BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 6TH FEBRUARY, 2012
LIVERPOOL 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. M. Atkinson
Liverpool (4-4-1-1):- Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Kuyt (sub Suarez, 66), Spearing, Adam, Bellamy (sub Downing, 73); Gerrard (Capt.); Carroll
Subs not used:- Doni; Aurelio, Coates, Carragher; Henderson
Booked:- Suarez (foul on Parker), Skrtel (foul on Bale)
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Friedel; Walker, Dawson, King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Parker; Kranjcar (sub Rose, 87), Livermore, Modric, Bale; Adebayor (sub Saha, 71)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Nelsen, Khumalo; Luongo; Lancaster
Booked:- Parker (foul on Gerrard), Bale (simulation)
Spurs secure a good point
After a first half in which honours were more or less shared, with Spurs marginally on top in terms of shots on goal, and on target, Brad Friedel became the busier keeper in the second half, when The Kop tried to suck the ball into the net. They huffed and puffed, as did Andy Carroll, but they couldnít blow the Spurs defensive house down. As expected the biggest cheers were reserved for Luis Suarez, who was held on the bench before making his comeback after that 8 game suspension midĖway through the second half. Suarez had a close range header saved by Mr Cool, Brad Friedel, and for good measure he also managed to kick man of the match Scott Parker in the stomach, for which referee Michael Oliver awarded Suarez a deserved booking.
It turned out that the team news issued last Thursday had been deceiving, insofar as it did not mention one or two surprise absentees last night. We learnt during the day that Younes Kaboul had suffered a swollen knee in the Wigan game last Tuesday, and would not travel. In addition to the anticipated absence of Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe, Rafa van der Vaart had also not travelled, along with Sandro. The Spurs bench was threadbare, featuring Bongani Khumalo, yet to make a competitive debut for Spurs, and Ryan Nelsen, recently signed from Blackburn, and also without much recent match practice. Australian midfielder Massimo Luongo, whose only previous appearance was off the bench in the Carling Cup at Stoke, had also been drafted into service. Louis Saha was also on the bench.
Two alternative fairytale headline scorers were possible then, with the return of Suarez, and the presence of former Evertonian Saha, but neither goal was to be breached. The draw was a better result for Spurs than it was for Liverpool, who have now drawn 8 of their 12 home league games. They still linger in 7th place in the 4-team battle for fourth, whilst Spurs retained their security of a 7 point gap in third. They are still in the title race too, although several more key games lie in wait in the next few weeks.
Spurs used to walk in fear here at Anfield, which was fog bound until shortly before kick-off, with postponement a real prospect. However, Spurs have not lost to Liverpool in their last 4 meetings, and won last year, so there was certainly no fear tonight, and plenty of composed skilful build-up play. One problem for them was that there was no specific player playing just off Adebayor, who so often was isolated when receiving the ball. His hold-up play wasnít all it could have been though, and as the game went on, the ball came back at the Spurs defence like a boomerang more often. With Scott Parker playing the anchor role in front of the assured defence, the rest of the midfield was fluid, with any one of Kranjcar, Modric or Bale supporting the striker. The red-shirted home players were round Bale like bees round honey, and he managed to escape their shackles all too rarely.
Kyle Walker had one of his best games defensively, and Craig Bellamy didnít get too much change out of him, although there were occasions when too much space and opportunity seemed to be afforded to Bellamy and Johnson down Liverpoolís left flank. On one occasion in the early stages, Kranjcar had been drawn to defend the left flank when Liverpool had countered, and that had given Walker extra responsibility.
Spurs had forced an early corner, before Gerrard threaded a ball through the centre for Carroll, who was just inside the box. Dawson tackled and cleared, and the Liverpool fans bayed for a penalty. Referee Michael Oliver was confident enough to resist such home pressure, and overall, had a good game, I felt. Some Spurs fans felt that Skrtel should have gone for a foul on Bale, for which he got a second half booking, and I thought that Skrtel should have had a late second yellow card for a cynical foul towards the end of the game.
Johnson was fouled just outside the Spurs area and Michael Dawson blocked the resulting free kick. Walker and Carroll were playing cat and mouse at the free kick with regards to guarding the post/taking advantage of the ability to move beyond the wall. Adebayor had a header from a Luka Modric corner cleared in front of the post by Skrtel, but goalmouth action was hard to find during this first half stalemate period. Spurs were playing plenty of good approach football, but didnít have that killer touch. A Liverpool free kick was the subject of a challenge between Kuyt and Ledley King and a goal-kick resulted. Gerrard carried the ball across the Spurs area from the left and fed Spearing, whose shot was wide of Friedelís left post.
Scott Parker took his sixth booking of the season for a foul on Gerrard. The Kop wanted blood. Friedel saved a Johnson cross, then Carroll failed when the ball was presented beyond the Spurs defence. Reina was well positioned to pick off a Bale attempt in front of goal, after Walkerís low cross. Kranjcar forced another corner, after another Walker cross from the right. Reina matched Baleís effort again, and as half-time loomed, Brad Friedel parried a powerful cross/shot by Glenn Johnson.
Not long into the second half, Ledley King blocked a powerful on target Gerrard shot. More good Spurs approach play ended in a Bale shot going wide from the right side of the area. Bale was then involved in a skirmish with Agger and Johnson, and Garethís arms went up two or three times, for which he might technically have received a harsher punishment, but Mr Oliver showed him the yellow. Tv replays showed that Bale had indeed dived. After 56 minutes, Bale fired over following a Spurs corner from the right, and touches from the back post by Adebayor, then King, before Gareth took a shot. Right back Martin Kelly tested Friedel with a powerful 25 yarder, but the Spurs keeper was able to hold cleanly.
Suarez was preparing to come on now, and the home crowd cheered in anticipation of his appearance. He had to wait a few minutes though, as Spurs kept the ball in play for a good time. Suarez replaced Kuyt. Carroll had a shot on target from a corner, but Friedel was there again. Rarely spectacular, but always in the right place. Thatís our Brad! The Kop were now fully energised though, as Liverpool kept coming forward.
Adebayor was replaced by Saha, who did well in the time he had on the pitch, winning and placing passing headers well. After a Spurs throw taken by Assou-Ekotto and fielded by Saha, Bale took a run through the centre, but hit his shot over. After 73 minutes and another Liverpool corer, Kelly crossed but Carroll fired over from close range in front of the dismayed Kop Stand. Skrtel got a yellow card for heavy challenge on the advancing Bale, who had been released by Assou-Ekotto, and it was Bale who drew the home boos for having the audacity to be so badly tackled. It took Gareth a while to run that one off.
Bale had his, and Spursí best chance of the game after 84 minutes, when he raced onto a Kranjcar ball lifted over the defence, and was one on one against Reina. Reina won that battle, advancing to the edge of the area to smother Baleís shot. The ball was running free and Bale, on the floor, tried desperately to reach the ball, but Liverpool cleared. Then Suarez had his close range header into Friedelís arms from a free kick, and after a failed Assou-Ekotto pass, Downing hit a shot way over. I think the former Villa man has a stat about the number of failed shots on goal this season.
Spurs saw out the 4 minutes of added time, and it was the away team, and their fans who went home with the more satisfied feeling. Next up are fifth placed Newcastle, whose Senegalese strikers will present a challenge. Letís hope that the likes of Lennon, Van der Vaart and Defoe are available to us then!
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