Looking Forward

 

LIVERPOOL  (Away)

Premier League

Sunday 22nd April 2001

With a UEFA Cup semi-final just behind them and an FA Cup Final just two weeks away, it will be interesting to see how Liverpool approach this game.  There is still the place in the Champions League to play for, so I feel that their strong squad should produce something approaching a decent side to face an injury hit Tottenham team.  The only reason they may introduce some fresh faces is if Spurs do have to put out a load of reserve/youth team players and the Reds think they will be able to turn our third team over with a second string side.

Having beaten Birmingham City in the Worthington Cup Final and qualified for the FA Cup Final with a win over Wycombe Wanderers, their best performance of the season came in getting to the final of the UEFA Cup with a 1-0 home win over Barcelona after drawing 0-0 at the Nou Camp.  How Young Boys of Tottenham will face up to this side doesn't really bear thinking about.  The Spurs side did well against Chelsea until Korsten was dismissed, but you felt the result was only a matter of a goal away.  Tottenham will have to put up a spirited showing with their decimated team to get anything out of this match, so the most they can hope for is some experience and to show that they can live with the top sides in the Premier League.

They could have a chance if Liverpool decide to rest the players who have got them so far in the cups this season.  Apart from the semi-final of the FA Cup they have faced Manchester United, Leeds United, Barcelona twice and Everton in a Merseyside derby over the last four weeks.  That would be enough to take it's toll on a decent squad, but Houllier has rotated them sensibly.

Westerveld is a reasonable keeper, but he is weak in the kicking department and dodgy on crosses.  Unfortunately, all our first team tall forwards are likely to be absent, so if he starts he will probably have a quiet afternoon from crosses.  The alternative for the Reds is to play Pegguy Arphexad - worth a maximum of 76 on the Scrabble board.  Funnily enough, the same score that Christian Ziege would get you.  The German right back has been out of favour and whingeing to the papers back home about his lack of opportunity.  That has not made him flavour of the month with the manager, who told him to "Shut up!"  His place has been filled by fellow German Marcus Babbel, who is fit and runs for fun, but can be caught out of position when making forward forays.  Inside them, Stephane Henchoz and Sami Hyypia have produced an unlikely, but effective pairing.  Henchoz never impressed when he was at Blackburn Rovers and took time to settle when he went to Anfield, but Hyypia is a class act.  Tall, strong and pacy, he has all the attributes of a modern central defender.  He's also very dangerous from set pieces.  Other options at the back include Steven Wright, a young right back; Djimi Traore the rangy French left back; defender Gregory Vignal, who I know next to nothing about; local lad Jamie Carragher, who might get Spurs on the score sheet as he seems to specialise in own goals FOR Tottenham !!; Veggard Heggem who has been injured and out of the picture for most of the season.

In midfield they will be without the services of Jamie Redknapp who once again is recovering from knee surgery.  A talented player, once on the books of Tottenham as a youngster and targeted as a possible signing a few years ago, he has been plagued by injuries that have hit his progress.  Danny Murphy will be available and that will not help  Spurs as he has played to a very high standard this season.  There has been a bit of a problem in keeping players on the pitch lately with Murphy red carded against Manchester United, Biscan dismissed for two yellow cards against Everton last week and Gerrard for the same against Leeds the week before.  Stephen Gerrard may well be rested as he has played two games in a week and Liverpool will try and nurse him through the rest of the season, which has been hit by a number of niggling injuries.  Gary McAllister provides the prompting and passing from midfield and his 40 yard free-kick against Everton was a reminder of how potent he can be from dead-ball situations.  Igor Biscan is a powerful young midfielder who is settling into the English game now.  HE still gets a bit over-enthusiastic and must channel his efforts in the right direction.  One who might get a look in if they field a shadow side will be Bernard Diomede, the French international, who has only started once this season.  Over-rated, he is a poor user of the ball once he gets into good positions, but can still be effective down the left wing.  Dietmar Hamann and Patrik Berger also add power to the midfield.  Both are capable of running a game and both pack a fierce shot to boot.  Berger is just coming back from injury and could probably do with the match practice.  

