BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 31ST AUGUST, 2014
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0) LIVERPOOL 3(1)
Gerrard, 49 (pen)
Referee:- Mr. Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. S. Ledger & Mr. D. Bryan
Fourth official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Dier, Kaboul (Capt.), Vertonghen, Rose (sub Davies, 72); Bentaleb (sub Dembele, 59), Capoue; Lamela, Eriksen (sub Townsend, 59), Chadli; Adebayor
Subs not used:- Friedel; Chiriches; Holtby; Kane
Liverpool (4-1-3-1-1):- Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Gerrard (Capt.); Henderson, Sterling (sub Enrique, 86), Allen (sub Can, 61); Sturridge; Balotelli (sub Markovic, 61)
Subs not used:- Jones; Toure; Coutinho; Lambert
Booked:- Allen (pulling Lamela's shirt), Manquillo (foul on Rose), Sterling (foul), Moreno (foul on Townsend)
Well, that was a test failed then
All the optimism about Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs was wiped away at a stroke by Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side who have now beaten us 12-0 on aggregate in our last three games. Even a goal against them would be nice.
Pochettino started with the same eleven as last Sunday, when we thrashed a poor QPR side 4-0. There was no sign of Sandro or Paulinho, who I fear could be sold, and who I know have more skill and enterprise in their feet than the two substitutes deployed by Pochettino after 59 minutes today.
Andros Townsend replaced Christian Eriksen, who has more creativity in his boots than most Spurs players. Townsend's first touch was to give the ball disastrously to Moreno, just in the Liverpool half, allowing the left back to race all the way to the Spurs area un-challenged, and to score what became the killer third goal for Liverpool. That was the game well and truly over.
If Roy Hodgson was watching, he should consider withdrawing Townsend from his England squad, because I'm afraid I saw nothing to persuade me today that he is anywhere near the class, pace and ability of Liverpool's star player Raheem Sterling. More of Sterling in a moment, but Pochettino's other substitution on 59 minutes was Mousa Dembele for Nabil Bentaleb. Dembele chased the ball a bit, but was sadly lacking the pace required to keep up with Liverpool's attacks from deep.
Pochettino was out-thought tactically by Rodgers, who gave a debut to Mario Balotelli, and played Sturridge as his support, either behind, or to his left or right. The master stroke was to play Sterling centrally in the midfield, between Henderson and Allen. Sterling had a free role. His pace and the movement of the Liverpool team as a whole had the Spurs defence at sixes and sevens.
On the Spurs side, Lamela had been given that free role, starting from a central position, with Eriksen on the right. There was some interchange, but to be honest, Spurs made little headway against a busy Liverpool team, who always seemed to have us well out-numbered in their own half. Rodgers seems to have got those new players bedded in, with the back four of a different flavour to last year, and of course including one of Pochettino's old boys, Lovren, who generally kept Adebayor at bay comfortably.
The worry for home fans started after only two minutes. Sturridge and another red-shirted player had been given too much space on the left flank, which was the responsibility of Eric Dier and Younes Kaboul. Sturridge lifted a cross the back post, where Balotelli Rose salmon-like to head for goal. Lloris made a terrific close range save, and thankfully, Balotelli's follow-up went wide of the left post.
It wasn't long before the visitors took the lead. This time, Sturridge was on the right side of the box, and fed the ball to Henderson. Henderson's cross passed in front of Balotelli, but Sterling was in too much space (again) at the back post, and gleefully swept home.
Spurs had a good chance to get on level terms, when Bentaleb sent a long ball down the right channel, which Adebayor managed to collect, trying to hook the ball towards goal. His effort passed over Mignolet's goal.
Liverpool broke through Sterling, who gave the ball to Sturridge, whose shot was wide of Lloris's left post. Then Gerrard took a free kick from the left touch line. Both Balotelli and Lovren were waiting and threatening at the back post, but the ball was headed wide.
Some pressing by Eriksen paid off in the middle, and Adebayor did manage to win a Spurs corner, although a shot on target would be a rarity for Spurs in this game.
Dier won probably the biggest Spurs cheers of the day for a great tackle on Balotelli near the corner flag. Balotelli was a little sore, but recovered. It was fair but tough tackle.
Lamela was working hard for Spurs, and often the subject of foul play, for example, the blatant shirt tug for which Joe Allen saw yellow. Liverpool got four bookings today, all for quite cynical stuff. Spurs got none. Maybe they should have got stuck in a lot more!
Spurs had a good attack after 27 minutes, when Vertonghen managed to clear the ball down the line to Danny Rose, who passed on skilfully to Eriksen. Eriksen passed the ball inside to Rose, who worked his way to a shooting position, before hitting a right foot shot well wide.
An error by Dier deep in the Spurs half led to a Liverpool attack in which Balotelli fed Sturridge, whose shot was saved by Lloris. Next up came a battle for the ball between Balotelli and Kaboul. This was won by Balotelli, trying to find Sturridge with the pass. Lloris rushed out of his area to clear from Sturridge's feet, but the ball went straight to Balotelli, who thankfully made a mess of his effort on the open goal from 35 yards.
Referee Phil Dowd allowed a couple of Spurs plays to continue today, showing the Liverpool offenders a yellow card a long time after the foul they had committed. On one such occasion in the first half, Manquillo had fouled Danny Rose in the early part of a move, which ended with Lamela feeding the ball to Adebayor, working his way into the left side of the box, but finding Lovren too strong.
Spurs' best chance of the game (and one from which they should have scored) came after 41 minutes, when Adebayor headed a ball on to Chadli, who only had the keeper to beat, but hit the ball close enough for Mignolet to make a good save, conceding a corner.
At the other end, Vertonghen gave away a cheap corner from a harmless ball. Gerrard took the kick from the right, and Balotelli fired over at the near post. This was a replica of the old Anderton-Sheringham corner.
So, we were only one goal down at the break, and things had to get better, didn't they? Well, no actually. Joe Allen went down under Dier's challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Gerrard, who planted the ball convincingly into the right side of Lloris's goal.
Now the mass of Liverpool fans owned The Lane, with the home fans stunned into silence. The game was won. Rodgers now marshalled his troops to simply swamp their own half, leaving it to Spurs to try and find a way through. At the same time, Liverpool looked all too likely to score at will.
Lamela was trying hard, and whilst not always successful in his endeavours, for my money he was the best Spurs player on the pitch. After a good win, with three or four red shirts around him, Lamela tried to feed the ball to Adebayor, but just failed.
An Eriksen shot was blocked strongly going for a corner,but the short corner by Lamela to Eriksen was not what I was looking for, despite the fact that Eriksen's chip shot forced Mignolet to make a comfortable goal-line save.
Then came the double substitution, which turned out to be a disaster, from Townsend's first touch. At 3-0 the game was definitely over.
Lloris made a good save from a Sturridge shot, saving low at his left post, conceding a corner. Dembele lost out in a chase with substitute Emre Can , who was able to feed the ball to Sterling on the right of the area. Sterling ran from right to left and really should have scored with an open goal, but hit a soft shot to the thankful Lloris. It could/should have been more.
Lamela, Chadli and Adebayor exchanged short passes on the edge of the Liverpool box. Adebayor went down just inside the box, but it was no foul. The officials did miss what looked like a blatant handball outside the Liverpool area a little later.
Spurs's frustration was complete when Adebayor did get goal-side, but was subject to a late, late flag by the assistant referee.
Spurs have fallen to sixth place after three games, and are probably now matching the realistic level they will reach at the end of the season.
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