Looking Forward

 

LIVERPOOL

Premier League

Saturday 22nd September 2001

So far this season, Liverpool have played erratically, with a big home defeat by Aston Villa (a club the 'Pool usually score a hatful against) and a win over Everton in the local derby without too much trouble.  They have also beaten West Ham and lost to Bolton Wanderers thus far and appear more steady in the Cup competitions they have played in.  A Charity Shield and a European Super Cup adorn the trophy cabinet at Anfield alongside the FA and League Cups.

But things are not going all Gerard's way.  Steven Gerrard's horror tackle on George Boateng earned him a straight red card, which will rule him out of this clash, as he starts a three-match suspension.  Markus Babbel is also out of the game despite having returned after his recent fatigue based illness.  Long term injury Berger is missing, so the second team could get a look in, as Barmby, Litmanen, Smicer and Redknapp look forward to a rare outing in the first team.

Having swooped for two goalkeepers on the same day, Liverpool have a great depth of custodians in the squad.  Dudek ,the Pole, has taken the first team gloves, but has looked a bit unsettled in his games so far.  If Spurs can put him under pressure, then there may be some reward.  Chris Kirkland, the young keeper bought from Coventry will still be out injured, so Pegguy Arphexad covers in the enforced absence of Sander Westerveld, who is persona non-grata at the Mersey club these days.

IN front of the keeper, Sammy Hyypia holds together a tight defensive unit.  The giant Finn is strong and good in the air, as well as having the ability to bring the ball out on the floor.  Dangerous at set-pieces too.  Henchoz, beside him, is prone to the odd handball, but never gets caught by the officials, although his ability is not as good as the others players make it seem.  Could be a weak link, but does pair well with Hyypia.  Jamie Carragher usually gets on the scoresheet for us, so the midfield will be looking to pick him out when in the box !!  A rugged defender, he has an energetic style and a tough tackle.  Could be in trouble if he mis-times too many.  Young Steven Wright has made a breakthrough into the first team, but is coming in on the rotation, so might not have as much experience as others, so don't expect him to start.  More likely would be John Arne Riise, a Dane brought in from Monaco and establishing himself in this position wide on the left.  The ginger haired wing back gets forward well and Spurs will have to block his path as he is becoming a creator of goals too.  Gregory Vignal, a Frenchman who played for Montpellier, is also suspended after being sent off in the reserves.

The midfield consists of crock Jamie Redknapp, who is making another comeback and had been linked with a move to Spurs, Gary McAllister, who is old enough to be Riise's Dad and Dietmar Hamann, given the runaround by his team-mate Gerrard when playing against England for Germany.  Danny Murphy has been impressive in some matches recently, but he tends to flit in and out of the game, but Tottenham need to be aware of his runs off the ball and his shooting prowess.  Nicky Barmby has been left out of late, but could be brought back to have a go against his former club, while Igor Biscan has not had a steady run since his arrival at Anfield.  He is a powerful midfielder, but looks uninterested at times, without looking as though he could damage the opposition.

Apart from the fact that they have Fowler, Owen, Heskey and Litmanen available to choose form up front, there is nothing else to worry about.  The defence (without Dean Richards, who was not signed in time to play), will be sorely tested as there is guile and speed in the players available.  King and Perry will have to reproduce their performances if Wednesday night at the Stadium of Light to get to grips with these Reds.  Owen is on a hot streak and Litmanen will be out to prove he is worth a place in the starting line-up, so it will need the Spurs defenders to be alert to stop them.

For Tottenham, Rebrov is likely to start on the bench again, as I think Hoddle believes he is not as good as Les at holding the ball up when it played out of the under pressure Spurs defence.  He could come on to try and turn the game near the end depending on the score.  Ziege should be up for this one.  his year at Anfield was not a happy one and he has been doing well for Spurs with three goals and a decent few appearances in the side this season.  It's just you feel you would like to see what he is like when he gives 100%.  That could be awesome and he might show Liverpool today what they are missing.  With the back four suffering injuries and the midfield packed with Gus' return, Simon Davies could have an influential role to play.  He will be used to close down the midfield of the home side, but will be expected to lead the charge when Spurs break away.  Expect some goals, but the way things are going and with Liverpool looking to rectify the Villa defeat ...

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.

 

 

Liverpool   1   Tottenham   0                                   (Half time score: 0-0)
PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 22nd September 2001
Weather : -  Bright, warm.
Crowd : -   44,116
Referee : -  Mr. D. Gallagher (Oxfordshire)

Scorers : -  Liverpool   -   Litmanen 57
                  Tottenham -  None

CARDS

Liverpool :   Vignal (foul) 81

Spurs :  Freund (foul) 73

TEAMS 

Liverpool :  Dudek; Vignal, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Riise, Hamann, Biscan, Barmby;  Fowler (Heskey 60), Litmanen (Owen 68)(McAllister 84).
Subs not used : -  Kirkland, Wright, McAllister

Spurs:  Sullivan; Taricco, King, Perry, Ziege; Freund, Anderton, Davies (Rebrov 73), Poyet; Sheringham, Ferdinand.
Subs not used : -  Keller, Thelwell, Leonhardsen, Etherington

A trip to Anfield these days is not what it used to be. Some of the passion of the home crowd is definitely missing. They still give a stirring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the teams emerge, but remain very quiet for long periods of the game. 

