley, but he did have a very good game on Wednesday against Juventus.
One player who has been a revelation this season is Luis Garcia, who has sparkled in midfield for Liverpool. His goals have been important in their matches and he shows that he has been able to create opportunities and great skill. He will be one who needs to be watched, but the return of Gerrard and Alonso, means that the home side's midfield will have great drive and power. With Brown missing and Mendes out injured too, the midfield might struggle to contain the runs from deep that Liverpool will employ. Sean Davis has only just returned from injury and although he is a strong midfielder, he might need to have a couple of matches more before he is restored to his pervious form. Igor Biscan is not an Anfield favourite, but he has put in some good displays, while youngsters Stephen Warnock and Anthony Le Tallec will be held in reserve for substitute duties.
Djibril Cisse's rapid return from a double break in his leg has been remarkable and he showed against Juventus that he is willing to go in where it hurts, so will be looking to get back into scoring form. His goal against Spurs on the opening day of the season was a little fortunate, but then, I am sure he doesn't care how they go in, With Baros suspended, former Real Madrid striker Morientes will come in to feature against Spurs, who made valiant attempts to sign him last year. He will be keen to prove that he made the right choice and on the bench will either be Vladimir Smicer, an experienced performer but one who will be on his way in the summer and John Welsh, a youngster who played against Tottenham in the League Cup tie. With Naybet missing, Pamarot out for the season too and Gardner still doubtful with a foot injury, it leaves Tottenham with the prospect of Michael Dawson making his debut at Anfield with no previous Spurs game at any level. With the aftermath of this medical nightmare in the wake of our recent win over Newcastle, it will be a reshuffled defence who has to try and keep Liverpool out.
Spurs will be up against it. Liverpool are going to be making sure they secure a Champions League place through the league in case they don't win the competition, so the prize of finishing above their city neighbours Everton to do so will add some incentive to their game. Hit by injury, Tottenham will need to put in a determined showing to get anything out of it. Unfortunately, I reckon it might be just beyond Spurs, leaving the final score as ...
PREDICTION : - Liverpool 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
LIVERPOOL : Didier Hamann (knee); Harry Kewell (groin); Neil Mellor (knee); Florent Sinama Pongolle (knee ligaments); Chris Kirkland (back); Milan Baros (suspended);
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Mido (stomach muscle strain); Noureddine Naybet (hamstring); Noe Pamarot (knee); Pedro Mendes (broken toe); Michael Brown (fractured foot); Thimothee Atouba (suspended); Rob Burch (ankle); - (-);
|Liverpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2 (Half-time score : 1-1)|
|Premier League||Venue : Anfield|
|Saturday 16th April 2005||Kick Off : 15.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 44,029||Referee : Mark Halsey (Lancashire)|
|Weather : Warm, sunny|
|Teams : -|
Nunez (Cisse 78)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
|Match Report : -|
|When Spurs have been short of
goals away from home, it is a bit galling that when they do score two
goals and take the lead twice, that the opposition take a point, despite
our poor record at Anfield.
The moral victory in getting a draw with the team in fifth position shows it is a way to gauge that things are going better now than at the same point in last season's campaign. While the stats will show that the home side dominated with 71% of possession, twice as many shots as Tottenham's nine and twelve corners to our three, it is the goals on the scoreboard that count in the final analysis and the point keeps Spurs in seventh at the moment, although we slipped further behind Bolton, who won and are getting caught by Villa, who also took three points.
Spurs attacking intent was potent on the break in the second half, but the chances at both ends saw players miss the target and none was more guilty than Gerrard, who got up after being fouled to take the spot-kick and stick it well wide with Robinson going the wrong way. Spurs had their opportunities in the second half, but the best option was not always taken leading to Liverpool getting back into the game.
The early action was end to end with Michael Dawson being at the heart of stopping Liverpool's efforts reaching the danger zone. Making his first appearance without any other game for the club, Dawson did put in a fine performance in the heart of our defence alongside Ledley King and with Naybet out for the rest of the season, we can expect to see Michael given the last five matches to bed in.
When Spurs won their first corner in the eleventh minute, it looked as though there would be little danger, as Keane played it too short to Reid, who had to stretch to win the ball in a tackle. But when the ball flew to Erik Edman 35 yards out, Jerzy Dudek must have thought the same. When the Swede hit the ball, the Polish keeper stood watching the ball go in, as he thought that having cleared the heads of the defenders, it must have been going over the top. However, the ball nestled in the top right hand corner of his net at the Kop end and the Spurs fans went barmy.
