BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 15TH MAY, 2011
LIVERPOOL 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)
Van der Vaart, 9
Modric (pen), 56
Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth Official:- Phil Dowd
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Reina; Flanagan, Carragher (Capt.), Skrtel, Johnson; Kuyt, Lucas, Spearing (sub Shelvey, 64), Maxi Rodriguez (sub Ngog, 75); Suarez, Carroll (sub Cole, 88)
Subs not used:- Gulacsi; Kyrgiakos, Robinson; Poulsen
Booked:- Suarez (foul on Dawson), Flanagan (foul on Rose)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Kaboul, Dawson (Capt.), King, Rose (sub Bassong, 82); Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Pienaar (sub Kranjcar, 90); Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 53); Crouch
Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Livermore (29), Bostock (41); Pavlyuchenko
Eureka! It could be Europa!
Against all the odds, and contrary to the predictions of most pundits, and my own pessimistic viewpoint, Harry Redknapp’s somewhat makeshift Spurs side won comfortably at Anfield. This was only Spurs’ second Premier League win at Liverpool’s home, and only their fifth league win in 100 years, with previous league wins in living memory occurring in 1985, 1986 and 1993. I confess that my prediction was not intentional reverse psychology. Today was the first time that I personally had been present at a league win at Anfield, although I was there when Jurgen Klinsmann scored that memorable FA Cup winner in March 1995.
Today’s win came in front of a packed house that as usual was wound up with the recorded Gerry Marsden rendition of “You’ll never Walk Alone”, to which the response from the Kop was flag waving and cheers that quite frankly were not to be seen or heard throughout the rest of proceedings. Spurs kept the crowd and their team quiet with a highly polished and professional performance with many individual outstanding displays. Ledley King made a welcome return to the first team for the first time in 7 months, but the side was still led out and captained by Michael Dawson. The pair dominated in central defence, winning all their headers and making clearances with aplomb. On the right, Younes Kaboul sometimes left a little too much space for my liking, but he did not seem to get the level of support from Aaron Lennon that Danny Rose did on the left from Steven Pienaar. Rose had an excellent game, keeping Dirk Kuyt relatively quiet, making plenty of incisive tackles, but also getting forward to very good effect too. Rose was accorded a new chant to sing his name to the tune of “Daddy Cool”.
Cudicini’s handling was assured, but in truth he was not sorely tested. In fairness, Reina at the other end was also not tested to a great degree, but he did concede two goals! Sandro and Modric were superb in the middle. Sandro won all his battles as we have come to expect, whilst little Luka was the creative spark behind a lively Van der Vaart, and Crouch, who did win quite a bit in the air, and often managed to feed the ball efficiently.
Liverpool were missing Steven Gerrard, but they have been winning and scoring consistently without him in recent weeks. Dalglish switched rookie left back John Flanagan with Glen Johnson, presumably to act as a foil against Aaron Lennon.
Sandro was subject to early “words” from referee Howard Webb for an early strong tackle. Chances were coming few and far between, but Rafa van der Vaart gave early notice of his intentions with a shot after 6 minutes, with his right foot. Three minutes later Rafa gave Spurs an early and unexpected lead, after a Spurs corner fell to him lurking 25 yards out. Rafa chested the ball down, and with his weaker right foot, unleashed a great shot that hit the net in the far corner to Reina’s left, at The Kop End. The home crowd were stunned, whereas the Spurs end celebrated with great joy!
Liverpool’s frustration showed itself soon after when Dawson and Suarez tussled and Suarez took a bit of a kick at the Spurs skipper. Suarez might have been lucky only to see a yellow card. Liverpool were begging for a penalty when Kuyt fell in the box under the challenge of Danny Rose, but Mr. Webb was having none of that. Liverpool had a chance after 34 minutes, when a Danny Rose attempted clearance rebounded off Kuyt. The move ended with a shot by Lucas, which went wide. After a Liverpool corner and a Ledley King headed clearance, the ball was returned into the box. Skrtel was still up for the corner, and chipped to the back post where Carroll headed well over the bar and was greeted with chants of “What a waste of money”. Maxi Rodriguez was the next Liverpool player to try and convince the referee that he should have a penalty, but Kaboul was in charge, and the referee awarded a goal kick. Sandro got a yellow in first half added time, but Suarez took the free kick from just outside the box, pushing it well wide of the goal.
Having defended stoutly in the first half, Spurs took the game more to the Liverpool half after the break. Clever inter-play between Pienaar and Sandro led to a ball for Peter Crouch, which he flicked to Van der Vaart, whose shot was again with his right foot, but this time saved easily by Reina. Van der Vaart soon had to go off with an injury and Spurs played with 10 men for a couple of minutes before Defoe could get on.
A moment of drama came after 54 minutes, when Rose took a throw and Pienaar played a trick on Flanagan, getting into the area with the ball, before going down under the full back’s challenge. Despite Liverpool protests, Howard Webb had pointed emphatically to the spot, and his mind was firmly made up. Luka Modric stepped up to take the penalty with his “wrong” foot, sending Reina the wrong way and nonchalantly scoring with his shot.
Flanagan got forward a few minutes later and sent over a low cross that reached Maxi Rodriguez at the back post. The shot was well off target in front of the dismayed Kop. Spearing was replaced by Shelvey, who nearly benefited from a Sandro half-clearance, hitting the shot well outside the target. Flanagan got a yellow card for halting Danny Rose in his tracks as he was carrying the ball clear down the line. With 10 minutes to go, Rose seemed to be “instructed” to go down with an injury, whilst on the pitch. Howard Webb saw through this ploy and led Rose off the pitch. He couldn’t be replaced for a minute or two, and from the Spurs end in the corner, a male streaker had the freedom of the pitch for a minute or so, before eventually being caught. In his frustration, Reina had been one of three Liverpool players to bring him down, but the referee did not wave a red card, as had been shown in a non-league game in similar circumstances earlier in the season. (Incidentally, that card was rescinded on appeal).
Bassong came on for Rose. Cudicini held a Carroll left footed shot, which was the striker’s last contribution before being replaced by Joe Cole. At the other end, Steven Pienaar had an excellent effort pass wide of the post across the goal.
It had been a game of relatively few chances, and perhaps more fell to the home side, but throughout the game, Spurs displayed great confidence, with some assured passing that led to periods of good possession. It was a deserved win that took Spurs above Liverpool, and now we just have to match their result next week to secure the automatic place in the Europa League for a fifth place finish. Harry Redknapp joked afterwards that he had threatened the team with having to come back in June to start the qualifying matches for getting the Fair Play place. Whatever he did to motivate the players worked, and I for one will take Europa League football next season. Our final opponents will be Birmingham who are one of five teams still in the relegation battle, with two places to be decided. West Ham’s fate was decided today, when they lost 3-2 at Wigan.
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