Spurs came into the match full of confidence after their excellent away win and performance at Sunderland. The side was unchanged with Dean Richards sitting in the stand following his transfer from Southampton, as he was signed just too late to appear in this game. This was no doubt due to a last petulant act by Rupert the Saints chairman. 

Spurs started well and had plenty of possession. Sheringham was again magnificent pulling the strings and conducting play. Despite Spurs' long periods of possession, Liverpool probably had the better of the chances in the first half. Sullivan had to make a number of smart saves and was at his very best when one on one with Barmby. Poyet was unlucky not to get in behind the Liverpool defence after making a superb run, while Ziege put in some tempting crosses. For all their effort however Spurs could not create that clear cut chance. 

Optimism must have been high, however, in the Tottenham camp at the start of the second half.  They had dominated play for long spells at Anfield and more was to follow in the second half.  Ferdinand thought he had scored after beating Dudek, only to see Henchoz clear. Then came the only goal of the game. Litmanen, who had been dangerous all afternoon, was not closed down as he advanced on goal.  From 25 yards out he took his opportunity.  A rising shot hit the inside of the far post and fell into the net past a despairing Sullivan.  Somewhat strangely, Houllier then started to make substitutions which saw first Fowler and then the impressive Litmanen taken off.  The Liverpool game plan had changed.  As Spurs pushed for the equaliser, Liverpool sat back and relied upon the long ball over the top for Owen and Heskey to run onto.  It was one such ball, which saw Owen stretch and pull his hamstring again.  It was serious and he will now miss the forthcoming England game.  That injury was to make all the headlines from this game and Owen was on the field 16 minutes!

In the meantime, Spurs battled away in search of the elusive goal.  Poyet had a golden opportunity, but chose to square the ball rather than shoot and the chance was lost.  Hyypia seemed to win everything in the air.  Despite some excellent approach work the final telling ball would not come. It is good to see Spurs playing so much football now, but the disappointment is not converting that football into goals so they get from games what they deserve.  That is the next challenge for Glenn Hoddle, who stated afterwards that he was frustrated that Spurs had not taken anything from the game. Perry and King did well at the back; Taricco & Ziege, although playing as conventional fullbacks, still got forward well. All the midfield worked hard, but I would like to see Poyet and Anderton having a few more strikes on goal. Davies tired and looks in need of a rest. Sheringham is in great form at present and Ferdinand needs a goal to reward his hard work.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  LEDLEY KING

Eric the Viking

 

RED BLUR

 

For those who thought that it was just a question of ho many goals Liverpool would score, they were in for a shock.  While we still came away form Anfield with our usual "nil point" as they say in Eurovision, the performance actually had come on a lot since we last visited five months ago.

The way the makeshift Spurs defence put the squeeze on the Liverpool strike-force was a joy to behold.  To be truthful, there were a few half-chances, but Sullivan was rarely called into action and the boys at the back did us proud.  It took a bolt from the blue from a man in red to break the deadlock and Litmanen certainly will make Houllier think about why he is sitting on the bench.  He strode forward and, like Blackburn, no-one came out to challenge, so he hit it. And hit it he did, the ball rocketing off one post and into the inside of the side netting on the other side of the goal, echoing Hasselbaink's penalty last week.  The disappointing thing about the goal was that it resulted from Darren Anderton losing the ball on the edge of the Liverpool box.

The Spurs side did string together some good passes to try and create opportunities to score.  Unfortunately, they have been falling to the out-of-touch Les Ferdinand, who again showed that his first touch is way off what it should be.  While he has certain attributes, like strength and holding the ball up, you can't help but feel that should these chances have fallen to Sergei, with a run of games behind him, would be able to punish the opposition more effectively.  Big Les did have an early header cleared away from the line and put a couple of passes across into the goalmouth where they were cleared, but the best other chances came from Ziege, playing against his old team.  Another of his "intended" shots caught Dudek out and he had to tip it onto the bar and over, while another move in the second half found him running into the box and his shot was spilled by the Polish keeper, who was lucky that there was not a white shirt to tap it in.

Owen's appearance showed what pace he has, even though it cost him a place in the England team for the Greece game when Ledley went stride for stride with him, causing the boy wonder to stretch and pull a hamstring.  Fowler had been disappointing and must be ruing the day Houllier walked into Anfield.  Hyypia was a colossus at the back and stopped Spurs breaching the back line on a few occasions, while Riise impressed with his energy and willingness to run at opponents.

Spurs did have a bit of luck early on, when Vignal's volley from the edge of the box bounced over off the bar, but apart from that it was only Litmanen's effort in the first half, when he shot low at Sullivan when clean through, that caused any concern.  Late on Owen should have lifted the ball over Sullivan as he raced out, but instead hit the ball well side.

An improvement on the 1-3 reverse we suffered last season at Anfield, but when will we start sticking away a higher percentage of our chances to make the other side pay ??  "Careless finishing costs games" as they (didn't) used to say in the War !!

GARY MATTINGLY

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