FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 16TH MARCH, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) LIVERPOOL 3 (0)
Referee:- Uriah Rennie
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, King, Thatcher, Taricco (sub Freund, 68); Davies, Bunjevcevic, Poyet, Etherington; Sheringham (Capt), Doherty (sub Slabber, 78)
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Acimovic, Toda
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Dudek; Carragher, Traore, Hyppia (Capt), Riise; Diouf, Hamann (sub Diao, 87), Gerrard, Murphy; Heskey, Owen
Subs not used:- Arphexad; Biscan; Baros, Smicer
Despite their two month lack of a win in the league between November and January, Liverpool are on a march towards Champions League qualification with this, their fourth win in their last seven games, whilst Spurs (taking just one point from the last nine) slip away from the challenge for Europe, and slide back into mid-table mediocrity.
Yes, of course, Spurs desperately miss Robbie Keane, and can list a number of absentees through injury and suspension, but we are in that Catch 22 situation. You can't get into Europe without decent players, and you can't get decent players unless you are in Europe. Why, oh why didn't Glenn Hoddle have the confidence to start with Jamie Slabber (who did make his debut when replacing the ineffective Doherty), who at least is a natural striker, and who had more effect in the 12 minutes he spent on the field than his predecessor, who might have done a better job at the back than Thatcher.
Writing reports on this team is becoming tiresome for this fan, and attending games is just a habit at the moment, with little to excite. In my view Daniel Levy and the management team are guilty of gross neglect by simply offloading two or three big earners in January, and not re-inforcing the squad, particularly at striker level. I said then and I say again, that if we fail to qualify for Europe, the whole management team will be culpable, and this fan in particular will think very carefully before squandering hard earnt cash on a team making no progress.
The full house did do their best to get behind the team, and there were even some renditions of "Glenn Hoddle's Blue and White Army" which have been somewhat absent recently. Spurs had some decent approach play in the first half, which rarely excited, as Etherington made headway down the left, supported by Taricco, but sadly there was just no end product.
Spurs looked a bit vulnerable on the left side of defence, with Thatcher and Taricco too often leaving acres of space to "Gobber" Diouf and even Owen was given too much room for manoeuvre. Chances were few and far between, and after 9 minutes, Teddy Sheringham headed a Taricco ball down for Simon Davies who was in space to pick up the scraps. Dudek raced out to prevent a shot on goal. Gary Doherty did pick up a ball through the middle and passed to Davies on the right. Simon's cross reached Poyet who hit a quick shot but which went wide of the goalie's right post.
After 23 minutes, came the first real danger to Keller's goal. Thatcher failed to win a ball near the half way line, and the ball reached Owen who slipped round Ledley King to hit a shot on target, but which was parried by Keller in just the right spot. Ledley King had a good game today, and will surely have impressed the watching England manager, but not as much as some of the opposition. Ten minutes later, Murphy was away down the left, crossed inside to Gerrard who hit a low shot wide of the post, with Diouf and Owen in loads of room to his right.
Spurs had a couple of good chances just before the break. First the ball was played through the middle again, and Teddy found Davies on the right, whose low shot passed Dudek but also went wide of the mark. Taricco then forced his way into the box, through a 1-2 with Doherty, before hitting a low cross agonisingly in front of the advancing Davies.
After the break, Gus Poyet hit a dipping shot that still went over the bar from 25 yards, but within 3 minutes of the re-start Mauricio Taricco created a little bit of history, with his first ever goal for the club, as he hit a speculative 25 yard shot that Dudek failed to hold, and could only watch helplessly as the ball rolled over the line to the joy of the fans behind the Paxton Road goal. The joy was short-lived as Owen scored his third goal in as many league games, after Spurs failed to clear their lines, Gerrard crossed and Owen had an easy close range finish.
Simon Davies tried a Redknapp style free kick on the hour after Etherington had been brought down on the edge of the area. Bunjevcevic provided the touch back, and Davies flicked the ball up, before rifling a shot that went wide. A poor ball from Thatcher just inside the Liverpool half was fed back to Owen who went away on a run towards the right of the Spurs area, but his shot was parried by Keller and cleared. Five minutes later, Carr's cross was touched on by Teddy and Simon Davies hit a good early shot. which Dudek could not quite hold. From the corner, Davies' shot was blocked and Poyet tried a quick shot, but hit it wide.
Once again though, Spurs have lost a lead, and after 72 minutes, the Reds took the lead themselves as Gerrard chipped from the right and Heskey headed home from 6 yards.
Jamie Slabber replaced Gary Doherty and had a great reception. (Steffen Freund also had a great welcome when he mysteriously replaced Taricco) In the short time he was on, Slabber made Sheringham's goal, won another important header, and demonstrated skill and speed of thought when holding the ball up, turning and sending Etherington away. Well done Jamie!
Slabber (wearing number 25)had a good touch from a corner, which led to Poyet going down in the box under a challenge from Heskey. As Gus appealed for a penalty, Gerrad was racing away into the Spurs half, leaving the white shirted rear-guard trailing behind. Gerrard put the game beyond Spurs with a right foot angled shot. Spurs did get a goal back when Slabber headed down a Carr corner for Sheringham to fire home, but despite some late pressure by Spurs, it was all too late, and the not so faithful home support had started to empty the ground already.
Still - the Japanese shirt salesman was on the bench, and the club has saved maybe one and a half million in wages to the players it off-loaded in January, and the stadium was full, so financially everything is fine, isn't it? The board has a lot to do to convince this fan that he should renew his season ticket this time round.
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