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Liverpool v Spurs, 07.10.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 7TH OCTOBER, 2007
LIVERPOOL 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)

Liverpool scorers:-
Voronin, 12
Torres, 90

Spurs scorer:-
Keane, 45, 47

Attendance: - 43,986

Referee: - Mark Halsey

Teams:-
Liverpool (4-4-2):- Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa (sub Babel, 62); Pennant (sub Kuyt, 68), Gerrard, Mascherano, Riise; Voronin (sub Benayoun, 76), Torres

Subs not used: - Itandje; Lucas

No Bookings

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Lee; Tainio (sub Malbranque, 75), Jenas, Zokora, Bale; Berbatov, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Huddlestone; Defoe

Booked: - Dawson

Torres breaks Spurs dream

We travelled to Anfield in search of a miracle first league win in 14 years that would lift us out of the bottom three. When a Paul Robinson error led to an early tap-in for Voronin from a Gerrard free kick, our expectations were being met. When Gerrard hit a post from another free kick, and Michael Dawson desperately cleared Gerrard’s shot as Liverpool tried to walk the ball into the net, we wondered how we had almost reached half time only one goal down. Then the resonant tones of the Liverpool announcer rang out which may have helped the loss of concentration that enabled Robbie Keane to equalise before the break. When Robinson, Berbatov and Keane repeated their trick within two minutes of the re-start, we were indeed in dreamland. Spurs had chances to extend their lead, but were holding out for the final whistle – not long enough to prevent “El Nino”, Fernando Torres to rise above Chimbonda and Dawson to head down Finnan’s cross for a late, late equaliser. Spurs’ spirits were dented (on and off the pitch), but the result was enough to enable us to crawl out of the bottom three.

Both managers made more than a few changes from their mid-week European sides. In the case of Liverpool, Ukrainian Andriy Voronin (who used to play beside Berbatov at Bayer Leverkusen) was Torres’ strike partner. Left back Arbeloa, and midfielders Pennant, Mascherano (one-time Defoe bite victim!) and Riise joined the fray. Martin Jol’s team was more predictable in the absence of the injured Aaron Lennon, with Tainio playing on the right side of midfield, but generally leaving any advance duties to Pascal Chimbonda. The successful Lee, Bale left-side formation was deployed and of course Berbatov and Keane played up front.

Spurs nearly had first blood, as Gareth Bale carried the ball out of defence and delivered the ball to Keane making headway down the left flank. Keane passed back to Zokora who was fouled about 25 yards out. Bale stepped up, and curled a free kick that just went around the right post, bouncing back into the net from the hoardings behind the goal. The Spurs fans at the other end momentarily thought a goal had been scored, but their cheers were soon supplanted by derisory howls from The Kop.

Spurs looked vulnerable after five minutes, when Voronin, Torres and Gerrard combined across the outside of the area. It was Voronin who shot, quite weakly, allowing Robinson an easy pick-up. Liverpool’s first goal came after Gerrard asked for and received a free kick decision from Mark Halsey, who certainly seemed to favour the home side in the first half. Gerrard stepped up, and whilst his kick took a slight deflection through the Spurs wall, it should not have been enough to make Robinson fumble, allowing Voronin to follow up for a simple tap-in.

Spurs nearly responded with a glanced Keane header from a Jenas free kick after Tainio had been fouled down the right side. The ball crossed Reina and went wide. The difference between the sides at this point was that Spurs too often relied upon a long percentage ball, whereas the home side sought and held the ball, passing through the middle. Spurs two goals of course came from situations where Berbatov did manage to deal with the long ball, and as the game progressed we saw more and more of the sublime skill that Dimitar showed us last season. Zokora out-shone Jenas thanks to doing what he does best, winning loads of tackles, without providing much in the creativity stakes. Tainio, I’m afraid, looked as if he was floundering too much, but it was quite late in the game before Martin Jol replaced him with his one and only substitution – Steed Malbranque.

