Looking Forward

 

LIVERPOOL (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 17th January 2004

With both teams hitting a bit of form since the turn of the year, this could be a closer encounter than it might have been a few weeks back.

The match at Anfield earlier in the season saw Tottenham take a surprise point at a ground they hardly ever do well at, but the two sides have had disappointing campaigns so far, with Tottenham's more so than Liverpool's.  Both sides have been injury hit and the players have pulled themselves together for the last three games all of which both sides have won.

The younger elements of the teams have given the fans hope for the future, with Liverpool's Sinama Pongolle, Le Tallec, John Welsh and Chris Kirkland replacing some of the older French guard as Diomede and Traore ready to move out.  There is a lot of potential in the imported and home-grown youth players and this means that the side could be strong in coming years.

The bulk of the side is one that Houllier has bought.  Heskey and Smicer get stick, but do work hard off the ball, while Gerrard and Owen are the star names who take the glory.  Baros is coming back from injury and might not play, but he is a young striker with an eye for goal and has great skill with quick feet.  If Owen did go, he will be a ready made replacement, although it looks like Djibril Cisse is the one they will bring in during the coming summer as the new forward.

The goalkeeping position has been a bit of a poison chalice lately, with both Dudek and Kirkland getting injured, resulting in the arrival of Paul Jones from SCBC on loan, to provide cover.  If Jones does play, he might remember the seven goals we out past him on a visit with his other club a few years back.  Dudek is a good stopper and Kirkland will develop into a fine all-round goalie when he gets a permanent run in the side.

With Carragher just about coming back from a broken leg and unlikely to feature, the Reds will depend on Hyypia, Henchoz, Riise and Biscan in defence.  Sami Hyypia is one of the most respected central defenders in the top flight and wins most things in the air.  If Zamora is played up against him, he might find it a demoralising experience, while Postiga will prefer the ball on the floor, as will Keano.  Henchoz blends well with his Finnish partner, although on his own lacks a little pace and can be rash in the tackle.  Biscan had a long period out of the side and is not well appreciated by the side's supporters, as he did not establish a position of his own in the team.  Slipping into defence has given him a run in the side, but he might still be on the fringes once everyone else comes back.

Didi Hamann is approaching the veteran stage, but still can command the midfield, with the ability to pass and move, then get forward to hit accurate shots from distance.  His value to the side is in making the play tick over and a player like that could work wonders for Tottenham.  Harry Kewell always plays well against Tottenham.  He has great skill and vision and has blended in with his team-mates after a sticky patch at the start of his Liverpool career.  He will need to be watched very closely by the Spurs men.  England midfielder Danny Murphy is hugely under-rated for what he does ... mainly because he does it so effectively without fuss.  No Liverpool fan I talk to can see what Houllier does in Bruno Cheyrou.  Even though he recently scored the winner against Chelsea, they think he would be better off somewhere else.  Still young, he might need to settle in a bit more, before winning the fans over.

Poyet will be missing serving the first match of his suspension, which might open up the midfield for Michael Brown to start.  A busy player, he could be what is needed to mix it with the visiting midfielders.  Up front we will be missing Kanoute who is away with Mali.  The like for like choice would be Zamora, but I think Postiga might be given a go up front with Robbie, although Pleat might prefer Bobby's hard-working style to shut down the wing backs of Liverpool.  The defence should be the same as the last few games, with Richards still recovering and that could be for the best, as speed will be needed if Owen or Pongolle play.

While Spurs have hit a patch of good form, I would like to think that the side will have enough pride to put in a good performance against Liverpool after seeing off lesser opposition.  Liverpool are on the up as well, so my prediction is for a sharing of the points ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  1   Liverpool  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 have played so far this season ?

That depends on what games you pick out.  We've been so up and down this season it's unbelievable.  The moans and groans against Houllier have increased as the season has gone on and rightly so when you see the rubbish we've produced far to often.  In saying all that you look at the way we can play sometimes and you see why we get so frustrated.  We tore Arsenal apart at Anfield in the first half but never scored and succumbed to the killer goal.  We battered Bolton at Christmas but then we looked ordinary say against Charlton away and lost.

