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Match Reports
Liverpool v Spurs, 23.09.06

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER, 2006
LIVERPOOL 3 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Gonzalez, 63
Kuyt, 73
Riise, 89

Referee:- Howard Webb

Attendance:- 44,330

Teams:-
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Reina; Finnan, Hyppia, Agger, Riise; Gerrard (Capt.), Sissoko, Alonso (sub Carragher, 84), Gonzalez (sub Aurelio, 76); Kuyt, Bellamy (sub Garcia, 68)

Subs not used:- Dudek; Crouch

Booked:- Hyppia

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Jenas, Zokora, Murphy (sub Mido, 79), Tainio (sub Davids, 60); Defoe, Keane

Subs not used:- Cerny; Lee; Huddlestone

No bookings

One of the flagpoles at Anfield is made from part of the mast of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s “Great Eastern”, which was broken up at nearby Birkenhead Docks in 1889. Martin Jol’s Spurs team, of whom so much optimism was held before the start of the season, was broken up this afternoon, after such a promising start, only to be left on the beach, as Liverpool raised the standard after the interval.

This was only the second three goal defeat under Jol’s leadership. The last was a totally inauspicious occasion at Selhurst Park in January, 2005, when beaten by Palace by the same scoreline. It is the worst defeat to Liverpool since 8th November, 1997, when Gerry Francis walked out after a 4-0 thrashing. By my reckoning, the loss of 4 out of the first 6 games, matches Spurs last such start in 1974. Then, Spurs lost their first 4 games, beat Derby, then travelled to Anfield and lost 5-2. A few days later, Middlesbrough beat us 4-0 at The Lane in the League Cup, and the managerial career of Spurs legend Bill Nicholson came to a sad end.

(A more recent bad start (2003-4) led to the dismissal of Glenn Hoddle in 2003-4. See the details of that season here)

What price Martin Jol now, in the annual Premiership sack race? At the start of the season, his were the third longest odds, but they will have shortened considerably now, with every forthcoming Premiership game looking tough, starting with Portsmouth next Sunday – again under the scrutiny of Sky cameras. Not that I am advocating such an event, but one over-riding trait of our leader is causing Spurs great problems on the attack, and that is the failure to use width effectively. It is so ironic that with Lennon injured, and Routledge out on a season-long loan, there is no natural winger available for Spurs. Jol tends to only use one, when available, but there was no sign of Reto Ziegler, who had such a good game for the reserves on Wednesday. If Spurs dearth of goals continues, I’d be inclined to give youth a chance on at least one flank.

Today though, Jol did start with his “little strikers” – Keane and Defoe – thus negating the potential effect of the many long punted balls by Paul Robinson. Spurs did actually enjoy a lot of possession in the first half, with Danny Murphy and Didier Zokora looking comfortable in the middle, but when they did get into danger areas, they tended to opt out of a shot, and make one two many passes. Perhaps they’ve been watching the team down the road, who did score three goals today. Spurs haven’t managed three goals this season yet (in the league), and the two they have scored came in one game. Today, Jermaine Jenas will be the arch-villain, because of his shocking miss that preceded Liverpool’s first goal, after which there was no come-back for Spurs. Jenas did it before of course on his old hunting ground at St. James’ Park last season, and he has become clearly the number one boo-boy for the fans, despite being our top scorer so far this season!

With next Wednesday’s Champions’ League game against Galatasary in mind, Rafael Benitez rung a few changes again, and there was to be no appearance for Peter Crouch, but a show of faith in Dirk Kuyt, who had scored his first goal against Newcastle this week. Pace-man Craig Bellamy played beside Kuyt, and Sami Hyppia was partnered at the back with Daniel Agger. Jamie Carragher had to wait his chance to get on the field today, eventually replacing Alonso, from whom there were no long-shot heroics today. Referee Howard Webb “had words” with Hyppia in the first minute, when he tipped over Teemu Tainio unceremoniously. Hyppia was in the heat of the action very quickly, as Robinson’s clearance looked like falling for Jermain Defoe in front of Reina, only to be intercepted by the Finn, and then to need treatment.

Spurs were stoutly defending any threat from the home side, not least when Ledley King made a great header to clear a dangerous Gerrard cross. Alonso did try a speculative 30 yarder, and I am not convinced that Robbo had the shot covered, as it passed his left post by a yard. There was some great play down the right flank from Murphy, Jenas and Chimbonda, which ended with a Murphy ball just in front of Robbie Keane.

Referee Howard Webb appeared to be favouring the home side, who had plenty of free kicks, one of which was touched by Alonso to Riise, who powered a shot wide of the stanchion. A Murphy free kick drifted across the Liverpool area after 25 minutes, and Ledley King failed to make contact. This was the trend for Spurs. They were getting good possession, in good areas, but failing to be ruthless. Jenas and Defoe broke well from a defensive situation and Defoe might have taken on the shot, but chose instead to pass to Keane. The attack fizzled out.

Spurs then suffered some pressure at the Anfield Road end. Firstly, Chimbonda nearly scored an own goal from a corner, but his header brushed the post, then it looked like Chimbonda might have raised an arm to another corner, before Paul Robinson looked a little shaky against Bellamy. Bellamy was then up-ended by a great tackle by skipper Ledley King inside the box, to great cheers from the travelling support, and boos from the home crowd, who wanted a handball decision against our leader.

Zokora did well to beat Finnan, and make a good cross which fell to Tainio, whose shot was cleared by Agger, then in the closing stages of the half, Murphy made a great advance through the middle, and might have kept possession to score, but chose to pass to Defoe, who was not close enough to the ball. At the other end, Robinson had to dive well to his left to push a Bellamy shot round for a corner. At the break, I felt pleased with Spurs performance, and had no reason to expect the disaster that was to befall our beloved team.

The fact is we hardly saw them at our end of the arena, as Liverpool upped the tempo considerably, and put us under the cosh for most of the time. Fortunately for us, most of their shots were peppered at the crowd and not Paul Robinson. There was panic after 52 minutes, when Kuyt’s cross was missed by Bellamy, and returned by Gonzalez, but headed over the Spurs goal. Keane and Murphy forged a good chance, when Keane fed the ball inside to Murphy, but did not anticipate the threaded ball that Robbie might have lashed home.

Tainio was replaced by Davids, who almost immediately picked up the ball in his own half, and went on a great run. Now, as you know, I am a defender of Jenas, who probably started a good 20 yards behind Davids in this move, and made it to the back post for Davids ball, which should have been converted with ease from very close range. Somehow he skewed the shot wide as he slid in, and Liverpool punished us severely from the goal kick. Gerrard beat Ekotto and crossed from deep on the right, the ball hit the post and rebounded out to Gonzalez, who fired low across Robinson and into the net to delight the Kop. Robinson then had to hold a glanced header by Kuyt, but it wasn’t long before Spurs were two down. Garcia looked as if he was shooting for goal, but his ball was picked up by Kuyt who slipped to the right of the defence and beat Robinson with his shot.

The game was over as a competition, but John Arne Riise delivered a typical coup de grace, as Liverpool broke from their half, Garcia fed Riise the ball, and the left back hit a superb arrowed low shot that beat Robinson all ends up into the left corner. It was time for the Scousers to gloat, and for the travelling fans to shuffle away in despair.

Spurs have the distraction of the UEFA Cup next Thursday, but they must re-group and find the winning formula in the Premiership immediately, otherwise the bottom three beckons.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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