FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
WEDNESDAY 27TH AUGUST, 2003
LIVERPOOL 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Uriah Rennie
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Dudek; Finnan, Biscan, Hyppia (Capt), Carragher; Diouf, Gerrard, Kewell, Smicer (sub Murphy, 71); Owen, Baros
Subs not used:- Kirkland; Diao, Riise; Le Tallec
Booked:- Diouf, Finnan
Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; King, Richards, Gardner; Carr, Davies, Redknapp (Capt.), Ricketts, Taricco; Postiga (sub Anderton, 85), Zamora (sub Kanoute, 66)
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Bunjevcevic, Marney
Booked:- Redknapp, Richards, Carr, King, Gardner
Spurs achieved something they have not done for 17 games. In securing their first clean sheet since their 1-0 win at Villa Park on January 18th (and their first clean sheet at Anfield since February, 1996), Spurs frustrated a Liverpool side desperate for their first win of the season. Gerard Houllier shook up his team missing Heskey and Henchoz through injury, and leaving Murphy and Riise on the bench. The Liverpool manager played an attacking line-up of Kewell, Diouf, Smicer, Owen and Baros in front of Steven Gerrard, who was Kasey Keller's main threat with several good second-half shots.
Houllier did field a stranger in his side - wearing a green shirt. Yes, Mr. Rennie did his best for his side, inventing free kicks at every opportunity; ignoring offences by those in red, including an obvious hand-ball in the Spurs area. He even managed to book the entire Spurs defence, with the exception of the angelic Taricco!
There was much more spirit and energy about the Liverpool team, but a disturbing lack of cut and thrust that will give continuing worries, with the trip across Stanley Park coming this Saturday. Liverpool's only goal of the season so far has been the twice-taken penalty by Michael Owen in their first game at home to Chelsea.
After holding out against an initial onslaught, with Smicer to the fore, Spurs actually controlled a period of ten to fifteen minutes mid-way through the first half, and could easily have taken a lead. It became more and more a backs to the wall job as the game progressed, and perhaps Spurs could have a had more composure in the latter stages, being happy to clear the ball away for only temporary respite.
In an unchanged starting line-up, the midfield 5 was once again a little flat and withdrawn, with not too much support for Postiga and Zamora, who battled gamely against an improvised Liverpool centre back partnership of Biscan and Hyppia. When Hyppia hobbled off mid-way through the first half, there were brief hopes for Spurs of vulnerability, but he returned to dominate in his usual style. Ricketts is becoming a real hero for the Spurs fans, whose voices filled the otherwise silent Anfield stadium for the duration of the match. The away support was superb, much appreciated by the Lilywhites at the end of the game.
Gerrard was the provider for an early shot by Smicer, which was deflected into the hands off Kasey Keller. Spurs responded winning an early corner, and Carr was caught offside when he received a good ball from Ricketts on the right. Carr failed to get back from his corner-taking duties for the second time in two games to be caught out in this way. Mr. Rennie showed his intentions with an early card for Jamie Redknapp for his foul on Owen, advancing from a deep position.
After 12 minutes Ledley King led a Spurs counter-attack down the left. Taricco fed the ball to Ricketts who cut inside and hit a shot that Dudek could only parry. Carr followed up but hit his shot wide of Dudek's right post. Simon Davies brought another corner for Spurs with a deflected shot, and then Postiga showed his appetite for that first goal, receiving a head-down from Zamora before turning, and having his shot turned round for a corner. A Spurs corner after 20 minutes was headed back across the area, and Anthony Gardner, inside the 6 yard box at the Kop End, turned but shot a yard wide.
The Spurs back three were simply magnificent throughout, and we must hope they can keep their fitness and form. Glenn said that this was the first time he had been able to field them in consecutive games. Who am I to argue, but they were great to watch. Dean Richards led a good attack from Spurs with a headed clearance to Zamora who raced down the right flank to win a free kick, taken by Carr. Finnan picked up the ball and raced away to lead a swift home counter, feeding Smicer, who left Jamie Redknapp behind him and fired just over Keller's bar.
Richards then got booked, with Owen again the victim, and gave Rennie a dilemma minutes later when he tugged another attacker. Rennie settled for "words" with Deano, who had stood close to Gardner, perhaps to confuse the referee regarding identification of the culprit! After 31 minutes, a Smicer attack fizzled out, and Spurs were away. Zamora did well to claim and hold the ball, passed to Carr, who hit a powerful drive that got a thick deflection to go over the goal. Carr was to be the next guest in the referee's book, for a foul on Diouf and from the free kick, Owen sent a short cross from the left towards Kewell in front of goal, defended magnificently by Gardner with a great header.
Finnan and Owen were then the providers for Diouf, whose shot was wide. Despite playing more on his favoured left, Harry Kewell was noticeably quiet and is clearly taking time to settle into this team. He does not look the force he once did, when playing in Leeds' colours. After the break, Smicer cut inside Ricketts, and Keller had to dive low to his left to make the save. Taricco was the victim of a Finnan foul as the Spurs wing-back made a rare attacking foray, and then Ledley King joined Finnan in the book for a desperate foul on the right. From the free kick, a defensive header rebounded towards goal off a red shirt, but Keller was alert and on the spot. During this period, Hyppia headed down for Owen, who did have the ball in the net from a corner, but Rennie's whistle had already been blown for a push.
A Gerrard free kick hit Diouf in front of the Spurs goal, and thankfully went over the bar, and then Smicer had another low shot just outside the post. No wonder the home fans booed when he was chosen to be withdrawn in favour of Murphy. Smicer had looked the best bet to score, in my view. Fredi Kanoute replaced Zamora. but the Spurs backs to the wall situation had started, and Kanoute was often left alone, as Postiga fell back to help his team-mates. Keller made a great save from a Gerrard rocket, who was soon down injured after a 50/50 with Jamie Redknapp. Baros tried an overhead kick that was over the bar, before Keller cleanly picked out of the air another Gerrard shot. Gerrard was to break down the inside left channel, chased by Simon Davies, before Kewell finally had a shot of note, hitting the ball wide across the goalmouth.
Anderton replaced Helder Postiga for the last 5 minutes, and Spurs last real worry was a free kick awarded just outside the area (for what?), which Murphy took, hitting over the goal by a margin. Mr. Rennie capped his biased performance with the award of a mysterious free kick against Kanoute, holding the ball against Finnan and performing a trick at the same time, only to be adjudged an offender in front of the away support, who by now were heralding a well-deserved point by the battling Spurs team.
Three games into the season, I am pleased and proud to say once again - "It's good to be a Spur!"
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
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