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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Liverpool v Spurs, 04.02.18

John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our dramatic 2-2 at Anfield.

John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-

Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Hoping to build on our excellent midweek victory, this was another juggernaut of a match to relish. The games are coming thick and fast! This time we were at Anfield which has been a graveyard for many a fine Spurs side down the years. Our fans however came in good heart and the pre-match music over the loudspeaker system was to the tune of “Tottenham in the Bernanbeu, Arsenal watching Emmerdale” which was thoroughly enjoyed by the travelling support. Good memories and let’s hope a good omen!

The Liverpool anthem of “You’ll never walk alone” is always an impressive sight with scarves and many enormous flags including Paisley and other giants of their illustrious history adoring the Kop End. When looking at the 12,390 capacity Kop, it is an amazing prospect to think in just a few short months Spurs new 17,500 seater South Stand will be almost 50% bigger!

The Spurs fans at least in their own end drowned out the Liverpool anthem with their own anthem of “Oh when the Spurs...” Tottenham must have won the toss as they appeared to play a psychological card in turning Liverpool round so that they weren’t kicking towards the Kop in the second half. Within 3 minutes it didn’t seem to matter a jot which way Liverpool kicked. A dreadful “after you Claude” mix up between Trippier and Sanchez who seemed to leave the ball for each other was bad enough. Worse followed though with a pass back from Dier which acted as a perfect through ball to Salah who through on goal made no mistake with a clinical finish. Memories of throwing the game in the opening 20 minutes last season came flooding back to haunt us.

Sanchez had started the game very poorly which was categorised by Mane leaving him for dead on the left wing but fortunately the ever reliable Vertonghen cut out the cross for a corner. Dier, perhaps unnerved by his early error, was also all too frequently losing possession and Spurs were on the back foot.

A good interchange between Trippier and Dele relieved the pressure and created a glimpse of an opening but instead of shooting on sight, Son delayed momentarily and a defender flew in to block his effort. As in recent previous encounters, Liverpool’s high press was proving to be incredibly effective with possession regularly being won in threatening positions in the final third. It seemed lessons hadn’t been learned and a second match-defining error was imminent. Instead of Lloris playing out from the back, surely in such circumstances, cutting out the high press with a good old fashioned goal kick upfield would be the safer and more sensible option? Alas a change in tactics never came and Liverpool continued to turn over possession in Spurs half with alarming regularity.

Gradually Spurs began to gain a semblance of a foothold in the game and enjoy longer spells of possession. However losing the ball anywhere on the park seemed a danger. Our defence was also looking vulnerable to long balls forward and with their pace, Liverpool seemed to be dismantling our defence far too easily.

A great counter-attacking run from Son looked promising but his pass couldn’t find Kane and the chance was lost. In boxing parlance Spurs were struggling to lay a glove on their opponents goal but the same couldn’t be said of Liverpool. Firmino headed wide, Lloris stretched high to hold on to a cross which with a Liverpool striker on hand saved an almost certain second goal. Van Dijk rose unchallenged for a free header which again called Lloris into action.

For all Spurs' forward thrusts, it took until the 40th minute before the Liverpool keeper was forced into a meaningful save. A free kick from Eriksen was cleared to the edge of the box and fell to Dembele who brought a good diving save from Karius. The half time whistle blew and the general consensus amongst the Spurs fans was that after a difficult start Spurs were growing into the game. The team was playing well but causing their own problems by trying to play out from the back. Overall though it had been an entertaining half, played at a very high tempo between two excellent sides.

The second half started in the same vein as the first with Dembele and Dier being robbed of possession inside our own defensive third. In the 57th minute, Dele created Spurs best chance of the match with a delightful ball to Son but through on the left hand side of the penalty area he shot straight at the keeper and Dele fired the rebound wide. The rhythm of the game though was undoubtedly changing. Spurs were now on the front foot and in the ascendency. However in being a goal down, one slip and a second goal would be fatal. As if on cue, another dreadful error from Sanchez almost released Salah through on goal.

A few weeks ago, with Son having become almost indispensable, fans were questioning who Alderweireld would come back in for. Overall for a young centre back coming into the toughest of leagues, Sanchez has done remarkably well but in the last couple of league games looks to be in need of a rest — Problem solved.

Back to the here and now though and the need for a Spurs equaliser. Dele brought howls of derision from the Liverpool fans as well as howls of frustration from the Spurs end. In a good position, inside the Liverpool penalty area he went down far too easily and received a booking. That is why he didn’t get the just penalty decision versus Manchester United. Dele is too good a talent and needs to cut the cheating out of his game.

Sanchez was finally and rightfully substituted for Lamela with Dier dropping into the back four.

The momentum was clearly with Spurs who were now dominating possession. In the 75th minute a lovely free flowing passing move released Davies whose crossed was turned away for a corner. When Liverpool did make an isolated attack, superhero Jan Vertonghen commandingly won possession and left Milner floundering in his wake as he strode purposely forward to launch yet another attack. Liverpool were wilting, visibly tiring before our eyes and if we could just get that elusive equaliser, a second might easily follow.

The stakes were high. A Liverpool victory would create a five point gap in the race for a top four spot - not insurmountable but nevertheless such a gap would be of significance. In the 79th minute Dembele went off to rapturous applause from the travelling away support. After his exertions of Wednesday against Manchester United, he had again put in one hell of a shift. A fan next to me groaned when he saw number 12 for Wanyama come on in his place. “We need a goal” he implored and to be fair he had a point. May be Winks would have been a more progressive substitution. Within a minute, the fan was laughing at the absurdity of the moment!

