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
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.
: Didier Hamann (knee); Harry Kewell (groin); Neil Mellor (knee);
Florent Sinama Pongolle (knee ligaments); Chris Kirkland (back); Milan
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);
- RTE 3PM on Network 2.
Live commentary - BBC London 94.9FM (London area only)
Live webcast - subscribers only
Planet football - http://play.www.planetfootball.servecast.net/downloads/sky/spurs_match_new.ram
(free - only available when match is on)
Tottenham Hotspur 2
(Half-time score : 1-1)
||Venue : Anfield
|Saturday 16th April 2005
||Kick Off : 15.00 p.m.
|Crowd : 44,029
||Referee : Mark Halsey
|Weather : Warm, sunny
Nunez (Cisse 78)
Alonso (Biscan 85)
Warnock (Riise 35)
Reid (Ziegler 72)
Keane (Defoe 89)
: - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
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
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.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - MICHAEL DAWSON
|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?
this weekend :