What are your hopes for the outcome of this season ?

Finishing fourth in the league obviously would be our biggest aim this year and that says so much about us.  The top three look gone although Chelsea may yet waver enough that we really should look to push them for third.  A decent run in the FA Cup and UEFA Cup would be good as well although it will only serve to save Le Boss if we really go for it and win something.

Who do you think is your best player at the moment ?

Sadly he's missing for this game and that's Steven Gerrard.  Stevie has really moved on a step since getting the captaincy.  The real man in form for us though at the moment is Didi Hamann who is simply awesome at the moment.  Hamann just sits and mops everything up in front of the defence and then moves the ball on to the creative players.  We so missed him in
the early stages of the season.

Which player isn't playing as well in recent games ?

El Hadji Diouf but thankfully in a sense he's off to the ANC.  He started this season well but just drifted as the season moved on.  At least him being away on international duty it saves the referee time booking him.

Any exciting players who have come into the squad that we should look out for ?

Florent Sinama-Pongolle - with the injuries to Baros and Owen this season he's come on quicker than expected but he's a real hard working player and needs a run in the team a bit.  With a run in the side he would relax a bit more as the one thing I've noticed with him so far is he often mis-controls early on in moves which lets the move go a bit.

Have you been hit by the call on your players by the African Nations Cup ?

Diao has gone which really doesn't affect us one bit cos he's so poor anyway.  Diouf going will perhaps have an effect on us but as I said he hasn't played as well of late to be fair.  Who replaces him will be interesting.

Heskey - for or against ?

************
I think that sums that one up nicely.  Heskey in fairness has actually picked up a little in the last two games but it's only since he's realised his career is on the line.  Non Liverpool fans wonder how he gets to play for England.  I wonder how he gets to play for the Reds.  A bag of chips and a mars bar and you can have him :o)

And what is your view on Houllier's tenure as manager ?

Houllier came in and moved us forward quickly and also seemed to be building a decent base for the future.  That really leveled out though and his signings for big money have really concerned me.  We play dull football but the players are the ones who make a side.  The players who have come in as a result of our injury list have shown that they simply aren't good enough. The manager complains about the injury list but it's the same man who has brought the replacements in as well.  Quite honestly he's coming up with more excuses these days than your enemy man down at Highbury.

Does he have as tempestuous a relationship with Phil Thompson as it looks like ?

Tommo is too much of a glove puppet to Houllier for me to be honest.  He's a fiery character - as if you didn't work that one out eh.  He backs Houllier all the way though and if you look in the club both are just as likely to fall out with players and ship them on.  Westerveld, Camara, Fowler, Litmanen etc;

Are you surprised that Tottenham have been scraping the bottom reaches of the Premiership this season ?


The whole premiership has been a surprise to be honest.  Take the top three out and exclude Wolves a couple of wins or losses can really push you up and down the league.  There's ten points between us and Portsmouth at the moment in 17th.  That said I did expect a little more from Spurs this season in terms of scoring.  The front line looked far better.  For me the
big weak link is the midfield.  It lacks something which then exposes the defence to more attack and they'll crumble after a while as well.  Someone like Hamann would be a god send to you lot to sit in front of the defence. Having Anderton and Poyet isn't the way forward really.  Experience maybe but old and decrepit on the other.

Which Spurs player do you think will cause problems for your side ?

Robbie Keane can be a right handful up front for you if he's in the mood and I've been impressed with Dalmat of late to be honest.  He looks a decent player.  Getting a top manager in could be the key to keeping him though.

What is the line-up expected to be ?

Paul Jones will continue in goal and based on last week will do us a good job again. Henchoz, Biscan, Hyypia and Traore I suspect will be in defence although Riise may keep his place.  The left back slot has been a problem to be honest since Carragher broke his leg.  Neither player is consistent enough and offer different things.  Traore is more defensive yet Riise attacks more.

