(With thanks to Declan Mulcahy for his input)
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 16TH AUGUST, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) LIVERPOOL 1 (0)
Gerrard (pen), 56
Referee; - Phil Dowd
Attendance: - 35,935
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, King, Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric (sub O'Hara, 83); Keane (Capt.) (sub Crouch, 67), Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 90)
(Armband to Ledley King)
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Hutton, Naughton; Bentley
Booked: - Lennon, Gomes, Ekotto
Liverpool (4-2-3-1):- Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel (sub Ayala, 75), Insua; Mascherano, Lucas Leiva; Kuyt (sub Voronin, 78), Gerrard (Capt.), Babel (sub Benayoun, 67); Torres
Subs not used: - Cavalieri; Dossena; Spearing, Kelly
Booked: - Mascherano, Skrtel, Carragher
Bassong caps fine debut with the winner!
Spurs gained only their sixth first game win since the inception of the Premier League, and arguably their best of any of those wins in terms of achievement. Last year Spurs mugged the League Leaders, but this year Spurs deservedly beat one of the "Top Four" cartel and challengers in the renewed title race. The win was achieved on the back of fitness, sharpness, pressure and superior skill, cemented by goals from Cameroon players Benoit Assou-Ekotto and debutant Sebastien Bassong. It was Spurs first opening day win for 4 years and Liverpool's first opening day defeat since 2003.
Bassong made a fine competitive debut next to Ledley King, and I believe I spotted his mother weeping with joy when her son scored what proved to be the winning goal in front of the Paxton Road stand. Bassong has been signed primarily of course for his defensive skills, and apart from his own duties, where he was almost faultless; he also covered Ledley King's tracks on the odd occasion when Ledley was losing a chase back for the ball. That's what centre-backs do for each other of course, and Bassong did it with aplomb.
Harry Redknapp chose his two smaller strikers to start, and whilst Robbie Keane will be castigated by some Spurs fans for two or three "misses", he did bring out two special saves from Reina. Huddlestone partnered Palacios in the middle, but it was the man from The Honduras who dominated of the pair for me, adding fine penetrative and creative runs to his considerable repertoire. Huddlestone shone at times, but missed another chance to really assert himself, in my opinion. Corluka was "Mr Cool" as usual, and Lennon sparkled down the right, with Luka Modric working tirelessly and most effectively from the left side.
Bassong was not the only Spurs man to score his first goal for the club, as Assou-Ekotto also joined this club. The last time two Spurs men scored their first club goals in the same game was Younes Kaboul and Gareth Bale at Fulham on September 1st, 2007.
Liverpool played a popular continental formation of 4-2-3-1, with Kuyt, Gerrard and Babel supporting Torres, whilst Mascherano and Lucas Leiva protected the defence. Despite the injury fears, Liverpool fielded all of their so called "doubtful starters", but as a team they didn't look as fit as Spurs.
There was a rapturous ovation given as a mark of respect for the late Sir Bobby Robson, and Spurs did the man proud with their brief video tribute on the Jumbotron.
Spurs dominated the game from the outset with Ekotto featuring at both ends, getting a third minute shot over the goal from an early corner, then defending stoutly at the other end against Torres in conjunction with Bassong. Wilson Palacios was making ground down the right channel regularly and hit a good shot that Skrtel deflected for a 10th minute corner. Ledley King was first to a Glenn Johnson cross, heading away from the threat given by Torres. Then there was a nasty clash of heads between the Liverpool central defenders, with Carragher needing a head bandage thereafter, whilst Skrtel was okay after treatment.
Mid-way through the half, after a Spurs throw on the left, Huddlestone crossed inside where Aaron Lennon could not get full strength on his shot. Lennon soon got the first yellow card of the game, when making a late challenge at the half-way line. Steven Gerrard did get a shot on goal after Ekotto and Bassong could not quite get the ball clear from under their feet. Then came Spurs' best chance so far, after a deep cross from the right by Palacios was returned into the centre of goal by Modric. Keane headed from close range, but Reina did a marvellous job to recover his ground and save at close range, when a goal looked certain. Keane's touch deserted him on another couple of occasions in this half too.