It is in the forward department that Liverpool are pretty awesome.  Although I still have my own doubts about his ability, Emile Heskey has fitted in nicely since his move form Leicester City.  Liverpool play to his strengths and his strength is a major boost for them.  For too long they were light-weight up front despite having two deadly goalscorers in Owen and Fowler.  The big man to play off helps the other two create as well as keep sticking them away.  Fowler is probably the more natural goalscorer of the two but Owen can make a goal out the slightest chance.  The Spurs defence will have to work very hard to keep these two out if they feature.  Vladimir Smicer has also improved this season and has scored some important goals, while Nicky Barmby has played about half the games and has also been employed from the substitute's bench to come on and finish sides off.  Luckily for Spurs their other international striker Jari Litmanen is still suffering from the broken hand he suffered at Anfield when laying against England for Finland, so will be out until the end of the month.

All the players in the squad could come in and do a very decent job and they could field at least two sides who would do well in the Premiership.  That can only mean one thing ... another busy afternoon for Neil Sullivan and ...

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  3   Tottenham  1   -  Sunday 22nd April 2001

Weather : -  Light rain
Crowd : -  43,547
Referee : -  Barry Knight (Orpington)
Scorers : -   Liverpool  -   Heskey 7, McAllister (pen) 73, Fowler 88
                       Tottenham  -  Korsten 23

Liverpool : - Westerveld, Babbel, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher (Vignal 64), Smicer (Hamann 54), Gerrard, McAllister, Berger, Heskey (Fowler 40), Owen.
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Arphexad.

Tottenham : - Sullivan, Carr, Gardner, Young, Thelwell, Davies (Piercy 78), Clemence, Leonhardsen, Sherwood, Doherty, Korsten.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Etherington, Hillier, Ferguson.

There is nothing new about coming back from Liverpool with nothing (even hub-cabs !) and today was no different.  However, there was an over-riding feeling that although the points were, all was not lost.  It was a far more spirited showing away from home than many this season and the youngsters, who could have been on a hiding to nothing against an in-form Liverpool side, did Spurs proud.  That is not to say that they all played brilliantly, but there is a definite mood in the camp that means that they can bank the experiences from these end of season games and put them to good use in the future.  And they looked like they belonged in the first team.

When Sullivan was called into action twice in the first five minutes, there was an air of inevitability when Heskey was put away down the middle to slide it low past our keeper.  At that stage, all the memories of 1978 came flooding back and as more attacks headed toward the Spurs goal, only Sully and some dogged defending kept the score down.  Then something happened.  It was like the team realised that there was an opportunity for them to go forward and pressurise the home side.  For a minute it looked as though Tottenham had gone 0-2 down, when Owen headed a Berger shot into the net, but the referee ruled him offside and was subject to protest from the Liverpool players.  A quick free-kick to Oyvind Leonhardsen and a run up the left later and the ball found itself at the feet of Big Willie Korsten in the box on the penalty spot.  Normally, Spurs fans would start to groan at this point as they knew what was coming next, but it was an entirely different noise that emerged from their throats as he took a  touch to take the ball onto his left foot and then smashed it over Westerveld into the goal.

Liverpool reacted like an injured animal and struck back with a string of chances, mainly falling to Owen, whose finishing was not up to it's usual level ... thank goodness.  Gerrard blasted a shot that went up over (maybe via) the bar thanks to a deflection and Spurs could only relieve the pressure in small doses.  

