FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 27TH APRIL, 2002
(at 12 noon)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) LIVERPOOL 0 (0)
Referee:- Peter Jones
Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; Perry, Gardner, Thatcher; Davies, Anderton, Clemence, Poyet, Taricco; Sheringham (Capt), Iversen
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Doherty; Leonhardsen, Jackson, Etherington
Booked:- Perry (Foul)
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Dudek; Xavier (sub Berger, 67), Henchoz, Hyppia (Capt), Carragher; Murphy (sub Litmanen, 81), Hamann, Smicer, Riise; Heskey (sub Anelka, 63), Owen
Subs not used:- Kirkland; Wright
Booked:- Riise (Foul)
Having survived a scary first quarter of an hour, during which Liverpool hit the post once and forced a couple of fine saves from Kasey Keller, Spurs grew in power and confidence scoring through Gus Poyet after 41 minutes to all but kill Liverpool's title challenge. As a result, of course, Spurs near neighbours will benefit, and could possibly secure the title on Monday night at Bolton, but it was great to see Spurs win their last home game, and against formidable opposition.
Since "sacrificing his principles" after the Charlton home defeat, Glenn Hoddle's Spurs have had a good run beating Leeds and now Liverpool at home. Remembering our victory at St James Park earlier in the season, at least we have beaten three teams above us this season, and we have now broken the 50 point barrier. The executive will be pleased of course, as the faithful would have been encouraged to renew their season tickets (for some this involves a considerable price hike) after what was the best team performance since that Chelsea semi-final.
Stephen Clemence was slotted into the Sherwood role in front of the defence and won the Sky man of the match award. I wouldn't argue with that as he had the sort of game that even impressed his hardiest opponents amongst the home support. Sven Goran Eriksson must surely have been impressed though with Darren Anderton, who was everywhere, supporting his team mates left, right, front and back. I thought he had a great game. There was no sign of Sergei Rebrov even on the bench, or on parade during the usual end of season "lap of honour", but it was great to see Johnnie Jackson on the bench, although Glenn was obviously so pleased with the performance of his first eleven that he did not replace anyone. The only notable absentee for Liverpool was Gerrard, who apparently picked up a groin injury.
Spurs had the first chance of the game, when a Taricco free kick from the left reached Sheringham lurking on the 18 yard line. Teddy tried a difficult half-volley which was hit with power but went well over the bar. Taricco started the next big move for Spurs, beating Xavier to the ball, breaking out of defence. Teddy in the middle found Davies on the right, who took the ball to the bye line, then crossed for Teddy to glance his header wide across the target.
Then Spurs had some worries at the back. First Kasey Keller made a great high save to his right from a Hyppia header from Murphy's free kick taken on the left. Taricco was then on hand to clear Heskey's header off the line from the corner. Soon after that Riise headed Hamann's cross against the post. The worse was over for Spurs, although Owen did break through when Thatcher lost his footing. Luckily the England striker shot across Keller and wide of the mark. Murphy had a couple of good efforts. One was deflected shot that went for a corner, and then Keller again made a good low save to his right to push Murphy's shot round the corner.
Spurs were not to be seriously troubled again really, as the back three, ably supported by their team mates, kept Owen and Heskey at bay. Thatcher plays better at centre back than on the left in my view, and stuck close to his man, without ever giving the referee cause for concern. At one stage in the second half the South Stand was even singing Thatcher's name (and getting a wave from he and Perry). Anthony Gardner had another very competent game, and to be honest, we did not miss Ledley or Dean Richards.
After 39 minutes, the ball reached Taricco on the left. His cross reached Poyet, getting close attention from two defenders, but still managing to get a shot past Dudek inches wide of his left post. Then, two minutes later, came the goal. Anderton sent a deep cross from the left, and Simon Davies chested it in Gus's direction. Again with two defenders at hand, this time Gus sent a low shot past Dudek for the goal!
Spurs had a lovely move just before the break, moving from right to left, where Teddy sent a cross, but Iversen could only head into the keeper's arms. After the break, it was Clemence of all people who had the first chance, when he carried the ball from the middle, beating several players on the way, getting into the box, but shooting weakly at Dudek. It was great to watch though, as young Stephen left the likes of Hamann in his wake.
Owen was blocked by both Perry and Thatcher after 53 minutes, but still managed to work his way through, but shot across the target. A poor Keller clearance could not be controlled by Davies, and the ball reached Owen on the left, who passed inside to Smicer. Kasey redeemed himself with a good save. Keller has had a good run in the side, and one thing I like about him is his distribution. He will throw out when he can, and after Iversen had driven wide after a Sheringham head down from the keeper, Kasey then started another move with a throw to Anderton, who won a corner from which Poyet fired wide.
Gerard Houllier used all three of his subs, as he so needed all three points to keep the pressure on Arsenal (Man Utd are playing at Ipswich as I write), and you can imagine the reception that Anelka got. It does seem weird calling him an Arsenal reject though when they made £22,500,000 profit on him! Simon Davies is winning the poll on the official web site for player of the year, and he was the architect of a great piece of play four minutes from the end. He made a determined run from the right, passed to Iversen who threaded a ball through the defence for Simon, who tried a left foot shot, which Dudek pushed wide for Hyppia to clear.
Referee Peter Jones was officiating for the last time before his retirement, and showed a great deal of patience resisting opportunities to get his yellow card out until the closing minutes when he felt he had to book Perry and Riise in separate incidents. Perry's card was for a foul on the edge of the area which led to some tension, but from the free kick, Riise's shot was blocked. At the end of the game, Hyppia exchanged shirts with Teddy, and there was no doubt a lot of respect on both sides. The team did a circuit to a great ovation and were joined by the injured Richards, King, Freund and Stephen Carr.
The pitch is now going to be re-laid, and there is a chance to buy a piece of the sacred turf on Monday between 12 noon and 8 pm for a minimum donation of £10. Proceeds are going to the Spurs in the Community scheme. The season is not quite over of course, as in two weeks time we travel to Filbert Street to say goodbye to Leicester! Jamie Redknapp (who was introduced before the game) may get dispensation to play in that match, but I hope to see him on Monday night in the Reserves last match at home to Ipswich.
· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
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