A Spurs attack down the left looked to have petered out with the keeper punching the ball well clear of his penalty area. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man! Victor Wanyama ran towards the ball and put his full body weight through it. He released an absolute thunderbolt of a shot which arrowed into the top left hand corner of the net for the goal of his life. It was the most sensational of strikes which the keeper’s flailing dive couldn’t get anywhere near and stirred memories of Erik Edman’s wondrous long range strike of yesteryear into the same Kop end goal.

The Spurs fans leapt for joy in stunned celebrations. Now, go on and win it they urged with clamorous “Come on you Spurs” shouts ringing out across Anfield. Spurs were now in total control with Liverpool on the ropes hanging on for the final whistle. Could Spurs go on and snatch a win from the jaws of defeat?

Another Spurs attack came and the ball was played through a mass of bodies. Kane was through on goal; the keeper charged out; Kane swivelled to his left and the keeper brought him down. Penalty! Screamed the Spurs fans and players. The referee Jon Moss duly obliged and pointed to the spot! But wait... the referee walked over to his lineman and they chat and they continue to chat and still they chat. As slow as it was, VAR would be quicker than this! Their deliberations continued. In the away end, at the opposite end of the stadium, we have no understanding as to what they can be discussing. The linesman hadn’t flagged for offside so perhaps it is to decide whether the keeper is sent off. Finally Moss confirms his original decision - penalty to Spurs!

We ponder as to what affect such a long wait might have on the penalty taker. Don’t be silly we reprimand ourselves, it is Harry Kane... Kane steps up and hits the worst penalty imaginable straight down the middle at the keeper. A glorious chance to leapfrog into the top three spurned - oh my. Spurs tried to recover their composure and continued to take the game to Liverpool in search of a winner but the combined affect of the three minute or so rest break and the penalty miss gave the Liverpool players and fans an enormous lift and shot in the arm.

The fourth official held up the board indicating there would be four minutes of added time. We reconciled ourselves to the point we would have taken before the start of the game. In the first minute of added time the ball was pushed towards Salah on the Spurs left. No danger as three Spurs players surrounded him. At close quarters he plays the ball off a Spurs arm. For an absolute momentary instant, the Spurs players seem to stop. The ball fell at the feet of Salah. With immense skill and trickery he wriggled through the Spurs defence and suddenly had only Lloris to beat. Lloris dives at his feet but just as he does so, Salah lifts the ball up and over him and into the net for a quite magnificent match winner befitting of such a Titanic struggle.

Titanic is perhaps the operative word here as until Garth Crooks scored the winner at Anfield in 1985, Spurs hadn’t won in the preceding 73 years and the media had revelled in the quote of Spurs not having won at Anfield since the Titanic sunk in 1912...

The Liverpool players were jubilant and the home crowd ecstatic. With scarves aloft, Walk on cascaded from the stands in a cacophony of noise. From almost snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Spurs were now facing snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Such is the life of a Spurs fan. In the seconds remaining and to their immense credit, as gut wrenching as it was, the Spurs players don’t throw in the towel and played the ball forward into the Liverpool penalty area one final time. Lamela goes down, the referee waves play on and Liverpool clear their lines.

The ball was now over the half line with the referee’s whistle expected to blow any second to end the game. Totally unexpectedly the referee’s assistant is seen furiously waving his flag in the air. Spurs fans are bemused. An initial thought being Lamela has lashed out and is about to be sent off for his indiscretions. Another delay ensues before incredibly and remarkably having waved play-on Jon Moss, on the advice of his assistant, pointed to the penalty spot! Really? Penalty for Spurs!! This kind of luck never happens for Spurs only for that lot down the road. Having only been awarded one penalty all season, in the most bizarre of circumstances Spurs are awarded two in less than ten minutes!

Harry Kane picks up the ball but the Liverpool players are apoplectic with anger and a further delay ensues. One can only begin to imagine what is going through the mind of Harry Edward Kane. Eventually, he placed the ball on the spot, the Spurs fans waited with bated breath.... Kane steps up and coolly sends the keeper the wrong way to score the most crucial of equalising goals.

He wheeled away in celebration in front of the distraught Koppites and was mobbed by his ecstatic team mates. At the opposite end of the stadium, mayhem ensues in the Spurs away end! "He’s one of our own" spills out and reverberates around Anfield. The Liverpool players barely have time to restart the match before Jon Moss blows the whistle for full time. What drama! What a match! What pulsating, nerve jangling excitement! The game literally had everything. Fantastic football, a wonder strike and a goal of wonderful individual brilliance from Salah.

After two such enormous setbacks within the space of just a few minutes, many a Spurs side down the years would have collapsed in the face of such adversity. What resilience from this young Tottenham Hotspur team! This may only have been a point but it feels so much more and if the club do secure a top four finish, this may well have been the season defining match. On the journey back, Erik Lamela posted a short video from the team bus with the whole team singing “Stand by your man”. How apt!

And so onto Wednesday and Newport County in the FA Cup 4th round replay. A big game in its own right ahead of two gigantic fixtures in a matter of three days. First the small matter of the North London derby at Wembley Saturday lunchtime followed by Juventus away in Turin on the following Tuesday.

· Spurs Odyssey match report

El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime

John Ellis's Facebook page

El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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