Looking Forward

 

LIVERPOOL (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 27th April 2002

There is nothing riding on this result for Tottenham, other than to help Liverpool get closer to the League title, instead of another team in red.  But, no doubt, the Spurs boys will be far too professional to throw a game at this time of the season, despite all the clamour over the Darlington Chairman's wife's comments.

The Liverpool side have been well marshalled by Phil Thompson in Gerard Houllier's enforced absence.  Now the Frenchman is back in the hot seat, the team seem to play to their maximum and being knocked out oft he Champions league at a late stage, he will want them to power on to the top of the Premiership if possible.

Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek has been impressive this season for the Pool.  Confident in the air and a good shot stopper, he can produce great saves with a sharpness and flexibility not seen among many of his fraternity.  Young former Coventry goalie, Chris Kirkland is in reserve and is definitely one for the future.  Agile and commanding, he will be a great asset to Liverpool when Dudek moves on.

The defence has been one of the fragile things about the Reds in recent years, but they seem to have hit on a mix now that serves them well.  Hyypia is the rock that it is built on.  A giant central defender who wins everything in the air, he also has the ability to play the ball out and bring it out himself if need be.  Alongside him ,the weak link, Stephane Henchoz, has performed stoically.  Not the most blessed of defenders, he has made the best of what he has and is backed up well by his colleagues.  If Tottenham had someone to play on his shoulder, I would say we had a chance ... but we haven't.  Carragher has filled in when needed and often gets on the scoresheet for Tottenham !!  The loss of Markus Babbel has been a big one in more ways than one.  His dominant presence would have helped them on the pitch and his energy has been greatly missed.  Coming in for him, youngster Stephen Wright has gone into the right back berth, while Djimi Traore and Gregory Vignal have both been used to play in the back four, without being hugely convincing.  The signing of Abel Xavier has bolstered the defence and he is showing previously hidden talents that didn't see the light of day at Goodison.

The riches available to Houllier in midfield are an embarrassment.  Which probably explains why Jamie Redknapp will now wear the white of Spurs and Gary McAllister will boss the Sky Blues from now on.  With players like Berger, Smicer and Murphy all rumoured to be leaving too, it shows there are plenty of players there to take the club forward.  All the above give options in the particular area of the team, but the presence of Hamann and Gerrard is enough to give a sound basis for others to play around.  They are both mobile and can create attacking play from their deep positions.  Both possess a good range of passing and powerful shots, so need to be watched when breaking forward.  Berger falls into that category too and might be brought on to replace one of them at some stage, while Igor Biscan could also replicate their style, but he has fallen well out of contention.  Murphy is a player who looks more of a scuffler and one who has not been appreciated by the Anfield crowd, but makes valuable contributions to the team or by scoring.  A player that you need in the team for others to function.  Finally, another import who is good going forward and has the pace to get back and defend, is John Arne Riise.  Ginger haired and full of movement, he marauds up and down the left flank and has a tremendous shot.

Up front there is the equally frightening prospect of the Heskey, Owen, Anelka axis.  Owen and Anelka have pace that will threaten any defence and Heskey is a strong runner, but never strikes me as one who knows what he is going to do.  The other two are fleet of foot and Owen can score form anywhere, while Anelka has created more than scored since his arrival on loan from PSG.  On the bench will be Jari Litmanen and another who will probably not feature here, and could be on his way out of the club, is Nick Barmby.  The Finn is still classy and despite his age can use his mind to take years off his need to run about.  Barmby has had a spectacular fall from grace and he has even been linked with a move back to Spurs !!

Spurs have been playing without conviction recently and there can only be the vague hope that they raise themselves for this big match.  It didn't happen against West Ham and they couldn't even beat Bolton last week, but we have a reasonable record at home to Liverpool over the last few years.  So that probably means ...

 PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  1  Liverpool  2

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Tottenham  1   Liverpool  0           (Half time score: 1-0)
FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Saturday 27th April 2002
Venue :  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : 12.00 Noon
Weather : -  Showery rain, bright sunshine, breezy.
Crowd : -   36,017
Referee : -   Mr. P. Jones (Loughborough)

Scorers : -   Tottenham  -   Poyet 41
                  Liverpool  -  None

CARDS

Tottenham :  Perry (foul) 88

Liverpool :   Riise (foul) 90

TEAMS 

Tottenham :  Keller; Perry, Gardner, Thatcher; Davies, Anderton, Clemence, Poyet, Taricco; Sheringham, Iversen
Unused Subs : -  Sullivan; Doherty; Leonhardsen, Jackson, Etherington

Liverpool : Dudek; Xavier (Berger 67), Henchoz, Hyppia, Carragher; Murphy (Litmanen 81), Hamann, Smicer, Riise; Heskey (Anelka 63), Owen
Unused Subs : - 
Kirkland; Wright

COLOURS

Tottenham  :  White shirts, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks

Liverpool :  Red shirts, shorts and socks

The match was one of those strange ones in which you would have been hard pressed to tell which was the one chasing the title and which was left with nothing to play for.  With an initial burst that had Spurs reeling, Liverpool then proceeded to show their "boring" side in which they had plenty of the ball, but failed to make the most of it and so lose the match, along with their chance of taking the Championship.

