BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 28th NOVEMBER, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2) LIVERPOOL 1 (0)
Bale (o.g), 72
Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. J. Brooks
Fourth official:- Mr. G. Ward
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (sub Huddlestone, 88), Bale; Dempsey (sub Sigurdsson, 63), Defoe
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Livermore, Carroll, Townsend
Booked:- Bale (simulation)
Liverpool (4-3-2-1):- Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Downing (sub Assaidi, 78); Gerrard (Capt.), Allen, Henderson (sub Shelvey, 63); Sterling, Enrique; Suarez
Subs not used:- Jones; Carragher, Wisdom; Sahin, Suso
Booked:- Skrtel (foul on Dempsey), Enrique (foul on Lennon)
Early goals enough for Spurs
In an extremely entertaining game, Spurs took an early lead through goals by Aaron Lennon, and Gareth Bale, and after creating a few more chances, survived the rest of the game, in which Liverpool dominated possession and tried to pass Spurs to death, but ultimately they failed to make Lloris work quite hard enough. Spurs even scored Liverpool's second half goal, but it did come at a time when Liverpool kept the pressure on the Spurs area.
That record of Spurs never losing a game in which Aaron Lennon scores was maintained, although the tension in the home stands was plain to see in the second half. Such is Spurs record of losing leads, that no-one felt too confident at half-time despite my protestations of the Lennon record.
AVB was able to start with Dembele next to Sandro, but he played a traditional 4-4-2, with Clint Dempsey just behind Defoe. There was no sign of Steven Caulker, and Michael Dawson partnered Gallas for the first time this season. Dawson wore the captain's armband, so the chain of command is clear.
Liverpool played in a 4-3-2-1, with the ever-mobile and threatening Suarez supported by 17 year old Raheem Sterling on the right, and Enrique on the left, playing the advanced role he had operated in at Swansea on Sunday. That left Stewart Downing at left back. There was also a place for Jordan Henderson on the left in front of the defence, where Gerrard played on the right, and Joe Allen in the middle. This seems a strange role for Gerrard, being rather withdrawn from the attack behind Sterling.
Spurs played in all-white whilst Liverpool were in black, rather than their traditional red. The officials wore an orange strip.
Spurs were on the front foot from the outset, with Dembele making a nice run before feeding the ball towards the right, where Lennon and Dempsey tried to work an opening, but Liverpool defended well.
Reina almost fumbled a Bale free kick after just three minutes, and after Spurs tried to put the ball away, Liverpool were happy to concede a corner. Two minutes later Jermain Defoe stole the ball off his England colleague, Gerrard, before releasing Bale on the left side. Bale's shot passed just wide of the far post.
In the seventh minute, Bale broke clear down the left on a fine run, hitting a low ball to the back post, where Lennon gleefully snatched the chance laid on a plate for him.
Liverpool responded positively, and Lloris saved well from Suarez's right foot. At times now, both Dawson and Gallas would be caught on the hop by Liverpool's speed of thought through the centre. By the same token, Jan Vertonghen had his hands (or should I say feet) full, keeping up with Sterling.
Lloris came out a bit too far after a through ball left Gallas stranded, and Jordan Henderson really had an open goal, but managed to fire wide. Spurs had had warnings.
After 16 minutes though, Spurs went two up, after Dempsey had been fouled about 25 yards out. Bale stepped up and hit a fine free kick that went over the wall and left Reina standing. The keeper thought the ball was going to his left, but after going through the wall, it curved away to Reina's right, with the keeper wrong-footed.
Four minutes later, Defoe tried a right foot shot from a Bale pass, but pulled it wide. Dembele hit a shot well over, a minute later. Now at the other end, Suarez won a battle against Dawson and hit a rising cross/shot, which Lloris held at the second attempt. Sterling threaded a ball for Glenn Johnson, who got almost to the bye-line, before hitting a cross, which Enrique fired goalward first time. Lloris was alert, and down to hold the shot cleanly.
Liverpool had certainly been sparked into action by Spurs' bright start. Dawson got just enough head onto a Johnson cross, preventing Suarez from getting a telling touch at the back post.
Kyle Walker made a goal-line clearance, after Gerrard went down under Dembele's challenge, before Suarez got a foot to the ball, which was heading to the far corner.
Referee Phil Dowd seemed determined to let the game flow, and on the whole, I feel his decisions did favour Spurs.
Skrtel got a well-deserved yellow card after he hacked down Clint Dempsey near the half-way line as he threatened to break clear. It was disappointing to see Walker bettered by Downing on the wing. The result of Downing's cross was corner, but it might have been an own goal, as Dawson's attempt at a headed clearance rebounded off the unknowing Gallas on the right side of the post from Spurs' point of view.
Just before the break, Bale received a ball from the right in a central position, and nearly caught Reina unawares with his shot. Reina saw the shot and moved late, but held cleanly.
Liverpool's passing game meant that the ball stayed in play for long periods of time, with few throw-ins being conceded. This all-action style was of course debilitating for the defending team, and Spurs certainly found themselves on the back foot for too much of the time.
However, all that possession was leading to few clear cut chances for Liverpool. In fact Spurs had the first decent opportunity of the half, when both Defoe and Dempsey went for a ball down the middle. Dempsey took the shot, but it passed wide. Dempsey tried another shot from distance, but Reina was equal to this effort.
Henderson was replaced by Shelvey for Liverpool, whilst Dempsey was removed and replaced by Sigurdsson, who seemed to play a more withdrawn midfield role. Sadly, I felt that the team was thus weakened.
After a Shelvey foul on Lennon, Bale's free kick passed just wide of Reina's left post.
Liverpool had started piling on the pressure, winning a number of corners, taken on the right by Shelvey. One that he swung to the back post was headed back across goal, and Aaron Lennon tried to clear, but the ball rebounded into he Spurs net off the unlucky Bale. We even scored their goal!
Downing was replaced by Assaidi, and Enrique reverted to his usual left back role behind the new arrival.
After 80 minutes, Agger got to the Spurs bye-line and it looked as if he had carried the ball over the goal-line, but in any case, when he crossed, Suarez fired over from short range. Enrique hit a shot wide after another Liverpool corner.
Dembele was replaced late in the game by Huddlestone, and then Enrique saw yellow for a blatant foul on Lennon who was advancing down the touch line.
Spurs had four minutes of added time to see out, but see it out they did, even having one more chance, after a Liverpool error led to the ball falling to Defoe. The ball was blocked, but now fell to the feet of Sigurdsson, whose shot was held.
The final whistle was encouraged, then welcomed with great delight and no little relief. The win takes Spurs back up to fifth, above Arsenal, and Everton, who drew, and within three points of third placed Chelsea. Things aren't so bad after all, are they?
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