Midfield will see Murphy, Hamann, Kewell and I suspect Smicer if he recovers from his ankle twist in time.  If Smicer doesn't recover then I'd be expecting either Cheyrou or Le Tallec to come in and start. 

Up front Owen and Heskey with Pongolle itching to come on for the last twenty for Owen off the bench.

What do you reckon the score will be ?

I'm always optimistic and despite my love of stats always ignore them end expect us to win.  I'll carry that on and go for a 2-0 win.  Spurs will miss Kanoute more than they would hope I think up front and not score.

Thanks to Andy at Liverweb
http://www.liverweb.org.uk

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

TOTTENHAM : - Christian Ziege (thigh); Jonathan Blondel (knee); Jamie Redknapp (knee); Dean Richards (calf); Gus Poyet (suspended); Fredi Kanoute (international duty)

LIVERPOOL : -  Milan Baros (ankle); Salif Diao (ankle); Steven Gerrard (thigh); Chris Kirkland (finger); Steve Finnan (knee); Jamie Carragher (recovering from broken leg); El Hadji Diouf (international duty)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  No live UK coverage.  Highlights on "The Premiership" - ITV Saturday evening (10.30 p.m.) and Sunday morning (9.25 a.m.)
Sportsnet (Canada)
NTV Turkey
NTV+ Football
Galaxie Sport
Sport 1 HU
Premiere Sport 1
C+ Blauw
ART Sport 2
SuperSport 1
Sky Sport 1
(Italy)
C+ Niebieski
TV Sport RO
C+ Nordic
MCSA SS3
ART Sport 2
Sport TV
C+ Deporte 1
PPV on many US Channels.

Radio :  None found
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast  (Subscription service only);   

 

 

Tottenham   2     Liverpool   1     (Half-time score : 1-0)
Premier League
Saturday 17th January 2004
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Cold, light rain in second half
Crowd : -  36,104
Referee : -  U. Rennie (Sheffield)
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr (c), Gardner, Doherty, Taricco; Davies, Anderton, Brown, Dalmat (Jackson 46); Keane, Postiga (Zamora 79)
Unused subs: Hirschfeld, Bunjevcevic, Kelly

Liverpool : -  Jones; Traore (Riise 61), Hyypia (c), Biscan (Finnan 67), Henchoz; Cheyrou, Hamann, Murphy, Kewell; Owen, Heskey
Unused subs: 
Dudek, Le Tallec, Carragher

Colours : -   (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Liverpool
Scorers : -  

Tottenham -  Keane (pen) 25, Postiga 54

Liverpool  -  Kewell 76

Cards : -  

Tottenham -  Carr (foul) 66

Liverpool  -  Hamann (foul) 63

The last time Tottenham took four points from Liverpool must have been when I was a boy !!  But today, the team ... and I emphasise team, played really well and despite a late scare held onto what they had earned in the first hour of the game.

For Tottenham to be two up against another side who had a 100% record this year is quite an achievement considering what they were playing like before Christmas.  For them to beat a form side like Liverpool and one from the top ten in the league is a major improvement on what had gone before this season.  The club's record against top half teams was very poor and while it is important to pick up points against the teams around you, to gain points from the sides at the top of the table is necessary to boost confidence and to improve the standing of the club.

As the teams lined up, the absence of Ledley King was of concern, playing as well as he had been of late.  With Poyet suspended, Michael Brown came in for a debut full of effort and running, which will stand the team in good stead to have someone like him doing the hard work.  The Doc kept his place in the back four and he has a prescription to be included on the team-sheet now, with his recent fine form.

The first action of the game came at the Tottenham end, as Liverpool launched a route one attack on the Spurs goal.  Jones kicks long, Heskey heads on and Owen turns to strike a fine volley that fizzed past the right hand post of Keller's goal.  With Tottenham playing the ball about confidently, sometimes, it looked a little too comfortable, with Doherty and Gardner both nearly conceding possession in dangerous positions, before redeeming their errors.

