Disappointing is a word that has often haunted my support of Tottenham
Hotspur and quite often it has come at a time when the next step seemed
within their stride. A 0-2 defeat at Liverpool was a little harsh,
but the result was the outcome of a number of Spurs players not
performing to the level that they can.
It wasn't as though Spurs played badly, but
not as well as they can and with Liverpool shorn of the likes of Gerard,
Johnson, Benayoun and Torres, the opportunity to put some distance
between us and the Reds was there for the taking. An early goal
for the home team and the majority of the decisions going the same way
denied Spurs that chance, but they failed when it came to the final ball
and the final third.
Tottenham had a great chance to go ahead
in the fifth minute, when Bale was released on the left by an astute
pass from Kranjcar to fire in a low cross that Carragher, Reina and
Kygriakos almost messed up, meaning the keeper had to react quickly to
get the loose ball before Jermain Defoe. From Reina's
distribution, the ball bounced for Kuyt to find Aquilani and despite
Michael Dawson getting a tackle in on him, the ball broke for Kuyt on
the edge of the box to steer a shot wide of Gomes and into the bottom
right hand corner of the keeper's net.
With six minutes gone, so had the clean
sheet club record and also the hope of holding out and piling more
pressure on the Merseysiders. Tottenham responded well, with good
possession and some neat passing moves, but they failed to produce a
threatening effort on goal. Bale's sliced effort in the 23rd
minute was the closest and it wasn't that close.
Defoe was getting frustrated with the
close attention he was being given by the Liverpool defenders and the
lack of attention the referee was giving to the contact on him and Peter
Crouch was also being bumped around by the Reds back four. In
midfield, Benitez's tactic of deploying five in that area of the pitch
left Spurs little time and space on the ball, meaning Kranjcar and
Modric were regularly quickly dispossessed and Palacios gave the ball
away too cheaply too often.
Five minutes before half time, Crouch's
astonishment was clear to see, as Kygriakos pulled his shirt into an
XXXXXXXXXXL before dragging the striker onto the floor. The
outcome was a free-kick to Liverpool. Why is it that the eternal
question of homer referees still exists, until they come to WHL ?
Just before the interval there were
chances at both ends. From a corner Skrtel had an air shot at a
half-clearance and then he was on hand in injury time when Kuyt's diving
header was knocked away from the line by Gareth Bale, but the defender
could only fire the ball way over the bar from an acute angle. A
good break at the other end ended with some accurate, first time passing
that saw Jermaine Jenas release Luka Modric in the area, but he could
not get any power behind his shot that Pepe Reina saved easily.
Tottenham's team talk would no doubt have
included an instruction form Harry Redknapp to get back into the game as
soon as possible and a minute and half into the second period, that
happened. Or so we thought. A through ball found Defoe
offside, but Kygriakos played the ball back to Reina and Defoe, back in
active play closed him down, forcing the Spaniard to lose the ball and
Jermain turned just outside the box to turn the ball past the keeper to
equalise. However, the linesman and the referee both got it wrong
by waving for offside, but you can't be offside when the opposition
player has touched the ball, let alone two of them having done so.
Nobody thought that a Mendes Man U goal
situation could happen again, but once more Spurs suffer at the hands of
the officials inability to do their job.
Albert Rieira went close twice in three
minutes, with a free-kick just over the bar, as Gomes strayed from his
line (but had the effort covered) and then going closer when he headed a
Carragher cross onto the bar after out-jumping Vedran Corluka. A
couple of good passing movements created two shots on goal for Spurs
just before the hour. Firstly, the bal was laid into Defoe in the
box and he put the ball into the path of Modric, whose shot was straight
at Reina, while a couple of minutes later, Palacios found Defoe, who
passed to Jenas and his shot from 25 yards out swerved before reaching
Reina and the keeper had to awkwardly palm it over the bar.
Spurs were starting to over-play and
Dawson and King got in a tangle on the halfway line, with Kuyt getting
away to play Degen in on the right and the player tried to return the
ball to the Dutchman, but the pass was behind him and Spurs cleared.
With 20 minutes left, Kuyt could have put the game beyond Spurs, as a
free-kick was headed back to the far post by Skrtel and the striker's
volley was high over the bar from close range. Rieira also went
close when he strode forward and thrashed a shot a couple of feet wide
of the post.
The same fate also befell substitute Alan
Hutton, as he got on the end of Bale's left wing cross and came in at
the corner of the box to hit a full-bloodied volley that fizzed a yard
wide. But as the game came to the final five minutes, David Ngog
had a free header that Gomes did well to beat out and then Kuyt put
another volley over the bar from inside the six yard box. Heurelho
Gomes was on hand once more to stop Kygriakos' shot from a corner, but
hitting it into the ground too ka lot of pace off it.
Into injury time, Spurs looked like they
couldn't get the ball where they wanted it and having come on for Ledley
King, Sebastien Bassong hadn't picked up the pace of the game.
Much like he hadn't picked up his shorts when he was summonsed to come
on by Harry Redknapp. With Ngog bursting forward, he touched the
ball heavily and Bassong dived in to bring him down just inside the
area. A penalty was given even though the ball was way out of
Ngog's reach, so heavy was his touch, but Kuyt tucked away the post-kick
only for Webb to make him re-take it as players had encroached in the
area. The second spot-kick was also sent into the back of the net
and that ended the scoring and the match.
Another chance to win away at a big "top
four" club and another opportunity lost. It might not affect the
end of season placing, as there are plenty of points to be lost between
now and then, but it might prove a kick-start to Liverpool's season, who
have little to concentrate on and could join Aston Villa and Manchester
City in challenging Spurs for that elusive fourth place. Let's
hope it is just a blip in Liverpool's campaign and in ours too.
the heathrow spur