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Match Reports
Spurs v Liverpool, 30.12.06


Garcia, 45

Referee: - Mark Halsey

Attendance: - 36,170

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson, Davenport, Lee; Ghaly, Huddlestone, Zokora (sub Murphy, 56), Malbranque; Mido (sub Berbatov, 58), Defoe

Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner, Ziegler

No Bookings

Liverpool (4-4-2):- Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise; Garcia, Gerrard (Capt.), Alonso, Aurelio (sub Gonzales, 79); Kuyt (sub Crouch, 65), Bellamy (sub Pennant, 48)

Subs not used: - Martin (GK); Paletta

No Bookings

Spurs ended their attempt upon their record run of successive home victories, and Liverpool won their first game at The Lane since March 2003 thanks to a soft goal on the stroke of half time. Martin Jol had been forced to leave out skipper Ledley King (due to a foot injury) and Dimitar Berbatov (due to illness), and on top of the enforced absences of Lennon, Jenas and Keane, that left Spurs with too steep a hill to climb in the second half. It wasn’t until Berbatov did replace the hapless Mido on the hour that Spurs started to show some class and composure on the ball. A draw would have been a fair result, due to the ever-increasing pressure that the home side brought to bear upon Pepe Reina’s goal, but it was not to be.

Spurs failed to score for the first time since the defeat that opened the month of December. They have won 6 of their 9 games this month, but their lack of consistency in the Premiership campaign increases the pressure for Cup success this term to ensure a route back to Europe next season. The trouble is we will be unable to achieve any such success without the key players that we missed today. Huddlestone, for all the praise heaped upon him recently was guilty of two sloppy balls to the opposition today that could easily have been punished. Ghaly was too slow to the ball sometimes; lost the ball too easily at others, and most crucially missed golden scoring opportunities today. Malbranque continues to be industrious, but runs into trouble just too often for my liking, and Zokora seems to be more and more cavalier every time I watch him. There was of course more composure and class in the Liverpool midfield, headed by Steven Gerrard M.B.E (an honour they must have forgotten to bestow last year!) and Xabi Alonso.

Spurs failed to give Reina a meaningful save to make in the first half, and spent much of the half on the back foot. Robinson did well after the first minute to clear a poor back pass by Lee between the attacking Liverpool trio towards the touchline and safety. Spurs did have a useful build through the middle after 4 minutes, and when Defoe put Mido through it seemed the striker was sure to score with his right foot. For some reason, the Egyptian chose to try with his left and skewed the shot hopelessly wide. At the other end, Robinson fumbled a shot from Bellamy taken from an angle on the right, but Spurs managed to clear. Robinson did better midway through the half, when Bellamy shot from a similar position, but this one was cleanly held. Finnan’s ball from the right was cut back by Bellamy to Kuyt who fired over from the middle of the box.

It was half an hour then before Spurs started to make some headway, and come up with the effort needed to threaten their visitors. There were two attempts in succession, as Huddlestone’s cross was cleared then Ghaly put Defoe through, but Liverpool also cleared this danger. Even Mido started to win one or two balls now! Alonso had a long range shot go wide, but then, as many were getting up for their half time cuppa, Didier Zokora gave away the ball in front of his area. Gerrard took up the opportunity, but his effort was deflected into the path of Garcia, who hit a low soft shot past the keeper. Mr Halsey blew his half time whistle almost immediately after the re-start.

Early in the second half, Paul Robinson was down to Aurelio’s shot from the right side, and Bellamy was withdrawn within minutes of the re-start in favour of Pennant who was received with all the Spurs affection due any former player of the team down the road! Chimbonda had a good run down the right, and when his cross was cleared by Carragher, plenty in the crowd were convinced that a hand was involved, but the Spurs players were not appealing. Zokora was replaced by Murphy, who did manage to put his foot on the ball a bit and lay off some decent passes.

Malbranque gave Ghaly a good chance on the hour, but the ball was cleared within the Liverpool box, leading to a threatening counter-attack. Huddlestone’s second cardinal error resulted in Kuyt making a bee-line for the Spurs area, and it was Dawson’s saving tackle that prevented further deficit for Spurs. The teeming rain, driven by a howling wind (which caused a postponement in Watford) led to many in the lower tiers fleeing their seats, but the players kept their heads down to the job in hand. Paul Robinson was down well to an overhead kick by Garcia, and now came more and more effort from Spurs, resulting in a number of genuine chances.

Murphy put Berbatov through down the right channel, and his shot from a tight angle was headed onto the Liverpool bar by Finnan. Murphy and Berbatov started the next move which led to a Chimbonda cross, and a Defoe ball to Ghaly which should have hit the net, but was hit wide. Murphy found Defoe, whose shot was parried by Reina, and hit over the goal by Ghaly who had to react quickly to this chance. Huddlestone’s deep cross from the left, following a throw by Lee was touched on to Ghaly, who was offside, and the ball did go in the net, with the flag already raised against Spurs. Berbatov had one more attempt, trying to control a ball over the defence, but this time failing to manage a shot.

Spurs have just two days to re-group, before facing an in-form Portsmouth side on New Year’s Day. There they will meet another former player of a certain team, whose reception from the visiting fans will not be as fond as that for three other potential ex-Spurs Pompey players!

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

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