Mascherano got booked for a late challenge on Lennon in full flow, and Huddlestone's free kick was deflected out for another Spurs corner. Another chance came for Keane after a good move by Spurs from the back. Ekotto found Modric in a central position, and Luka passed the ball on to Keane making progress down the inside right position. Keane tried to place his shot over Reina, but the keeper was equal to the attempt, conceding a corner.
I was upset when Torres was correctly called offside just inside the Spurs half, and Ledley King conceded at least 20 yards, taking the free kick too deeply. Spurs failed to utilise the kick and in fact suffered two or three minutes of pressure as a result. Back in the day, Dave Mackay would swing such kicks into the opposition penalty area! Keane had another shot - this time miles over - after being headed the ball by Huddlestone. Then Spurs took that deserved lead. Palacios was cynically fouled just outside the box, and there was no yellow card for the offender, who perhaps was Mascherano - already on a yellow. Justice was done though as Huddlestone's free kick was blocked and fell to Ekotto lurking on the right side of the box, ready and willing to unleash a crippling left foot shot across Reina smashing the net!
The second half started with a great piece of exciting play by Spurs. Ice man Corluka skilfully rounded his man to send a curving ball down the line, which was chased and controlled by Lennon, who continued a typically exciting run all the way into the box where he fell under challenge. This is exactly the sort of play that brings a crowd to its feet! However, Liverpool had perked up a bit and Gerrard hit a shot outside Gomes' right post.
Reina made another great save - this time from Palacios - after Keane chested the ball to Defoe, who fed it back for Wilson's rasping effort. Sadly, Spurs lost their lead when Liverpool's own debutant Glen Johnson was allowed a run inside the box, and quite needlessly hauled down by Gomes, as the ball was heading for the bye-line. Gerrard did the business with a shot to the roof of the net, as Gomes dived to his right.
All was well within minutes though, as Carragher got booked for a foul on Defoe. After that Modric took a free kick from a position deep on the right, and Bassong rose above Carragher to head above the keeper into the net! Naturally, Sebastien's joy was unconfined in that north-east corner, and so was that of the Spurs crowd!
Liverpool did not like that and naturally came after the equaliser. Gomes beat away a Gerrard free kick, before Robbie Keane hit a powerful 28 yard shot that Reina could only parry. Keane was soon replaced by Crouch, but it was the Liverpool number 15 who made a bigger impression on the rest of the game. Benayoun had replaced Babel, and really made the Reds tick, with Spurs falling backwards dangerously. Gerrard got away from Ledley King in a chase for the ball, and got a shot in from an angle on the left. Gomes was down well to cover. Crouch did get a header on target from an Ekotto cross, but this was easily held by Reina.
Players on both sides started getting "leggy" and Modric was replaced by Jamie O'Hara with seven minutes of normal time left. O'Hara got a shot that seemed to be handled in the area, but it was the Liverpool bench that got sorely exercised over what they considered were further legitimate penalty appeals. One was another "ball to hand" incident, and Sammy Lee got sent to the stand for his petulance over another turned-down appeal, possibly when Ekotto shoulder-charged substitute Voronin. They're allowed, Sammy!
Spurs successfully saw out the Liverpool threat to secure a very welcome three points. It took us 9 games to pass that milestone last year! (Just thought I'd mention it). The fact that this was only our sixth opening day win in 18 seasons is un-surprising when you consider we have started away on 13 occasions. Make a note of this Spurs, and start at home more often!
. See the "Spursometer" and give your grades here!
. Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
. Read the preview for this game.
. All the Spurs Stats you could hope for here! THFC6061 Sports Stats
Top of page | Index to 2009-10 Match Reports