Sherwood had chances both sides of half-time.  One when the ball came to him and he produced a nice little lob over the keeper, but it also went over the bar.  The best chance of the second half for Tottenham fell to Clemence, who, on his Dad's old stamping ground, had the opportunity to put Spurs into an unaccustomed lead at Anfield.  His shot was well blocked by Westerveld, but having been put in by Leo again, his chip was not decisive enough to carry over the Dutch keeper.  Clem's chance came either side of major decisions by the referee.  The first was a negative one for the Reds as Sherwood blocking the ball amidst claims that he handled it.  The second, just a couple of minutes after Spurs could have taken the lead, saw the opposite happen.  Under pressure from a crowd already spurned, the ref finally pointed to the spot, as the ball hit Thelwell this time and handball was his decision.  McAllister put away the penalty as he had done against Barcelona four days before to make it 2-1.  For the record, Fowler wrapped things up by heading home a Babbel cross as the match drew to a close, but the result was harsh on a very young Spurs side (if you took Sullivan, Sherwood and Leonhardsen out of it).

For much of the game Tottenham had equalled the effort and passing of a tired Liverpool team who (poor things) had been playing 2-3 games a week.  They didn't really get the breaks, but with better finishing could have pushed 'Pool to the limit.  However, the depth of the Liverpool squad was shown when Fowler came off the bench to replace Heskey, while Tottenham's only forward substitute was 20 year old Steven Ferguson, who only a few months ago was playing his first few senior games for East Fife.  One for the future maybe, but at the moment Hoddle will be looking to see where he needs to strengthen.  There are good signs that the players on display today will be part of that future and the system that Glenn has introduced might suit most of them down to the ground (which will make a change from Route One).

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - NEIL SULLIVAN (Is this getting boring ?)

 Gary Sampson

 

Unfair Kop

 

With the way Tottenham have been playing away this season, even though they were hampered by injuries and facing a Liverpool side on a high after reaching their third Cup Final of the season, they acquitted themselves marvellously.

Under Glenn Hoddle the side appear to believe in themselves more away from home and are determined to give it a go.  In this arena, where Spurs have historically failed to bring home any points, they were under pressure from the off.  Sullivan again showed his worth with a string of saves, starting with those from Hyypia and Heskey before the former Leicester City striker slipped the ball past him when one on one.  It was an early blow and one which might have lead to a landslide victory for the home side against other Spurs sides this season. However, this team produced a feisty response.  Despite Sullivan having to make further stops from Smicer and Gerrard and an Owen "goal" disallowed for offside, the Lilywhites went straight up the other end.  Taking advantage of the arguing Reds, Leo broke away and squared the ball for Korsten to control in the box and ram home his first goal for Spurs in front of the Kop.  There followed some end to end stuff, with chances at both ends although Liverpool had the cleanest cut ones.  

There was little to choose between the sides as Spurs defended well with Gardner looking a class act again - so easy with the ball - and Thelwell, despite being at fault for the first and third goals, showing that his pace will be a useful tool in stopping the opposition forwards in future.  As Spurs became more confident and pressed forward, there was a golden chance sandwiched between penalty appeals for Liverpool.  The first was denied and Clemence tried to be too clever in his attempted chip over Westerveld, who saved.  Then came a ball into the box and it hit Thelwell and the Kop roared "penalty" and Mr. Knight agreed with them.  It was just like the old days with penalties being given to Liverpool at Anfield !!  That knocked the stuffing out of the Spurs side and when Fowler escaped Thelwell's attentions near the end to head the third, it was hardly noteworthy.

In the circumstances, the Tottenham side did as well as others that have made the trip to Merseyside over the years.  Korsten showed in flashes that he can play and took his goal well.  The defence were troubled by the pace of Owen and Heskey, but stuck at their tasks and kept them out until the 71st minute.  Against one of the form teams in the Premier League, that was a result in itself.  It is refreshing to see the team going forward rather than sitting back and it must be hoped that this new innovation of Hoddle's will reap benefits in the coming years.  Let's face it, had a few more points been gained away from home, we could be looking at a place in Europe this season.  Going forward is the way forward.   But with a few additions, the result could have been different ... and with a little bit of luck they could have returned with a point.  Against a tired Liverpool side, we didn't look that far behind.

Stan Chun

 

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