Postiga was in for the Mali striker Kanoute and he was determined to make his mark on the team.  In the fifth minute he took the ball well on the left corner of the box and cut inside Henchoz.  With little back-lift he hit a shot that Jones just about managed to get behind as it swerved laterally as it got near him.  Both sides were trying to establish supremacy and were passing the ball about with abandon.  The one concern from Tottenham's point of view was that Keane seemed to want to do everything himself and was not overly bothered about passing to Helder.  The reverse also showed itself to be true in the second half, but there needs to be some understanding between them if we are to maintain the good run in Fredi's absence.

It all seemed so simple when Anthony Gardner strode forward and picked out a pass through the middle of the Liverpool defence, allowing Robbie to run at Biscan and getting away from him, manoeuvred the ball between him and the defender, so when the red-shirted number 25 got a tackle in (or should that be at the second attempt), he only succeeded in falling on top of Keano.  It was still a shock when Rennie pointed to the penalty spot and it must have been against all he holds to be true to give Spurs anything, let alone a penalty !!  Anyway, Keane got up to hit the ball sweetly and even though Jones almost got to it, it wasn't enough to stop Tottenham taking the lead.

Although Liverpool had a short spell of pressure with corners and long throws into the Spurs box that they could not adequately clear, the first shot that Keller had to save was right on half-time, when Hamann laid the ball into the path of Cheyrou and his shot went low and was grasped to Keller's midriff as he got everything behind the ball.

The star of recent matches, Stephane Dalmat had been fleetingly involved in the game, but had not produced his usual dynamic running from midfield.  In fact, it took ten minutes before he got the ball !!  He did show a couple of fleet-footed shimmies to go past 'Pool players, but a heavy tackle saw him replaced at half-time by Johnnie Jackson, who put in a good effort on the left side of midfield, while Davies moved to the right.  This gave Tottenham a nice balance and Jacko's left footed delivery can be a potent weapon.

Spurs were pushed back a bit more by the red tide in the second period, but there were few moments of panic in the defence.  Heskey climbed over Carr to head wide just after the interval, while Stevie had to be alert to clear the ball from the box with the Boro-bound striker lurking.  Liverpool were picking up the ball in midfield a little too easily when the ball was cleared and the waves of attacks threatened to open Tottenham up, but they mostly foundered on the twin centre-halves of Gardner and Doherty.  Anthony produced one memorable tackle on Owen as he went through (although Cheyrou got in a tackle that nearly took the ball in) and Doc was determined to be first to as many balls as he could get to.  The feeble fallings of Hamann and Kewell were bought by Rennie every time and perhaps by good wall placement and by poor shooting, Tottenham escaped suffering from any of the free-kicks they were awarded.  Hamann entered the book for a shameful slash at Brown, while Carr joined him for a trip on Hamann.  It seemed every time that someone went near the German, he simply stopped playing and made a pleading face at the ref to gain a free-kick.  He did not even give up at the end, taking time to give Rennie his view of how Liverpool should have own the match.

The reason they didn't was the second goal by Spurs.  Almost ten minutes into the second half, Johnnie Jackson got the ball out on the left and picked out an astute pass that bounced nicely for the on-running Postiga.  Biscan who was with him almost got alongside, but Helder waited for him to make a move and as he tried to tackle, Spurs' Portuguese striker hung out a foot to guide the ball away from Jones' right hand and inside his post.  He didn't go for power, as he had done a few minutes previously - leaving Keano furious in the middle, wanting a pass rather than Postiga's shot that flew over from a very narrow angle.  The finish shows that the boy has touch and finesse and is not all about scoring powerhouse goals.  It will add confidence to his undoubted ability and will go a long way to shutting up those, like the "experts" on the radio, who said that Liverpool were so bad that Postiga scored against them !!