There was only the Gus Poyet strike between the two sides in the end, but there was more to it than that, which left Spurs fans scratching their heads as to how we haven't qualified for Europe this season.  Their football in the last top flight match (the staff were due to play their annual game on it later that day) the current White Hart Lane pitch will see, was at time reminiscent of how they went about their game earlier in the season.  Good passing and movement, with some excellent defending caused Liverpool to look average in not being able to break Spurs down.

But things had started so well for the Reds.  Within the first fifteen minutes, they could have been 3-1 up.  After the shock of Davies outstripping Carragher on the right wing and placing the ball on Sheringham's head, only to put it wide when granted a free header, Hyypia rose highest above Teddy to meet Murphy's free-kick and power a header goalwards.  As the ball moved quickly, Keller got there with an outstretched hand to his right and managed to push the ball out.  From that dead ball, a Heskey header was headed off the line from under the bar by Taricco at the far post.  Shortly after, a long cross from the right found Riise sneaking in at the far post and his header beat everyone, but bounced out off the post and was hacked away by Gardner, who completed the clearance at the expense of a corner.

It looked for all the world that Spurs were to be on the end of a hiding to nothing.  However, with Davies a persistent threat on the right and Sheringham linking play well for the first time in a few weeks, Tottenham got back into the match.  Much of the credit must go to Poyet, who was denied twice by Xavier and Hyypia as he closed in on goal and additionally when he looked to spread play whenever he had a chance and especially when Taricco was in the clear on the left wing.  It was from this position that he put a cross out of play when he had time to pick out a Spurs head in the box and then found Poyet on the edge of the area, but he chested the ball down between two Liverpool defenders and pulled his shot a foot or so wide of the right hand post.  He didn't have to wait long for another opportunity and this time he made no mistake.  The construction was not as fluent as other chances, but Anderton's cross from the left cleared Iversen and reached Davies at the back post.  He knocked the ball back first time to Gus, who was about 12 yards out and struck the ball early past a wrong-footed Dudek.  The goal was not against the run of play as Spurs were starting to play the ball about well.

Liverpool did put the Spurs goal under some pressure, when Murphy forced Keller into a sprawling save to push it around the post and Owen escaped the attentions of the defence for once but as he ran in on goal, he slipped his shot just wide of the post, whereas usually it nestles just inside the goal.  Perhaps the most worrying effort was from Murphy again, as he broke through Anthony Gardner got a foot in the way of his shot and it looped up (Paul Parker World Cup semi-final 1990 like) and went over Keller.  For all the world, it looked like the ball went in the net from where we were, but luckily, it was over the bar and behind.  Iversen got his head to the ball in the Liverpool box just before half-time to round off a good move by Spurs, but he aimed it straight at Dudek in the middle of the goal.

In the second half, it all got a bit lively.  This was mainly due to the Spurs crowd giving the "Olé" every time a Spurs player passed the ball.  It wound Jamie Carragher up no end and he was lucky to escape a booking for a late double footed lunge on Anderton.  Mind you, Thatcher was also in that same category when he took Hamann out.  Anelka came on later in the match to a hail of boos (will Spurs fans be pilloried for this attack on an innocent ex-Gooner ??) and lost his rag too.  He had a go at Thatch when he fell over in the box and pushed Ben in the chest, while at the final whistle, the Incredible Sulk looked like he was about to lay out the referee and anyone else who was in the vicinity, especially continuing his feud with Thatcher.  They went head to head and the Frenchman raised his hands to the Tottenham defender.

As for the football, Liverpool's best chance came when Owen got free on the right side of the box.  His first shot was blocked by a prone Clemence, then his second was flashed across the face with Heskey unable to apply the finishing touch.  The only other threat came late on when they went to three at the back with Litmanen, Anelka and Owen up front.  The ball was lumped forward and there were a few scrambles in front of goal which amounted to nothing and then Perry was booked for a challenge on Hamann, as he toed the ball away from him.  Spotted centrally, the shot was lined up for Riise, but the blockers and the wall did their job to block the effort.  Only a late bobbling ball in the box knocked wide at the far post gave the away side hope.

As for Spurs, they made a few more chances, with Poyet knocking a corner wide with an acrobatic scissors kick, Clemence weaved his way through the Red defence into the box producing only a weak shot at the end of it and best of all at the end of the match, Simon Davies almost wrapped it up.  His running with the ball was a feature of the game and he started on the left, knocked it inside and went on to receive it back from Iversen in the left hand channel in the box and his left footed shot was palmed out by a diving Dudek.

All round a good performance form Tottenham and one that will give them great confidence to go to Leicester to secure seventh place in the Premiership.  Not the greatest prize, but one which they have earned and could have topped if they had played like this more often since Christmas.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  SIMON DAVIES

Kirk Hammerton

 

CROSS EXAMINATION

 

However Spurs intend to score from situations created on the wings, I don't know.  Yes, I know we won this match, but there is always something to complain about and this time it was the quality of crossing ... or lack of it.

