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Spurs v Liverpool, 03.01.2000


Spurs scorer:-
Armstrong, 22

Referee:- Alan Wilkie

Attendance:- 36,044

Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell, Taricco; Young, Sherwood, Clemence, Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Vega; Gower; Anderton; Dominguez

Booked:- Campbell, Clemence, Perry

Liverpool (4-4-2):- Westerveld; Heggem, Henchoz, Hyypia, Matteo; Gerrard, Hamann, Carragher ( sub thompson, 58), Berger ( sub Murphy, 73); Smicer ( sub Staunton, 81), Camara

Subs not used:- Nielsen (GK); Song

Booked:- Smicer, Matteo, Carragher, Camara

A cracking goal from Chris Armstrong, who could, and should have scored at least two more, and a cracking team performance sealed the first win of the new Millennium for Spurs, and secured their top six position to cap a good league Christmas campaign. I can't remember a match against Liverpool that failed to entertain me, and this was as pulsating as any recent encounters.

The number of bookings does not reflect the nature of the game, and it seems perverse to say, but referee Wilkie actually let a lot of physical stuff go without punishment, which enabled a game in the traditional English style. Wilkie made some outrageous decisions, it is true, particularly when ignoring an audacious foul upon Armstrong, and a clattering of Ginola by Carragher, which deserved an early yellow card, although this challenge did result in a free kick for the Spurs.

George Graham inserted Luke Young for the suspended Nielsen, and both Young and Clemence had excellent games in the middle; moving like greased lightning; challenging for everything ( often succeeding); and making some good passes. Liverpool were very fluid, and contributed fully to this entertainment, and whilst Camara's trickery fooled Campbell once or twice, the visitors missed the armoury of the injured Owen and Fowler.

Sol Campbell was booked within two minutes, after he was nutmegged by Camara, who then ran into the defender. Wilkie's brandishing of such an early card immediately roused the home fans, who felt that Camara played for the obstruction decision. Certainly Camara later made a meal of a foul by Clemence, and may be a useful student for RADA in his part time! The Spurs fans did give a lusty cheer when the resulting free kick (following Sol's booking) rebounded forcefully into Berger's face.

After 13 minutes, Spurs played the ball well out of defence, with Sherwood finding Armstrong, whose pass to Ginola on the left soon came winging its way across the box for Armstrong to make a brave flying effort to make contact. Taricco, with no one to pass to, ran towards the area, making a good pass to Iversen whose shot across the goal was wide of the mark. Ginola and Taricco combined to feed Clemence making a good run into the box, but he hit a weak shot on target.

Amstrong's second chance came from a Ginola free kick taken on the left. The much maligned Spurs striker, seeking only his fourth goal of the season, got in front of the defence, but headed wide in front of the goal. He only had to wait for two minutes to break an eight game duck, as he latched on to a weak clearance, and hit a rocket shot into the left corner, from fully 23 yards. This was possibly the best goal he has scored for the club, and fair reward for his recent performances.

Spurs did get the ball into the net within minutes, when Sol Campbell headed in a free kick, but was adjudged to be offside. A long ball from Liverpool found Smicer in space, and Campbell came to the rescue. Camara then had a chance, from what looked like offside, when he tried to lob Walker, but was far too high over the bar. On 34 minutes, Camara gave Campbell the slip, and half-hit a shot, which Walker parried, and Gerrard hit into the side netting.

Just before half time, Armstrong at the near post flicked a Ginola corner across the goal mouth. Ginola survived the full 90 minutes ( plus injury time ), and had an excellent game today, which included his full array of runs, shots, crosses, some quick passing, and also some defensive covering! Anderton, who was on the bench, did not get a look-in, and there was a significant boo when his name was announced before the game.

Early in the second half, Ginola latched onto a long Walker clearance, and under pressure from three defenders got a decent shot just wide of the target. The speed of the game was relentless, and some battling play by Armstrong enabled Young to cross from the right, with Sherwood ( box to box as ever) just failing to make contact. Camara continued to threaten, as he picked up a Matteo cross, but hit a weak shot towards the grateful Walker.

Ginola forced a good save from Westerveld, and then Thompson replaced Carragher, and was lucky to stay on the pitch as he immediately clattered Sherwood, but received not even a yellow card. Ginola put another tempting cross over after 66 minutes, and it is a mystery how Armstrong failed to touch this one into the net, as he missed it by a whisker. More excitement followed as Young made a strong run down the right, and found Armstrong whose cross/shot agonisingly went across the goal, and was cleared for a corner.

With fifteen minutes left, Armstrong became the provider for Iversen, as he used his pace to collect a throw, and lobbed a cross for Iversen, whose header was saved at the foot of the post by a busy, and relieved Westerveld. Iversen then hit a useful shot into the goalkeeper's arms. Another Ginola cross was cleared, and on the break, Smicer curled a shot wide of the post, with Walker struggling.

The home fans desperately wanted that two goal cushion, but it just would not come. The best of the remaining efforts was a sharp turn and shot by Iversen from a Carr cross, which forced yet another good save.

Manager George Graham said after the game that he was pleased at how well the players had bounced back after the Newcastle disaster, and also at how well the youngsters had taken their chances, specifically mentioning Clemence. Graham said that both Anderton and Freund were fit; that there was plenty of competition for places, but that he was still looking to strengthen the squad. Try as he may to placate the Spurs fans, these words will not help, as we have to twiddle our fingers this FA Cup week-end.

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