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Spurs v Liverpool, 14.03.98

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published March, 2018, but first written in 1998 by the late Brian Judson. This report is followed by my personal comments written after the game.

Saturday, March 14th, 1998
FA Carling Premiership

Tottenham Hotspur : Baardsen; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Wilson; Fox, Berti, Nielsen, Ginola (sub Brady, 86); Armstrong (sub Howells, 60), Klinsmann.

Substitutes *NOT* used : Grodas, Mabbutt, Calderwood.

Booked : Berti, Ginola.

Goalscorers : Klinsmann 13, Ginola 49, Vega 80.

Liverpool : Friedel; Jones, Harkness, Matteo, Carragher (sub Thompson, 61), Bjornebye; McManaman, Ince, Redknapp, Leonhardsen (sub Babb, 67); Owen.

Substitutes *NOT* used : James, Kvarme, Murphy.

Booked : Harkness, Thompson, Jones.

Goalscorers : McManaman 21, 89, Ince 64.

Referee : Mr U D Rennie (South Yorkshire).

Attendance : 30,245.

Spurs were entitled to feel aggrieved about the result of this match. Each and everyone of the players had given 150 per cent effort and commitment to the cause of Tottenham Hotspur throughout the ninety minutes. The crowd, catching the mood of the players, remained defiant throughout the match, undoubtedly boosting the confidence of the Tottenham players. Although it is unfair to the whole team to single out individuals, I feel that (in no special order) Berti, Klinsmann, Ginola, Campbell, Carr and Baardsen particularly stood out.

The back-biting and peevishness that the media had persistently reported since the defeat at Leeds ten days before was not apparent as the team warmed up before the game. Each player came out to a rapturous welcome by the fans, particularly those at the Edmonton end of the ground. Klinsmann, the subject of the media criticism, came out to the loudest applause of all.

At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool warmed up with only one recognised striker on view. Traditionally, Liverpool have always hunted in pairs. In the '60s, it was Hunt and St John; in the '70s, Toshack and Keegan; in the '80s, Dalglish and Rush. But in the '90s, there have not been obvious successors to their predecessors. Rush and Fowler shared a couple of seasons but kept getting in each others way until Rush left for Leeds. Fowler ploughed a lonely furrow up front but seemed to have a knack for scoring spectacular goals. Then, earlier this season, the very young Michael Owen emerged from the reserves to suggest that he will be a bigger superstar than Dalglish over a period of time.

But, despite their high position in the League, I am not convinced that Liverpool are anything but an unconvincing shadow of their predecessors. I cannot imagine, for example, a Liverpool side of Shankly's or Paisley's abjectly surrendering to the likes of Barnsley, Leicester and Southampton. One wonders what some of the Liverpool greats think of those kind of results.

So Spurs had no need to have an inferiority complex as the game got under way. It was soon end-to-end excitement with both goalkeepers kept on their toes. Friedel has at long last managed to find a niche with a Premiership side after being denied work permits with a number of other clubs. I suspect that he may well deny 'Calamity' James a return to the team. At the other end, Baardsen, with only a handful of games behind him, is already showing signs of preventing Ian Walker an automatic return to the team after injury. To my mind, Baardsen is a much better 'keeper than Walker, particularly in marshalling his defenders in dead ball situations.

Tottenham went ahead in the 13th minute. Carr made a quick throw-in to Ginola, whose centre was anticipated by Klinsmann, whose leap like a salmon nodded the ball behind Friedel. Klinsmann led the joyous celebrations as Liverpool looked at each other in mute accusations "I thought *YOU* were marking Klinsmann!".

This might not be the Liverpool of old but they do know how to fight back sometimes. McManaman began to run around, his long legs reminding me of pistons on an steam express train as he charged about. Their equaliser came seconds after Friedel had denied Klinsmann from extending Spurs' fragile lead. Vega was caught by the onrushing Owen. Owen took the ball to the bye-line, made a quick glance around and saw the on-rushing McManaman. The tousled haired McManaman never lost a beat in his stride as he collected the pass from Owen and fired the ball into an unguarded corner of Tottenham's goal.

Well might the Mersey hordes celebrate! Their midfield was clearly superior to Tottenham's where far too much depended on Ginola. The fans often saw opportunities long before the Frenchman, who was occasionally caught in possession of the ball. Ince charged around incessantly, urging on his comrades, but without the headless chicken syndrome he is sometimes prone to adopt, usually incurring a needless booking in the process. There are signs that Ince is at long last growing up and concealing the chip on his shoulder.

Spurs made a brilliant start to the second half. Berti, wide on the left, saw Ginola totally unmarked, wide on the right. The Liverpool defence were caught flatfooted as Ginola took two strides before drilling the ball home to restore Tottenham's lead. But his Gallic exuberance cost him dearly through over celebrating his goal. A booking was made for wasting time and that means he will be unavailable for the match against Crystal Palace.

It did not take Liverpool long to draw level. McManaman freed substitute Thompson, who dashed away. He steadied himself from his onrush to clip the ball into the six yard box. Ince launched himself into space and Baardsen had no chance to prevent Ince's brilliant scissor-kick.

But Spurs were not going to concede hopes of a famous victory. With ten minutes left, Spurs won a corner on the right. Ginola's in-swinging corner found Vega, who forcefully headed the ball home.

It looked as if Spurs had won a famous victory as the seconds slipped away but right at the end of normal time, Vega and Baardsen mis-read each other's intentions, allowing Owen a clear shot of a totally unguarded goal. Owen's shot hit an upright but before any Tottenham defender could re-act, McManaman had made long lazy strides to ensure Liverpool were going back to Anfield with a thoroughly deserved point.

