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Match Reports
Spurs v Liverpool, 14.08.04


Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 70

Liverpool Scorer:-
Cisse, 38

Referee:- Dermot Gallagher

Attendance:- 35, 105

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Ifil, Naybet (sub Doherty, 69), King, Edman; Redknapp (Capt.) (sub Brown, 81), Mendes, Davis, Jackson (sub Atouba, 69); Defoe, Kanoute

Subs not used:- Keller; Silva

Booked:- Kanoute, Redknapp, Defoe

Liverpool (4-4-2):- Dudek; Josemi, Carragher, Hyppia, Riise; Finnan, Hamann (sub Biscan, 82), Gerrard (Capt.), Kewell; Baros (sub Warnock, 78), Cisse (sub Pongolle, 63)

Subs not used:- Kirkland; Henchoz

Booked:- Pongolle

In the end it was all smiles at The Lane today, as Jermain Defoe matched Djibril Cisse's first half goal for the visitors to give Spurs an honourable point in the opening match of this year's Premiership, in front of a 35,000 crowd, and a live television audience. Those who witnessed the game could not fail to be impressed by the refreshing change that doesn't just waft around Spurs, but permeates every aspect of the club.

The pre-season was forgotten, as new coach Jacques Santini fielded no less than SIX debutants, AND had two more on the bench, one of whom made a competent appearance in the second half. Kasey Keller was denied the chance to go for a record 100 consecutive appearances, and now knows he has to fight hard for his place in the first team. Paul Robinson was hailed as "England's Number One" by his new adoring fans, and with England coach Sven Goran Eriksson watching, Robinson, King and Defoe will surely be joining the squad for this week's friendly against Ukraine at Newcastle.

Just one year ago, Phil Ifil was playing in front of a handful of parents and fanatics for the under-19 team at Spurs Lodge. Although he was under 17, Ifil's potential had been recognised, and in fact last season he made a number of good appearances for the Reserves. Today, Ifil, who is not 18 till November, made his Premiership debut in front of the almost full house. Ifil was confronted with Harry Kewell, and has every reason to be proud of his efforts. I am sure he can look forward to more matches at this level, even when Taricco returns to fitness.

Having followed the pre-season programme, and seen a host of players, two of those on display for Spurs today made their very first appearances in the Lilywhite shirt. They were Naybet, signed from Deportivo, who showed real class beside King, and if Anthony Gardner was watching, he too will struggle to get his place back. Thimothee Atouba was the other fresh face. More about him later. The other debutants were Edman, Davis, and Mendes, who have been seen during the build up to the season. They all came through with flying colours.

There was one mystery in the formation, and that was the placing of Jamie Redknapp on the right side of midfield. Presumably, Santini wanted more mobility in the middle, but I would have thought that Redknapp could have handled Hamann. Mendes and Davis were both extremely mobile and supportive all over the park, but at times, Ifil was left exposed against an attack down the Liverpool flank, a fact used to advantage by Kewell and Gerrard a couple of times.

Liverpool of course have waved Goodbye to Michael Owen, and when Cisse was replaced by Pongolle, the bite went from the Reds attack. By that time, Spurs were in the ascendancy anyway. Liverpool's other debut boy - Josemi - played at right back, whilst Steve Finnan took up a right wing slot. Carragher played next to Hyppia, and the back-in-favour Riise made up the back four.

Liverpool had the best of possession from the start, and for much of the first half, were being allowed a little too much space in the middle, and time to build their attacks. Kanoute got booked for an early challenge, and despite the referee being the normally lenient Dermot Gallagher, the players knew that this was for real, having simply been admonished for any heavy pre-season tackles. The best early move came for Spurs after 10 minutes, from a throw on the left. Edman slid the ball to Davis, who threaded to Kanoute, flicking to Defoe, whose left foot shot was deflected harmlessly across the goalmouth. An offside flag was on display anyway, but the fans loved the creativity.

Cisse took advantage of the luxury of space awarded to him, some 30 yards out, and tried a low shot, which Robinson saved and held, down to his left. Edman intercepted a ball in the midfield, and that gave Fredi Kanoute a chance inside the area, but Liverpool cleared the danger. Ifil won his first big round of applause for a great sliding tackle on Cisse, cleanly taking the ball, and passing it to a team-mate. However, the TV camera does show that Ifil had a handful of Gerrard's shirt, as the Liverpool skipper tricked his way into the box, when the next attack came. Gerrard fell to his knees perhaps too easily to persuade Mr. Gallagher that a penalty was justified. I can only think the referee's thinking was that Gerrard COULD have stayed on his feet and continued his foray, rather than seek a penalty. It was an escape for Spurs, but the home crowd did not see it that way, heartily booing Gerrard thereafter. Kewell was to get similar treatment in the second half for falling too easily under an easy challenge from Redknapp.

Mid-way through the half, Dietmar Hamann skewed an attempted shot that took Edman by surprise and reached Finnan on the right side of Spurs area. Finnan crossed and Naybet blocked Baros's shot supremely. Soon, Spurs had a chance when Sean Davis met John Jackson's cross with a powerful header, but hit it too straight and well off the target. Jackson had an effort for himself following another throw, but Riise cleared the ball in front of his goal. A free kick won by Jackson was taken by Mendes and fell to Redknapp about 25 yards out. Redknapp's shot was way off target.

At the other end, Kewell was a little lucky to get the better of Ifil, and his attempt on goal was sliced over his own bar by Naybet. Liverpool took the lead in the 38th minute, following a corner. Kanoute cleared as far as Finnan, whose cross was touched on by Carragher directly to Cisse in the right place at the right time, to slot the ball into the net. The Spurs crowd simply responded by encouraging their team to a man.

Five minutes after the interval, that man Ifil was first to the ball in a race with Kewell, then sent a good long ball which Defoe won and fed to Jackson. Jackson tried a shot which was off target, and in truth, to this time, Dudek had not really been bothered. Five minutes later he had plenty on his mind as man of the match, Jermain Defoe tricked his way past three defenders, but flicked his shot in the air and wide of the goal. The supply line had been direct from Robinson and Kanoute.

Spurs replaced the tiring Naybet, and the struggling Jackson with Doherty and Atouba respectively. The substitutions were still being announced when Edman sent a long ball into the box, Kanoute flicked on, and Defoe fought his way round Carragher to fire home with a low shot inside Dudek's near (right) post. Unfortunately, Defoe got booked for taking his shirt off, due to the re-imposition of this rule. Spurs fans smelt blood, and you felt that the home side was the more likely to score, especially as Baros was replaced after 78 minutes. Robinson made a good save from a Carragher header, but apart from a speculative effort from Biscan, that was all he was to face from the visitors in the time remaining.

Atouba is big and strong, and looks rather like he could play anywhere. We didn't see a lot of pace from him in his short time on the field today, but he displayed power and skill. For example, with little room to play with, he sent in an effective cross for Kanoute to knock to Defoe, whose snap shot was wide. Redknapp was replaced by Michael Brown, and Ledley King was given the armband. In injury time, Ifil's cross was flicked on by Defoe, and Atouba had a good chance, but hit his shot straight at Dudek.

Both Davis and Mendes played with more bite than we have seen to date. Both were all over the place, and both were well involved in Spurs creative moves. We know it is not the finished article, but it was all very refreshing, and Spurs surely have every reason to look forward to an encouraging season.

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