Never a happy hunting ground, it was a pleasant change for the Spurs
fans to be the ones with grins on their faces as they left Anfield after
a comprehensive 2-0 victory over a Liverpool side that failed to live up
to the hype of Kenny Dalglish's dream return to the club.
In truth, the form book would have lead you
to think that the points were already in the bag for the Scousers, but
the way Tottenham passed the ball around and looked for all the world
the home team on a ground they historically find it hard to win at was a
revelation. Liverpool rarely threatened the Spurs goal and there
could have been more than the two goals for Tottenham had they made more
of the possession around the home team's penalty area.
With Ledley King restored at the back in
place of William Gallas, who tweaked his hamstring last week, Spurs were
set up in typical away formation of Crouch up front, with van der Vaart
just behind. Steven Pienaar got a start on the left of midfield,
while Danny Rose continued at left back behind him. With Liverpool
starting the game, as soon as Tottenham got possession, they set about
moving the ball forward.
Early crosses were played into the box
intended for Peter Crouch and although they came to nothing, Rafael van
der Vaart had a couple of shots, one blocked and one too wide of the
goal. But the combination of the two lead to an early Tottenham
goal. A ball was cleared out for a corner and Luka Modric put it
into the box, looking for Crouch's head. The Reds' defence won the
header away. but the ball fell to Rafa, on the edge of the box a few
yards to the left of centre. The ball bounced up, but he took a
touch and struck a shot that flew into Pepe Reina's top left corner out
of the Spaniard's reach. It was a precise shot, although it might
have flicked Glen Johnson on the way through, but the Dutchman's joy in
scoring in front of the Kop could not be restrained.
So, it was nine minutes into the game and
Tottenham were 1-0 up. Surely, we had just caught Liverpool cold
this afternoon, on what had been a drizzly run up to the match.
Expecting a response from Liverpool, Ledley King and Michael Dawson
showed calm defending to prevent Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt from doing
any damage at our end of the pitch with some intelligent defending.
Liverpool were trying to move the ball through the Spurs midfield, but
Sandro was putting in a sterling shift with some timely tackles and
Modric was scuttling back to cover for his team-mates. This
produced a half-chance, when Crouch's shot took a deflection off Skrtel
and went just wide, with Reina nervously trying to cover in case it went
inside the post.
The effort Tottenham were putting in was
paying off, as the home crowd were very quiet and the players were
becoming frustrated. New boy John Flanagan was crashing into
tackles and you felt that he only had to mis-time one before he received
a booking and Suarez showed his nasty side, when he shouldered Dawson to
the floor and then, indicating that he thought the Spurs defender should
just get up and get on with the game, took a snidey kick at him while he
was on the floor. Howard Webb saw it, but only cautioned the
Suarez had a chance in the 22nd minute,
when Sandro put a square pass straight to him about 30 yards out, but
his intended chip went nowhere near clearing Cudicini, who saved
comfortably. This came in a fifteen minute spell when Liverpool
saw more of the ball and Tottenham were working hard to prevent balls
into the box find a red shirt. One good shooting chance was made
when a passing move between Rodriguez and Spearing ended with the
youngster not getting hold of his shot and it being pulled wide of the
post. An even better chance came in the 38th minute, when Skrtel's cross
took out Cudicini and Carroll was set at the far post to head the ball
without even having to jump, but he got his header all wrong and the
ball went harmlessly over the crossbar.
Crouch had a half chance with a header on
Modric's corner, but a defender put him off sufficiently to force the
header to go wide and then Liverpool came back with Rodriguez throwing
himself to the floor in the penalty area to the disgust of Dawson and
Kaboul and then a late free-kick in added time when Sandro got a booking
for a foul on Carroll, which Suarez fired powerfully at goal, but it
went a couple of feet wide of Carlo's right hand post.
