FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 17TH JANUARY, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) LIVERPOOL 1 (0)
Keane (pen), 24
Referee:- Uriah Rennie
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, Gardner, Taricco; Dalmat (sub Jackson, 46), Brown, Anderton, Davies; Keane, Postiga (sub Zamora, 77)
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Kelly, Bunjevcevic
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Jones; Henchoz, Biscan (sub Finnan, 65), Hyppia (Capt.), Traore (sub Riise, 60); Cheyrou, Murphy, Hamann, Kewell; Owen, Heskey
Subs not used:- Dudek; Le Tallec, Carragher
A Robbie Keane penalty and Helder Postiga's first Premiership goal secured Spurs fourth successive win (the first such run since October, 2001), and ensured that it was Liverpool who lost their unbeaten run. If the Leeds win last week was big, this was even bigger, as Spurs left thoughts of relegation behind, and can now think of getting back into the top half of the table where they belong!
It was a great Spurs performance, achieved without the injured Ledley King, and of course Fredi Kanoute, of whom enough has been said in recent weeks. David Pleat said that he had more problems coming into this game than in any other this season, as Simon Davies had a late fitness test, and presumably, Stephane Dalmat was not right, as he was replaced by John Jackson at half time.
Ledley's absence meant a debut for Michael Brown, who was quietly effective, sweeping up in front of the defence and being on hand to pick up the odd second ball, passing efficiently. He gave Emile Heskey a great shoulder barge in the second half too! Beside the scorers though, the limelight once again belongs to the central pairing of Doherty and Gardner (the Spurs (((on!))) man of the match), both of whom played magnificently, keeping Heskey and Owen at bay. In those 4 successive wins, Spurs have conceded just 2 goals, and this central pairing will surely take some shifting (although Ledley King replaced Gardner against Birmingham).
Spurs have a decent home record against Liverpool, who are nothing like the force they once were. Igor Biscan has to carry the can for both the goals, and also had to suffer the ignominy of being replaced by Steve Finnan after 65 minutes - a clear signal that the management were not pleased with his game today! It's not too long ago when Hyppia and Henchoz were a strong central pairing, but no more, and personally, I don't understand why Henchoz currently plays at right back, but who am I to speak of Liverpool's woes?
There was class on show for the visitors in the midfield in the shape of Kewell, Hamann and Murphy, but Spurs did not let them settle. Whilst Kewell and Cheyrou occasionally switched flanks, Spurs had more variety and pace, with Keane and Postiga pulling the defence in all directions, and Simon Davies enjoying a little freedom to play from the left to centre of the park. Dalmat did not see too much of the ball, and to be honest, when he did it was often a bad day at the office from him. Anderton was once again on form, passing well.
Spurs were a little twitchy in defence in the early stages, with Doherty less comfortable against Owen, and Gardner nearly losing the ball in a dangerous area, but recovering well. Liverpool had the first chance in a game short of direct shots on goal, after 4 minutes. It was the long ball that nearly worked, as Heskey headed on loanee keeper Jones' kick and Owen turned swiftly hitting a lightning right foot shot just wide. Spurs responded with a good move started by Brown and Anderton in the middle. Anderton sent a good ball to Postiga on the left, who cut inside then hit a decent shot, which Jones held after two attempts.
Anderton and Keane then fed Davies who raced into the box, but was blocked just as he pulled the trigger. Spurs took the lead in the 24th minute. Gardner lofted a ball over the defence and Robbie put Biscan on the back foot as he got into the 6 yard box, ready to hit a left foot shot. Biscan fouled and Robbie stood up to take the kick himself, putting it to Jones' right. This time there were cartwheels in the south-west corner of the ground!
Liverpool then had a succession of corners, but these were defended comfortably, with Doherty and Gardner to the fore. Just before the break, Liverpool did at least hit the target, when Owen beat the offside flag, and via Hamann, set up Kewell for a shot straight to Keller. When Jackson replaced Dalmat, he worked on the left, and Simon Davies moved to the right. Spurs were having to defend stoutly again, and Doherty got in a great tackle on Heskey, whilst another flurry of corners were cleared. The greatest danger was punched clear by Keller.
Helder Postiga scored that long-awaited goal on 54 minutes, beating Biscan to Jackson's long ball from the half way line. Postiga took his chance well, getting his right foot round the ball, to score inside the right post. He was swamped by his team-mates, and perhaps he can now go on to greater things!
Gardner made a great saving tackle on Owen, on the edge of the area, winning much applause from the home section of the full house. Carr was booked for a foul just outside the box, and it looked as if Hamann would take a shot and use a gap in the wall, but Kewell hit a left foot shot high and wide. Mid-way through the half, Davies fed Keane on the right flank, and when Robbie threaded a neat ball, Davies could not quite reach it in time. Spurs then had to endure a nervous 15 minutes, as Liverpool broke from defence, Taricco was exposed at the back and lost out in an aerial challenge. The ball ran to Kewell on the right who beat Keller with a firm low shot.
Bobby Zamora replaced Postiga after 77 minutes, and 7 minutes later was involved in a scoring chance, after Jackson had done well to keep the ball in play on the bye-line. Zamora sent the ball across the goal, and Davies could not quite reach it, whilst the ball went through Keane's legs, when he might have scored with the right touch. In those nervous closing stages, there was a firm appeal for handball against Gary Doherty from Liverpool, but for once Uriah Rennie came down on the side of Spurs, and eventually after a very long 2 minutes of injury time, he blew that whistle and the points were in the bag.
Spurs now go to the City of Manchester Stadium next Sunday in great heart for the 4th Round FA Cup tie, and at this rate David Pleat will be a contender for (caretaker) manager of the month!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· The preview for this game can be read here
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