Liverpool's one decent attack developed from their defence, was played through to Heskey's head, which won out over Taricco and the ball dropped to Kewell in the outside right position.  He took the ball and cut inside in one movement, producing a shot that left Keller sprawling as it went in at his near post.  With 14 minutes left, Tottenham looked suddenly to be hanging on.  Some desperate defending kept the ball out of the box and some poor final balls aided the cause.  Even a helping hand from ref Rennie who failed to spot a handball from Gary Doherty as the game came to an end went a long way to ensuring that the points came our way.  To lose two points after being in control for so long would have been typically Tottenham, but maybe the new Spurs will make sure that given a lead they will hang onto it until the end.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  ANTHONY GARDNER

Phil Eastcott

 

RED WAVE GOODBYE

 

Two goal-scorers of differing pasts and differing presents gave Tottenham a win over the under-achieving one-time giants of Liverpool in this absorbing match.

Robbie Keane is known for his goal-scoring across the world.  Having done it in the Premier League, Serie A and in the World Cup finals, he is a player you would stake a large amount on as first goal-scorer in any match.  Therefore, his move to get onto a through ball from Gardner and his skill in taking it away from Biscan before inducing the Croatian defender to foul him, was a typical Keane manouevre.  He grabbed the ball, put it down on the spot and stuck it away to the keeper's right and with just enough pace to take it past his dive.

Helder Postiga has unfairly being given a "super-flop" tag since his arrival at White Hart Lane.  A regular scorer for both Porto and Portugal's Under-21s, he has made the decision to come to a different country to expand his footballing experience and to look to improve.  At 21, he has the best years of his footballing life ahead of him, but the media expect an instant return on the 6.25 million Spurs shelled out for the striker.  His goal against Manchester City was warmly welcomed, but this was a vindication of the wait.  Papers have carped on about him not scoring in nearly five months, but he has been in and out of the side and has been accustoming himself to the physical nature of the Premiership over the more sedate surroundings of the Portuguese league.  but the way that he took his goal was class.  He didn't snatch at it.  He didn't try to take the back of the net out.  He just waited for the right moment and met it with enough placement to see it hit the net.  From the look of his first touch in the match here against Leeds early on in the season, he showed that he has great technique and there are few enough forwards who can score from almost nothing.  You get the feeling that when Helder fits into the side and feels comfortable with the way the English game is played, he will make sure everyone knows about it.

From what was on offer today, Gary Doherty looks like someone made to step into the boots of the oft injured Dean Richards and Michael Brown showed more in this game than his opponent in midfield Danny Murphy, who is almost an England squad regular.  Anthony Gardner showed real England class too and in front of Sven Goran Eriksson, he must have been as happy with his own performance as that of the team that earned the result.  Every time the ball went forward, Anthony picked it off and started to move Tottenham forward.  His silky running with the ball out of defence was a feature of the game and only once, when he got the ball tangled up between his feet in the first half, did he look trobled.  Taricco stuck to what he should do most of the time and that is defend and that was what he did very well today, while Carr was willing to get forward a lot more than he had earlier in the season.  Not only does he provide a threat down the right when he does this, but he also pushes back their wing-back, thus blunting any attacking potential there might be down that flank.

Simon Davies is looking like he hasn't been away, with a dynamic display and one that showed his value to the side, while Anderton wasn't outstanding today, but kept things ticking over and chased back when required to do so. As Stephane Dalmat saw little of the ball and was the target for some crunching tackles, his ability had little opportunity to shine, but the one bright spot in midfield was the debut of Michael Brown.  Again, nothing spectacular, but he shut people down, got tackles in and when he got the ball, he made sure it was passed on to someone who could do something with it.  Another link player in midfield, who used his abilities to add to the performance of the team.  When players used to get the other side's players moaning about them tackling them, it used to be known as "letting them know you're there".  Well, Michael Brown is here !!

As for our more illustrious opponents, their are shades of red which they will exhibit more than their heroes of the past.  Many of the side were just not up for it on the day and others switched off at vital moments.  Biscan has been out of the side for long periods since his arrival at Anfield, but it is not hard to see why.  I thought he was a midfielder, but his selection in the back four looked to unsettle what is usually a sound partnership of Henchoz and Hyypia.  He was involved in both Tottenham goals and was guilty of other errors which must have put an element of doubt in the minds of his team-mates.  Hamann tried to drive his side on, but his concentration was more on begging the ref for free-kicks rather than on the game.  The midfield was missing the presence of Steve Gerrard and that was a crucial factor in Tottenham's favour.  