With the half-time whistle, Spurs went in
to the cheers of our fans. Expecting a reaction from Liverpool,
when the second half kicked off, the pattern of the game was much the
same as the first, although after a few minutes, Tottenham had to change
things around, with van der Vaart limping off and Jermain Defoe replaced
It didn't disrupt the way Tottenham were
playing and Danny Rose looked to get away on the left, but was stopped
by a fierce tackle from Flanagan. From the throw, the ball was
worked to Pienaar, who turned Flanagan on the left edge of the box and
as he went past him, the Liverpool defender appeared to go shoulder to
shoulder with him and knock the South African to the floor. Placed
nearby, Howard Webb proved even further that he is the Manchester
United's friend, by pointing to the spot. It looked a little
generous and the first contact might have been outside the box, but the
challenge typified the young defender's rash interventions.
With van der Vaart off the pitch and
Defoe not being that successful in his last few attempts, Luka Modric
grabbed the ball and from 12 yards out, he put the ball straight down
the middle of the goal as Reina dived to the right. The Spurs fans
behind that goal celebrated a 2-0 lead with vigour.
With this being Liverpool's last home
game of the season, they wanted to finish with a flourish, but that
became ever more desperate, as players joined the ranks of the
knowledgeable fans in the Kop in claiming a penalty as the ball popped
up in the box, but it came off Danny Rose's chin - not his hand.
In the next phase of play, Flanagan shot into the side-netting from a
sharp angle and in the next attack, his cross was knocked over the bar
from just inside the box by Suarez. As Tottenham were subjected to
crosses played into the area, Sandro produced a Brazilian overhead kick
to clear the ball, but it dropped to substitute Jonjo Shlevey, who had
just come on, to lash a shot that flew quickly but a couple of yards off
Flanagan finally got his yellow card for
a crude dive in on Danny Rose and for all the hyperbole about him and
Spearing, neither did much to justify the rave notices they have been
getting. Dirk Kuyt had spent a lot of the match getting involved
in petty pushing and shoving, but when he turned away from Ledley King
about 30 yards from goal, it looked like he might create something.
However, without a game for many months, Ledley showed a turn of pace to
get back and block the cross that the Dutchman put in to avert any
danger. King's fellow central defender Michael Dawson was doing
what he does best, with a fine block to get in the way of Glen Johnson's
With fifteen minutes left, Liverpool
nearly got back in the game with a freak goal. Luis Suarez played
a corner in from their left wing. The low ball spat off the turf
inside the six yard box and with no Liverpool player getting a touch on
it, Michael Dawson was surprised when it hit him and came off his knee a
couple of yards in front of goal. While it would normally have
flown past his own keeper and nestled in the net, this time the ball
shot up and went over the bar for another corner, as the Spurs defence
breathed a sigh of relief.
Danny Rose went down and couldn't carry
on, so Sebastien Bassong made his entry, with a streaker do the same and
his runs around the pitch had more energy and purpose than some of the
Three minutes from time, Cudicini had a
save to make (at last), but it was simple to gather a weak curling
effort from big money signing Andy Carroll and at the other end, a low
curling shot gave Reina a few more worries when Pienaar's effort missed
the keeper's left hand post by inches, with a hint of a helping hand
from the goalie.
With time running out, Defoe hit a
quickly taken shot that Johnson blocked and then Kuyt tried to beat
Cudicini at his near post as he cut in from their right wing, but the
keeper smothered the drive. Then, with Liverpool fans streaming
out, the whistle blew on Tottenham's second win at Anfield in 18 years.
With a consummate performance like this,
it is hard to see where we lost all those points from draws this season.
Sandro was immense and Modric was darting here and there to prompt the
team to move forward. Dawson and King were a fine partnership at
the back and while Crouch did not score or assist, his presence was
annoying for the Liverpool back four.
It was a good team performance and pushes
Spurs back into fifth above Liverpool with a game left to play for both
teams. For Spurs, a home game against relegation threatened
Birmingham City, while Liverpool travel to Aston Villa, who are slightly
Jekyll and Hyde, having beaten the Gooners at Highbury today.
Knowing Spurs, we still have the
propensity to blow it, but hopefully, the team will be focused and with
Birmingham needing a win to make sure of survival, it might give us the
opportunity to get behind them.