I did not begrudge Liverpool their point. They had certainly deserved it. It was cruel luck for Tottenham on a day they produced their best football of the season. Herr Gross remained upbeat after the match, saying, "I saw today a team with great desire and a belief they can stay up. I'm optimistic at all times. You saw a team that was 100 per cent committed and playing with great togetherness. I really believe we can stay in the Premiership."

Roy Evans was not satisfied with his team's performance. "When you go away from home and score three goals, you expect to win a game. We were not positive defensively. We don't make strong enough physical challenges for the ball. Everyone is finding it difficult to win games. We are high up in the League but I feel that if we were stronger in defence we would be a lot closer than we are at the moment." And, of course, if they were able to play one of their former defenders from the '80s, I'm sure a lot more would be said about some of the slack marking that allowed Klinsmann to score the first goal. I don't think Alan Hansen would have allowed Klinsmann that much freedom!

We now have a week off from the strain of the relegation battle before resuming our endeavours in the quest for survival at Selhurst Park in two weeks time. That is a game we simply dare not drop points and where we must, if we can, score goals to improve our goal difference, which is how the occupants of the 17th and 18th position may be finally separated.

Cheers, Brian

(Personal comments)

By now, most of you will have seen some highlights of the game, and others do a full report, so I just thought I'd offer a few comments.

First of all, several fans were moaning about the result on Capital Gold. One even went so far as to say that the two points lost could cost us our place. Personally, I don't think this will be the case,, and I would like to point out that this draw ranks as an "optimistic" result, and that we are on target for survival. Barnsley are making good progress, but they got one or two vital players injured yesterday, including Ashley Ward. Survival is very much in our hands, as we still have to play Everton, Palace, and Barnsley. In fairness, Palace look dead in the water to me, and the time to worry will be if we don't get a result there in two weeks time. If we carry on playing like we did yesterday, I think we'll be alright, and at least we have some excitement to look forward to at the end of a season, for a change.

Regarding the game, I thought it was the best game seen at the Lane for quite a while. Real edge of the seat stuff. Whilst we hit the woodwork twice, Baardsen saved our bacon at least twice, and either side could have won, and I think a draw was a fair result.

I'll offer some comments about individual performances:-

Baardsen:- As stated, some life-giving saves. Another really good performance, and in my view, enough to keep Walker on the sidelines, when he is fit.

Carr:- One of our best players yesterday. Always battling, won a lot of ball, and showed skill in attack too.

Wilson: Hold on to your hats; Clive had quite a good game, in my view. Yes, he is slow, and most attacks seemed to come down the left, but he made some good tackles, AND made some penetrating long balls.

Campbell:- Whilst not playing at his best, he is still far better than..............

Vega:- What an enigma. Okay, he wears his ( Tottenham ) heart on his sleeve, and he scored our third goal, but he couldn't cope with Owen. Maybe Sol should have been on Owen. As for Owen, he is a super little player, who in my view will be going to France. There was some comment from Clive Allen on the radio to the effect that Vega was not moving up with the rest of the defence, preventing offside decisions in our favour.

Berti:- This guy seems to get better as the game progresses. A good battling performance, and a good pass to Daveed for that super goal.

Nielsen:- Had a nightmare, in my view. Yes, he hit the woodword twice, but he was always slow to the ball, both when passed to, and in challenging opponents. This was possibly his worse game for us.

Fox:- Was getting some stick around me, but he played deeper, due to Daveed's free role behind the front two, and I thought he did alright, particularly coming out of defence. A break-away from Fox led to the pressure which gave us our first goal.

Ginola:- Say no more. Definitely the best player on the park. To get the bad news out of the way, he made a gaff giving a super pass to McNanaman, but we managed to survive the ensuing pressure. Daveed also got booked, which I think means he will miss the Palace game. Maybe Saib will be fit for that one, and play a Ginola-like role. Received the throw in from Carr, turned and beat two 'Pool players, sent the cross for Jurgen to head home after 12 minutes. Ginola's goal early in the second half was the best I've seen at the Lane since JK's goal against Sheffield Wednesday ( or maybe Daveed's against them this season ! ) He received Berti's pass outside the box in a central location, took it a little to the left and from fully 25 yards hit a low sweet drive which curled into the corner to beat Friedel at full stretch. A marvellous moment, that had the whole home contingent on their feet chanting "Ginola Ginola" in unison. Was he subbed 2 minutes from the end to allow him to milk the applause? I think so. Was it a mistake to sub him, that led to Liverpool's final equaliser? I don't think so. Erlend, Daveed will be getting my March POTM vote too!

Klinsmann:- Before the game I predicted JK would score the first goal after 12 minutes. I was right! Pity I didn't have a bet. Ah - but I also thought we'd win 2-1, so I was only half right. Jk should have added to his tally in the first half, when he was again put through by Ginola. I think the old JK would have scored that one, but that first goal seemed to heal all the alleged rifts in the club. I think Ginola was laying the ball off a bit earlier on several occasions, so JK's influence seems to have had an effect. On the other hand Gross did not play Daveed wide on the left, as allegedly Jurgen wants, so there's been some give and take.

Armstrong:- Not fully fit, but his pace was effective. He didn't seem to be getting much headway yesterday. Was subbed by Howells mid second half.

Howells:- I don't think he got into the game enough.

Brady:- Late sub for Ginola, had a good run on goal when we were 3-3, could have shot, waited for Fox, Fox fluffed his shot, the ball fell to JK who as a reaction diverted the ball, but it went over.

From a defensive point of view, at times the "polo" midfield was in action, giving Liverpool too much control in that area. The other thing is that Owen is so fast, that he is likely to beat defenders ( even Sol ) to long balls sent in his direction.

And finally, the old crocks team ( Anderton, Iverson, Clemence, Austin, and co could be spotted at table 24 in the "Crossbar" hospitality suite. Didn't spot Ferdinand )

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