FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 5TH DECEMBER, 1998
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) - LIVERPOOL 1 (0)
Carragher (o.g ) 49
Referee:- Graham Barber
Spurs:-(4-4-2) Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell (capt ), Sinton; Fox, Anderton, Nielsen, Ginola; Iversen ( sub Ferdinand 33 ), Armstrong
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Calderwood, Scales; Clemence
Liverpool:- (3-5-2) James; Heggem, Carragher, Staunton, Babb, Bjornebye (sub Murphy 75 ); Gerrard ( sub Thompson, 54 ), Ince, Berger; Fowler, Owen
Subs not used:- Friedel(GK); Kvarme, Harkness
Spurs matches at home against Liverpool have a tendency to be entertaining these days, and this one was no exception. Liverpool came more and more into the contest as time went on, and it became edge of the seat stuff for Spurs fans, who went home happy ( yet again! ) as their team clung on to a one goal lead. There could easily have been more goals, and MOTD viewers will be happy with the fare offered tonight.
Graham started the match with the attacking line-up that finished against Manchester United, and there were times when it looked as if we might overrun the reds in the first half. Walker kept his place, but I must declare here and now that, despite his spillages, I feel more comfortable with Espen in goal. Ian had one good save to make in this game, but his kicking was skewed too often, and he failed to dominate his area enough for me.
Young deservedly held his place, despite the return to fitness of John Scales, and could earn himself the nickname of "Cool Hand Luke" after another impressive display. I counted at least three valuable tackles in the first half, and one match winning tackle in the second, all snatching the ball from the feet of Owen, who was in dangerous form today.
Today's CADD suggested that we may have to call Anderton "Duracell" if he maintains his present fitness, and form ( hope that's not the kiss of death ), and surely it is no coincidence that Spurs' present run has featured an in-form Dazza. Despite his form though, I do feel that we were weak in midfield, surrendering that territory too much to the likes of Berger, and Ince. In my view, Nielsen had a bit of a "mare" today, failing to control, and losing the ball too often.
Liverpool were the more threatening side for the opening period, with Heggem getting forward a lot, and getting a couple of shots on target. Spurs did not look like scoring until the thirteenth minute, when a long range shot from Ginola nearly turned into a pass for Iversen, who tried his damnedest to meet the ball. Soon after that there was panic at the edge of the Spurs area, where Walker left two Liverpool players on the floor, enabling a counter-attack by the home side. Spurs started to put the pressure on, and Anderton had the first of several shots cleared off the line. A 25th minute shot by the same player was pushed spectacularly round the corner by James. Anderton took the ensuing corner, which led to the ball being cleared to Fox, who hit a low powerful shot from the edge of the area into the net. I have since heard that there may have been a deflection, but Fox takes the credit.
Almost immediately after that Iversen had a goal disallowed for offside, as he headed in a another headed pass from Armstrong. Iversen challenged so hard for this ball, that he took a bad knock, and had to be substituted shortly afterwards. He apparently went to hospital late for X-rays, and there are worries about a fractured jaw. Let us hope he recovers as quickly as the previous incumbent of the number 18 shirt.
The play was end to end from this time. One minute Berger was clear with only Walker to beat, but thankfully he put his shot wide. The next, Nielsen was finding Sol in the opposition area; Sol headed to Ferdinand, whose header was just tipped over the bar. Armstrong and Fowler also had good opportunities before the half time whistle blew.
It wasn't long into the second half before Spurs went two up through a spectacular own goal! Armstrong won a tussle with Babb on Spurs right flank. He put over a low cross, which may have been met by Les Ferdinand, but Carragher intervened and slid home a super shot to leave his goalie helpless!
However, the two goal cushion was removed within 7 minutes, when Berger lifted a super free kick over the wall into the edge of the goal. Walker had (correctly) left this side of the goal to his wall to protect, and had no chance to save. Spurs nearly regained the safety margin , when Les Ferdinand rose magnificently to meet an Anderton corner. His header looked goal bound, but was cleared from the line despite a scramble involving Chris Armstrong.
In the second half, Liverpool sought to exploit the relative weakness of Sinton on the left flank, and they had more success with their long pass technique over the defence for Owen or Fowler to run onto. There was plenty of need to rescue the ball from their feet, and Owen noticeably got several shots on goal, of which few were on target. One shot from the diminutive England striker went agonisingly close when he shot across the goal from a narrow angle on the right.
Spurs had more threats too, but the closing stages were dominated by the away side. Armstrong and Fox broke from defence a couple of times. One attack failed when an Armo pass was off target, but late in the game, when the roles were reversed, Armstrong got a superb right foot shot on target, which James struggled to put out for a corner.
Walker's one memorable save came with 15 minutes left on the clock, when Owen set up substitute Thompson for a powerful right foot strike, which Walker held well as he dived. Fowler, and Ince also went close in the closing period.
This was marginally the best crowd of the season, and a similar attendance is guaranteed for a tougher ManU side next week. After the game, Les Ferdinand claimed to need a few more games, including reserve matches under his belt for full fitness, so perhaps we can look forward to seeing him next Tuesday night.
· Brian Judson's match preview
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