The frustration caused by the lack of a white shirted player picking out a colleague in the area from a wide position was positively mind-blowing.  Some of this was brought about by Taricco's inability to use his left foot, thus having to turn onto his good foot before getting the ball over, but on most occasions he got it over the bar.  He had a solid game without too many theatrical moments otherwise, but his use when in a forward area and time to measure a ball onto a Tottenham head leaves a lot to be desired.  The final ball let Spurs down when they needed it to pay off and when they did find a home header, it was invariably not good enough to beat Dudek.  Teddy glanced a precise cross from Simon Davies wide of the goal, when he had almost the whole of the net to aim at.  Iversen had the same problem just before the break, when he guided his header straight at the Polish keeper.

Davies led Jamie Carragher a merry dance down the right wing and showed great persistence and skill to get around him so often.  He really is going to be the player that the midfield revolves around next season and his progress this year has been admirable.  Alongside him, Gus and Anderton were more mobile and productive today.  Their passing was accurate and damaging, while they moved well and chased back as often as they could.  The only problem with their inclusion is the lack of speed in joining in the attack when Davies breaks so quickly.  Coming in for the injured Sherwood was Stephen Clemence, who often has been the butt of the crowd's impatience.  Today, he shone.  Still coming back to full fitness and with a handful of games in the reserves behind him, he ran all game and showed that he is a valuable member of the Spurs squad.  The run that took him through the visitor's back line at the start of the second half showed a considerable degree of skill and a better shot at the end of it would have brought a very good goal indeed.  He was not the ball winner that Sherwood can be, but he was more mobile and he used the ball very well.

The move that brought about the Tottenham goal was perhaps not out of the same drawer as some of the passing passages, but there was some neat head tennis that worked the ball left for Anderton's lofted ball to the far post.  It was not won by Hyypia, who went up with Iversen, but Davies turned the ball back into Poyet's path to smack a low, first-time shot past the goalie.  Having had a sighter a couple of minutes previously, Gus got the ball in the right place and that goal helped Spurs go into the break ahead.  That didn't look on the cards early on, when Liverpool put a lot of pressure on the Tottenham goal, but couldn't breach the defence.  Well, they did, but couldn't get the ball over the line and that was mainly thanks to Keller, Taricco and the post.

Keller, who had another decent game looking good on the shot-stopping front and also comfortable coming for crosses, made an outstanding save with his right hand as it looked like Hyypia had directed his header to the right part of the goal.  Taricco got his head to the ball as Heskey flick looked like it was going in from the following corner and the post did it's bit when Riise dived full length to direct his header past Keller, but was unlucky to see it bounce back off the woodwork.  

Taz had a decent enough game today.  Concentrating on the ball, he left behind some of the more controversial incidents he has been involved in.  It was just his crossing that was not timed or thought out that well.  Perry had another good game getting in first and tackling precisely, with Thatcher in the middle looking more at home and like he wouldn't let anyone get past him.  Gardner has another assured performance against the strong, but ungainly Heskey, leading to him being taken off.  Even Anelka with his blistering pace could not make an impression on our defenders.

Teddy should have scored his early header, but did play well in the hole behind Iversen.  They actually did link up pretty well, but Steffen's touch let him down a couple of times when he could have been in.  With no sign of Sergei Rebrov at the post match lap of honour, this means that either he is on his way or thought that he might be pulled out half-way round by the manager.  Iversen looks likely to be a Hoddle favourite and while he will never be hugely prolific, he can still contribute a goodly number of goals to the cause.

There was a hilarious moment when Owen and Carragher clashed when challenging for a ball and both went down, while Heskey got a fair amount of stick for collapsing in a heap too, but no-one was near him !!  But surely, that's what he is good at !!  The only other moment of "comedy" was when Phil Thompson (who received choruses of "Sit Down Pinnochio" throughout the game) got angry about a challenge on Owen, much to the incomprehension of Hoddle.  He shouted back as a Spurs player got clattered and then implied, using the universally acknowledged sign language method of putting his index finger and thumb together and placing them over his eyes, that the 'Pool coach needed glasses !!  This only inflamed the big-nosed one, who had to be pulled back by Houllier.

One not so funny incident was when Iversen smashed a shot goalwards as hard as he could, but only found the face of Anthony Gardner who was standing five feet away from him !!  As he lay on the ground, Ant must have thought that he would give up playing in the last home game of the season after getting his injury against Man U last term.

The post match thanks from the players included some cameos from players we have seen little of this season.  Carr walked around in his black suit, while Freund's more extrovert pale greeny attire often moved towards the fans to accept his adulation.  Richards, Ledley and Bunjy were also suited up to wave to the crowd.  Alongside them was the new boy - Jamie Redknapp - who waved and smiled, looking at home in the surroundings, having seen his former side seen off.  

May there be many more examples of Redknapp looking happy and of beating teams in the top five at White Hart Lane when we return in August.

Peter O'Hanrahanrahan

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