Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey Match Report - Liverpool v Spurs - 20.01.10
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Liverpool v Spurs, 20.01.10


Kuyt, 6, 90 (pen)


Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. S. Proctor-Green
Fourth Official:- M. Atkinson

Liverpool (4-4-1-1):- Reina; Carragher (Capt.), Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Insua; Degen (sub Darby, 90), Mascherano, Lucas, Riera (sub Maxi Rodriguez, 81); Aquilani (sub Ngog, 79); Kuyt

Subs not used:- Cavalieri; Spearing, Babel, Pacheco

Booked:- Mascherano, Lucas

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka (sub Hutton, 61), Dawson, King (Capt.) (sub Bassong, 81), Bale; Modric, Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar (sub Keane, 65); Defoe, Crouch
(Armband to Keane)

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Giovani, Rose; Pavlyuchenko

Booked:- Jenas, Bale, Palacios

Kuyt sends Liverpool’s hopes soaring.

Spurs failed to play with the character, the belief and confidence invested in them by their travelling fans against one of the weakest Liverpool teams they could hope to meet last night. Spurs too were missing key players, and Lennon was their most sorely missed ingredient, as despite plenty of possession until the latter stages, Spurs just did not have the cutting edge to break down a Liverpool side, whose work ethic was beyond question.

Liverpool were of course missing Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun to name but three, but they did have Mascherano back in midfield. The Argentine midfielder would have missed the game had it been played when originally scheduled 10 days previously, but of course Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun were injured since that date. Alberto Aquilani got only his third Premier League start for the home side, and played in the “Gerrard role” behind Dirk Kuyt, who was the prove the two-goal destroyer of Spurs hopes.

Spurs fans quite understandably feel bitter about the performance of the officials, led by Howard Webb who seemed very much led by the home team and fans. Whilst I thought the late penalty was a bad decision at the time, replays show that Bassong did foul Ngog inside the box, whilst the ball was still in play, although it was running out of danger. Bassong was a late substitute for skipper Ledley King, confirming the suspicion before the game that King’s inclusion would account for one of the Spurs substitutions. Mind you, Ledley did little wrong and would not have conceded the penalty.

The attitude in the Liverpool camp before the game was not one of confidence, with their official site urging a “European night type atmosphere”, and their fans genuinely worried about the threat of Tottenham arriving in fourth place, but leaving only one point ahead of the game’s victors. Unfortunately, Spurs did not display the superiority that was warranted. They did have a good start though, with Peter Crouch heading down an early free kick for Defoe who went down inside the box, but did not win a penalty. Defoe got no change all night out of the Liverpool defence, nor the referee, as Liverpool consistently ”used their strength" to hold back the Spurs striker.

I thought that Jenas had a decent game. However, he was greeted by shouts of “F*** off Jenas” by a couple of fans in front of me every time the ball was going towards him. That said, he started the sixth minute move with a good ball to Bale (probably Spurs best outfield player last night) who crossed to the danger zone. Reina had trouble picking up the ball cleanly and then had to save at the feet of the advancing Defoe, parrying first then holding the ball at last. Reina held the ball for a while too, before launching a kick that Kuyt flicked past Dawson to Aquilani, receiving the return before despatching a low right footed shot past Gomes out-stretched right hand in front of the Kop stand.

So, Spurs were an early goal down, and I assume it was Ledley’s decision to play towards his own fans in the first half, which he has often done in the past when winning the toss. The strategy didn’t pay off this time, and I personally don’t like it. Spurs then did dominate possession, but it took a good while for a meaningful attack to occur. After 19 minutes, a good flowing move started with Kranjcar winning and passing the ball from the Spurs left corner flag. Kranjcar picked up the ball later in the move, feeding Modric on the right side, who won a corner which the goalkeeper cleared. Bale had a shot go wide when he received a cross deep from the right, firing wide from a very sharp angle.

Jenas took an early booking when chasing back to cover a Liverpool break, but Mascherano had got away with “words” at this stage, only to be booked late in the half for one cynical foul too many on Peter Crouch. Kyrgiakos defended well against Defoe, who had received a good ball from Luka Modric with a chipped pass over the rest of the Liverpool defence. Gareth Bale got booked for a heavy challenge on Degen. Both players needed treatment near the half-way line, but Degen was down longer.

Gomes had to make a good save from a Riera free kick after 42 minutes, and Liverpool put Spurs under some pressure just before the break, with successive corners. They had two shots cleared or missed from in front of goal. Modric had a great chance for Spurs in added time, receiving a good low pass from Palacios, but not quite able to get full strength on the shot which Reina picked up. The Liverpool defence “did just enough” to take the sting out of Modric’s shot.

Spurs did have the ball in the net soon after the interval, but Defoe had been flagged late for offside in the build up to the goal. He had chased a long ball, which Reina failed to collect allowing the shot from Defoe, which crept over the goal-line. At the other end, another Riera free kick landed on top of Gomes’ net. After 50 minutes, Aquilani crossed from the right and Kuyt’s header was tipped onto the Spurs bar by Gomes. Defoe and Modric exchanged passes before Modric fired a shot from the right side which Reina picked up. Palacios fed Defoe, whose shot forced a save from Reina, conceding a corner.

Harry Redknapp’s first substitution was to replace Corluka with Hutton, who made an immediate impact with a crunching tackle or two, and some welcome width down the right side. Kranjcar was replaced by Keane who played behind the front two. However, Liverpool now began to gain the ascendancy, with Kuyt teeing up Degen for s super chance which was squandered from close in on the right side of the box. Aquilani took a free kick after 71 minutes, where Degen tried to return the favour given him by Kuyt. However, this time it was Kuyt firing over from close range when to score would have been easier. A curling shot by Riera passed outside the right of Gomes post, but between the net and the supporting rear stanchion.

Gareth Bale sent in a good deep cross after 78 minutes which reached Hutton beyond the back post. Hutton’s rising shot whistled over the bar across goal. Benitez made a couple of substitutions in quick succession with Ngog replacing Aquilani, and recent signing Maxi Rodriguez replacing Riera. Bassong replaced Ledley with 10 minutes of the game left, and within minutes had been beaten by Ngog who forced a great save by Gomes with a hand to his left. Immediately, Ngog fed Kuyt, who again fired over from close range. It then looked like Liverpool had two men offside in front of goal but no whistle came, as Kyrgiakos brought another save by Gomes.

In added time came the penalty decision, when Ngog was brought down by Bassong. Kuyt sent Gomes the wrong way, scoring to his right, but had to take the kick again, due to encroachment. This time, Gomes went to his right and Kuyt beat him to the left before racing away to celebrate victory with the home fans. Spurs’ fans slipped away for the long trip home, knowing that dreams of Champions League football are looking more and more unlikely, with Liverpool one point behind, and Man City and Villa also within range with a game in hand. I reckon we’ll be lucky to make the Europa league, and maybe we ought to prioritise the FA Cup, starting on Saturday.

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