Liverpool tried to strike back with a shot from Nunez that went wide, but it was Spurs who early went two up when King met a Davies throw-in with his head leaving an easy save for Dudek. Both teams seemed to have trouble staying onside, with Keane and Morientes being the main culprits and the crosses that were slung into the Tottenham box were headed out by Dawson and King, not forgetting a couple of clearances from set-pieces by Kanoute.
An early substitution for the Reds saw John Arne Riise take over from Stephen Warnock who might have been injured, as he did take a knock on his knee, but it is more likely that he was taken off to try and balance up the attacking intent Spurs had on that flank. Riise puts in more forward runs and can track back, thus making it harder for Tottenham to break out of defence. Nunez was still pushing up and hit a shot across the face of goal and Gerrard tested Robinson, but he held onto the shot from 20 yards.
The pressure had been building, as it had done from the start, but the goal that Liverpool equalised with came out of nowhere. When a ball was played into him by Finnan, he managed to turn and curl a 25-yarder to beat Robinson into the top left of his goal. It was another spectacular goal from the little Spaniard and coming just before half-time, it was a blow for Spurs who had worked so hard in the first 45 minutes. Things could have been considerably worse had Morientes header from close range not been beaten out and wide by Robbo. But then things could have been better had the flick on from Kanoute to Keano not been hit over the top in added time before the half-time whistle.
Jol probably praised his side for the way they had played in the first half, despite the late leveller for the home side, but he might well have made the point that Spurs needed to get at the Liverpool side up the flanks.
Morientes was attempting to get on the score-sheet to prove the point that he did right in joining Liverpool and his shot early in the second half might have done so if he hadn't dragged it wide of the target. Five minutes into the second half and the action kicked off in a big way.
Davies was making more ground on the right and put in a great cross for Robbie Keane to hit a shot from the edge of the area and Dudek made a very good finger-tip save to deny the lively Irishman and a Reid free-kick was nodded well wide by an unmarked Fredi a couple of minutes later. Following a 54th minute long free-kick by Robinson, the ball found Kanoute wide on the right. Fredi engineered a fine first time cross that Robbie Keane did justice to by heading past the Reds' keeper in off Carragher to restore Tottenham's lead. This nearly evaporated very quickly, as, when the ball came back into the Spurs box for the third time after the restart, Carrick tripped Gerrard as he broke through into the area and Mark Halsey pointed to the spot. Spurs fans had their heart sin their mouths as the England midfielder got up to take the kick himself. Soon after their hearts were back beating faster in their chests, as the Liverpool captain hit his shot two yards wide with Robinson diving in the opposite direction.
With another great opening for Kanoute on the edge of the box to shoot Tottenham further ahead, he struck his effort over the top in the 58th minute and it became an expensive miss soon after when a cross following Riise's corner in the 61st minute was half-cleared to Sami Hyypia just outside the box and he hit a right-footed volley into the bottom corner of the goal to make it 2-2. It was a cruel goal to concede, but Spurs needed to keep the ball away from goal a bit more than they did and by allowing Liverpool efforts on goal, it would have been hard to keep them all out.
Garcia and Finnan fizzed in shots and Morientes again pulled another save out of Robinson as he tipped away a shot, but it was Garcia who took a high ball down with great skill to beat Carrick in the area and hit a shot just over Robinson's crossbar from an acute angle on the left. With five minutes left Spurs continued to attack and when Davies was allowed a free run towards the Liverpool goal. he took the chance to drive in a shot that brought a good save from Dudek, tipping the ball over the top.
Even closer to the end of the game, it was Liverpool who came even closer to winning it. The ball broke to Gerrard about 20 yards out and his first time drive bobbled along the floor with Robinson beaten, but the ball bounced out wide off the foot of his right hand post and then in injury time, Finnan took a quick throw-in from Gerrard to put a low cross in that Morientes skied over the bar on the turn, when he might have hit the target.