It would be a while though before Spurs did assert themselves in dramatic style. Mid-way through the half, Torres danced his way around the defence and shot from 22 yards. The ball passed just outside Robinson’s right post. Then Voronin took 10 yards to stumble under Zokora’s challenge, leading to another free kick. Once again, it didn’t look as if Robbo had set his wall up quite right, and he seemed to be a little too much towards the right side of goal, behind his wall, when Gerrard’s shot rounded the wall, and the keeper and rebounded off the post.

Again Spurs nearly responded when Keane flicked the ball to Berbatov, whose gentle shot had to be cleared off the line by Carragher. Keane then provided a chance for Jenas, who hit a decent left foot shot from 25 yards that passed just over the bar. Following a Liverpool corner, Arbeloa crossed from the left, and Torres had a chance from short range, which was half-cleared. Then Torres, Gerrard and Voronin threatened, before Dawson’s legs got in the way of Gerrard’s shot. It was a case of 110% effort from Michael Dawson that saved the day here.

Tainio had a shot blocked after picking up the scraps of a Berbatov header and a Keane blocked shot before that 98 decibel announcement came, and Berbatov flicked the ball onto Keane, who got between Finnan and Carragher to flick the ball past Reina with his outstretched right foot to astound The Kop, and quite frankly, the Spurs fans as well!

During the break, I was in the concourse, but later on a radio phone-in, Spurs fans were given positive feedback for showing full respect to Bob Paisley’s widow, nonagenarian Jessie, who gave a speech to the crowd. Funnily enough, there was almost a Spurs love-in on the Radio, as even a Chelsea fan travelling back from Bolton took the time to recall our respect at Stamford Bridge when they mourned Matthew Harding and last year Peter Osgood.

Back to the game, and man of the match Robbie Keane sent us into dreamland, when he raced to beat Reina to Berbatov’s header, and hit a volley over Reina’s head in front of the away crowd for glorious celebrations. Keane was entitled to do the milking of the applause. He doesn’t do cartwheels these days (probably health and safety advice!) but stood in front of the travelling support with arms aloft and out wide. It was a look that said “Look at me, aren’t I great?” Well, it was his sixth goal in as many games, and coupled with his battling performance everywhere on the field; Keane is entitled to be one of Jol’s favourites.

Would we be able to hold onto the lead though? Well Spurs certainly didn’t sit back, as great play by Bale near the corner flag preceded a pass to Keane, who presented the ball to Jenas, who put a good chance wide. Again, the Liverpool trio of Gerrard, Torres and Voronin worked together before Gerrard struck the ball high into The Kop. As the pressure built up, Dawson was booked for a foul on Torres. Carragher had a header half cleared by Chimbonda and then put a second header on top of the net.

Benitez was starting to ring the changes, with Babel replacing Arbeloa, then Kuyt taking Pennant’s place and position on the right. Robinson was unable to hold a Finnan shot, and was grateful to Dawson for his support to clear the ball. After a corner, Kuyt fed the ball to Mascherano with a short cross to the near post. This time Robinson did well to save Mascherano’s low shot at an angle, but another corner was conceded from which a header went wide. Mascherano hit another decent shot from 20 yards, which curled just outside the left-hand post.

Spurs were still willing to break, and Reina looked more and more human, as he raced out of his area to challenge Bale. Bale seemed to win the ball fairly, and the ball ran to Chimbonda with the keeper down and the goal beckoning. However, Liverpool were saved by Mr Halsey who decided that Bale had unfairly challenged the keeper. Then came the heartbreak of added time. Three minutes were awarded, and in the second of them Torres rose to score that heartbreak header to prevent that miracle win and save a little face in front of The Kop.

As a result of Fulham’s home defeat, Spurs have edged up to 17th. The next game at Newcastle on 22nd October will of course be a test, but Spurs must take heart from their performances to nearly win at Anfield and to come back from 4-1 down at home to Villa. I feel confident that they will lift themselves well up the table before Christmas.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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