BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 10TH MARCH, 2013
LIVERPOOL 3 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)
Gerrard (pen), 82
Vertonghen, 45, 53
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. M. McDonough & Mr. J. Brooks
Fourth official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick
Liverpool (4-4-1-1):- Jones; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Downing, Gerrard (Capt.), Lucas, Coutinho (sub Allen, 59); Suarez; Sturridge (sub Henderson, 88)
Subs not used:- Gulacsi; Skrtel; Wisdom, Shelvey, Sterling
Booked:- Carragher (foul on Bale)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto (sub Carroll, 90); Dembele, Livermore (sub Holtby, 84), Parker, Sigurdsson; Bale; Defoe
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton, Caulker; Huddlestone; Coulthirst (not Gallas as announced pre-match by Spurs Mobile)
Booked:- Vertonghen (Handball)
Architects of our own downfall
Having come back from being one goal down, and going two-one up in the 53rd minute, Spurs took a grip on the game, but managed to throw away first their lead, then even one point through two stupid and easily preventable defensive errors. Firstly Kyle Walker was guilty of a schoolboy error of lifting a long back pass from the touchline over the area to the far side of Lloris’s territory, taking the goalkeeper completely by surprise. Lloris came out to try and clear, but failed and Stewart Downing, of all people (he doesn’t score many) was gifted an easy equaliser in front of The Kop, which had been quiet, but then of course became energised, like their team.
All too soon, Spurs gave away a penalty (perhaps disputable) when they cleared a Liverpool free kick, but Jermain Defoe put the ball back into his own area, where Benoit Assou-Ekotto challenged Suarez too heavily in the eyes of referee Michael Oliver, who awarded the home side a penalty from which Gerrard made no mistake. Gerrard himself had escaped scot free after seeming to elbow Gareth Bale in the midfield. Thereafter, Bale was enemy of the people of Anfield for having the audacity to go down (and need treatment) after their idol had put him in the floor.
Last year, Spurs had to come to Anfield with a diminished squad and Andre Villas-Boas had to make unwelcome adjustments today, due to the absence of Aaron Lennon, and Emmanuel Adebayor. William Gallas had been announced by Spurs mobile news as a substitute, but it was only when the subs were on the field at half-time that I saw young striker Shaquille Coulthirst (number 41) was in fact on the bench.
Dembele played on the right side of midfield, with Jake Livermore making his first start since the league cup game at Norwich at the end of October, next to Scott Parker. Gylfi Sigurdsson kept his place on the left of midfield, and Gareth Bale had free reign behind Defoe.
Liverpool looked at full strength, except to say that for some reason Brad Jones got the nod in goal, and Reina was not even on the bench. Daniel Sturridge was back, and was partnered by Suarez, who liked to operate across the field, like Bale.
Liverpool came out of the blocks better than Spurs, and put us under a degree of pressure for the first ten minutes. Walker was sharp and prevented Sturridge taking advantage of an early Suarez ball. Sturridge then had a chance from the right of the area, but fired well wide of the target. After 11 minutes, Dembele was fouled out on the right, and Jones batted away Bale’s free kick.
Liverpool took the lead in the 21st minute following an attack down their left flank. It was left back Enrique who provided the final ball for Suarez to score with a clever touch past Lloris from a sharp angle. Soon after that, Jan Vertonghen was the Spurs hero as he made a great saving tackle on Glenn Johnson, as he advanced upon the Spurs area. Suarez won a battle with Livermore and sent over a low cross which may have been touched into safety by Hugo Lloris.
Spurs managed to exert a little pressure on the half-hour, through Parker, Sigurdsson and then Defoe, whose shot was blocked before falling to Bale, who fired well wide. Livermore fed the ball to Bale down the right side. Bale got into the box, and tried a right footed shot, but that was also wide. Sigurdsson had a great chance after 36 minutes at the Kop End. Bale had crossed from the left and Sigurdsson looked to have the goal at his mercy; should have scored, but hooked his shot wide of Jones’ right post. An arrowed cross by Walker reached Defoe, and then Assou-Ekotto, who tried a shot, but hit it straight down the keeper’s throat.
Then Spurs scored at a marvellous moment, just before half-time. Dembele was with Bale deep down the right flank, and passed back to Bale, who crossed with his left foot. There had been no dead ball situation, but Jan Vertonghen was in the box and headed home to make it 1-1 at the break.
After the interval, Spurs took control, and had a great move through Dembele, Parker, then Bale before Defoe hit a shot that Jones could only parry, but which was cleared. That “one-man team” Spurs took the lead, with the third consecutive goal scored by Vertonghen (he had scored our third on Thursday night against Inter). It was Bale who provided the assist though from a free kick on the right, which fell to Vertonghen, who reacted quickly and hit a good shot inside the keeper’s right post in front of the away support.
It wasn’t long before Vertonghen got the first booking of a match in which the referee had tried to diffuse tension, rather than punish it. This time though he showed yellow to Vertonghen, who he adjudged to have handled a ball heading for the Spurs half, when the defender claimed to have used his shoulder. I must say, that was my view too.
Dembele made a great run down the right side, before crossing beyond the back post to Sigurdsson who hit a shot, which Jones managed to touch onto the post, and out for a corner. Not long after that Dembele made a run down the left channel and hit a left foot shot, parried by Jones. Liverpool were very much under pressure and their crowd was silent. Sadly, it all started to go wrong with that disastrous Walker “pass”, which put Lloris under undue pressure. The ball reached Downing and Jan Vertonghen made a brave effort to cover the goal-line, with Downing’s shot actually passing through his legs. Of course, the easiest option for Walker would have been to hit the ball with same strength but down the line. Sorry Kyle, but I can’t forgive you for that one.
Enrique had a snap shot go wide after a Gerrard corner from the right, and Vertonghen had a great win in a challenge with Sturridge, who would otherwise have been clear on goal. Downing hit a deep cross from the right, which Sturridge headed into the side netting.
Spurs managed an attack when Livermore fed the ball out to Walker, getting forward. Walker’s cross was headed wide by Bale. Then, with less than 10 minutes to go, disaster befell Spurs. Lloris punched clear a Liverpool free kick, but Defoe could only return the ball into the Spurs area, where Assou-Ekotto made that challenge upon Suarez, and Gerrard made no mistake from the spot.
Holtby replaced Livermore, and Carroll replaced Assou-Ekotto very late on, but Spurs did not manage to mount a real threat on Jones’ goal, having given Liverpool a come-back lauded by their fans, but in fact, just the biggest present Spurs could have made to a team chasing a place in Europe. The result is not a disaster in the scheme of things, and we are still ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, who have not played their league matches this week-end. We’ll just have to get back on track next week, when hopefully for a start, Lennon will be fit, and stupid errors will be eradicated.
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