At the start of the game, a well observed
minute's silence for the fans who went to a football match at
Hillsborough but never came home was paid a fitting tribute by this
match. Two teams who wanted to play open passing football, both
going for the win and perhaps on the day a draw was the right result and
football was the winner. The foul count of twelve in a competitive
match showed that there is no need for cynicism or dirty play to produce
attacking football which leaves the fans happy. So much so that
even the ref and linemen had a fine performance by not getting in the
way of the action. That was left to debut man Dawson, who was the
best player among a number in white shirts today.
|GO WITH THE FLOW|
|For all the speculation about
where Spurs would end up this season, it has been the performances
against our "betters" away from home this season that has
given most heart. That and the improved ability to pass the ball
well in an attacking sense.
The figures produced by various sources that showed we had under a third of the possession and the same in shots tells nothing about the chances that we made that could have won the match. Kanoute's shot over in the second half when Keane had got beyond the last defender for a high ball; Davies' effort that was tipped over; Keane's first half half-volley that flew over the top and Fredi's free header that ended up well wide. All could have had a telling effect had they gone in. But they didn't and the twice held lead was pegged back by a tired, but determined Liverpool side who had their own European aspirations to cater for.
They had their opportunities too, with Gerrard's late shot that bounced back off the upright, Finnan's drive that went a yard or two wide at the far post, Garcia's sublime control that led to a shot that raced over the bar and Morientes' header just before half-time, that Robinson did well to keep out considering it was aimed down and central in the goal.
But Spurs had some good possession during which they moved the ball around very nicely. One touch considered passing saw them open the home side up on a number of occasions and the confidence gained from this spread through the side. Michael Dawson was terrific defensively, with only the Morientes header seeing him beaten to the ball. He won lots in the air, tackles on the ground and he threw himself in the way when shots came in. Dawson also showed ability on the ball, with some delightful pin-point long passing, with Ledley sitting alongside him and organising the defence well.
With Carrick and Davis looking to be a good blend in midfield, there was a fluency about our play and Reid dug in, attacking when he had the chance. Davies proved similarly effective on the other flank. Keane and Kanoute ran down defenders to make life hard for them after their exertions in Italy midweek and showed that they could make chances, although on some occasions a quicker release of the ball would have been more devastating.
Edman showed he has the ability to produce fierce long-range shooting with his left foot. His near 40 yard shot left Dudek wondering how it went in, coming from a distance and dipping into the top corner of the net. Erik had scored for Sweden two weeks ago and maybe now that he has licence to maraud up the field, he might start hitting a few more efforts to test keepers ... especially when urged by the crowd to "Shooooooooooot" !! It was Edman who was marking Luis Garcia, when the Liverpool man turned away from him and curled a shot around King to beat Robinson for the equaliser just before the break. In fact, Robbo was unsighted for both goals and could do little to stop them, with the second equaliser being hit on the volley by Hyypia from the edge of the box after Fredi's header fell kindly to him.
The second Spurs goal had come from a dogged piece fo play from Kanoute, chasing down Robinson's long kick and getting around Pelligrino to hit a firm cross that Robbie Keane headed towards goal and it flew off defender Jamie Carragher leaving Dudek helpless. It was the result of Fredi's effort and Robbie's predatory instinct that both were in the right places to capitalise on the slackness in the 'Pool defence.
So, a point was more than what some expected, but then we were disappointed leaving with only the one. A good sign that the team are producing such expectancy, but the test, as always with Spurs, will come on Wednesday, when we all expect the side to win against West Brom !!
Benny The Ball
|A few things stood out from your
point of view.
The talk of a minutes silence for Hillsborough brought large clapping from Spurs - very touching and meant a lot I have to say
Paul Robinson - applauded the whole Kop at the start of the second half. A rare sight these days for the opposing keeper to recognise our tradition of always applauding the oppo keeper on to the pitch - yes even Mancs and Blues.
Edman - what a goal ! There are some goals that go against you that you just have to applaud and that was one of them!
Spurs tactics ! 'ow someone turned up and gave us a game of football. Can we play you every week ! It's hard to be disappointed after a draw when both sides genuinely tried to win the game playing football.
What do you reckon of your chances of hitting Europe are then?
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Charlton Athletic||1||Bolton Wanderers||2||Saturday|
|Crystal Palace||3||Norwich City||3||Saturday|
|FA Cup semi-finals|
|Manchester United||4||Newcastle United||1||Sunday|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||32||5||13||14||31||52||28||-21|
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