They came strong towards the end, but then they had to at 0-2 down and time running out.  The long ball game was their most effective tactic, using Heskey as a focal point.  From the fourth minute punt downfield from Jones, he headed on for Owen to swivel and hit a cracking volley a yard wide through to the 75th minute long ball that the unpopular striker headed on to Kewell out on the right to take the ball on and rifle a low drive in past Keller's attempted stop.

It wasn't a vintage Liverpool performance, but then it isn't a vintage Liverpool side.  Disrupted by injury and calls from the African Nations Cup, changes had been made, but then Tottenham were in the same position and have been for about four years on the injury front.

The only thing that saved Tottenham was Uriah Rennie ... and I never thought I would say those words !!  however, the fact that he missed Owen's touch onto Gary Doherty's hand was entirely in keeping with his performance on the day.  The fact that he awarded nearly twice as many free-kicks to Liverpool was testament to his view of the game.  It looked like a whistle was going to be blown every time a red shirt hit the turf, while all a Spurs player got when a white shirt hit the ground was muddy.  The ref had failed to send off Biscan when he brought down Keane for the penalty, as the striker bore down on goal, but with one wave of his hand to dismiss the penalty appeals, the last Reds chance had gone.  The reaction from some of the players to him, with hands being laid on him, should have seen the book brought out again, but in my opinion, Rennie appears to believe that if he doesn't book too many players he has had a good game.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the sooner that he is removed from the Premiership list, the more I will enjoy matches, as I don't come to watch him.

My one abiding memory of this game will be Helder Postiga's relief in getting his first Premier League goal, but also of the team's joy in the striker getting his first in the league.  The celebration of his goal was one of a team rather than an individual who scored it and that is the way that Tottenham will progress.  As a team.  It doesn't have to be about stars, as Doherty has shown.  His grit and determination have seen him play blinders for a few games on the trot.  It might not last, but he is willing to spill blood for Tottenham and mixed with other players who are willing to put in as much effort combined to the natural skills that others bring, the side could go far.  I hope it doesn't blind the management to the fact that we still need to add to the squad in certain positions, but things have suddenly turned around and it is now up to the team to keep that going to prove there is more to it than a flash in the pan.

Martin Carey

 

Other scores this weekend/week :
Bolton Wanderers 1 Portsmouth 0 Saturday

Everton

0 Charlton Athletic 1 Saturday
Manchester City 1 Blackburn Rovers 1 Saturday
Middlesbrough 3 Leicester City 3 Saturday
SCBC 2 Leeds United 1 Saturday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Manchester United 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2 Sunday
Chelsea 0 Birmingham City 0 Sunday
Newcastle United 3 Fulham 1 Monday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Liverpool 1 Wednesday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 22 15 7 0 42 14 52 +28
2 Manchester United 21 16 2 4 40 15 50 +25
3 Chelsea 22 14 4 4 40 17 46 +23
4 Charlton Athletic 22 10 7 5 31 23 37 +8
5 Liverpool 22 9 6 7 32 24 33 +8
6 Newcastle United 21 8 8 5 30 23 32 +7
7 Fulham 22 9 4 9 34 32 31 +2
8 SCBC 22 8 6 8 21 18 30 +3
9 Birmingham City 21 8 6 7 19 25 30 -6
10 Bolton Wanderers 22 7 8 7 26 33 29 -7
11 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 22 8 3 11 26 31 27 -5
12 Aston Villa 22 7 6 9 21 27 27 -6
13 Middlesbrough 21 6 7 8 20 26 25 -6
14 Everton 22 6 6 10 25 29 24 -4
15 Manchester City 22 5 8 9 31 33 23 -2
16 Blackburn Rovers 22 6 5 11 32 36 23 -4
17 Portsmouth 22 6 4 12 25 33 22 -8
18 Leicester City 22 4 8 10 31 38 20 -7
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 22 4 7 11 20 44 19 -24
20 Leeds United 22 4 5 13 19 44 17 -25

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