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Liverpool 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Prem (May 15 2011)

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LIVERPOOL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield

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Scorer(s) –

Half Time - 0-1

Venue - Anfield

Date - Sun 15 May 2011

Star Man – John Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hang on, this wasn't in the script. The final home game of the season isn't supposed to go like this. It's meant to be hot and sunny, not freezing and pissing down, and we're certainly not supposed to lose. Of course we have done (last season being the most recent example), but given the run we've been on and the boost of the King getting his new contract, I'd guess very few people saw this coming. I certainly didn't.

 

It was very disappointing, but having had a bit of time to reflect I'm not too upset about it. In fact, would it be wrong to say I'm actually thinking it could be a good thing in the long run?

 

Don't get me wrong, I was desperate for us to win this game. Not because of the Europa League place that was at stake, I just wanted us to win and continue the great form we've been showing. I wanted the feelgood vibe to carry on into another week and for the King to mark his coronation with another big win. Clinching that spot in the Europa was more like the price we'd have to pay for it rather than the prize at the end of it.

 

I understand the view that we need to be in Europe, both for financial reasons and because the Europa is still a trophy worth winning and let's face it, beggars can't be choosers. I'm not turning my nose up at the Europa League, and I desperately wanted us to win it this season. Having said that, I hated playing on Thursday nights, I hated being on Channel Five, I hated seeing Milan Jovanovic and David Ngog in tandem and most importantly I hated the fact that we're nearly always crap in the league games after we've played in Europe.

 

If not having to play so many midweek games means we are sharper for our domestic games (and the evidence of this season certainly suggests that is the case), then that's a price I'm more than willing to pay. There's also the pre-season aspect of it. Having to qualify for the Europa last summer did us no favours in terms of getting ready for the pre-season. If Kenny doesn't have to deal with that and only has to worry about getting the lads ready for the opening day, that will surely benefit us.

 

I really wish we'd beaten Spurs, but I do wonder if next season we'll look back at this defeat and think it was, to quote Gerard Houllier back in the day, a "blessing in disguise". I don't mind the defeat so much, I just wish we'd played a bit better. Ideally we'd have peppered the Spurs goal, hit the woodwork a few times and lost to a late sucker punch. Instead we laboured for much of the game and didn't really trouble Cudicini at all.

 

'Reality check' is the expression I keep hearing. I'd agree with that. The exhilerating football of recent weeks was rarely in evidence, but Spurs have to be given a lot of credit for that as their centre backs were outstanding and Luca Modric was the best player on the park. And yet we only lost this game to a deflection and a scandalous penalty. It's not like Spurs outplayed us. There wasn't much between the sides, but they got the breaks and we didn't.

 

It shows us that we still have some work to do to get back into the top four and then hopefully higher. We also have to work out how to incorporate Andy Carroll into the side whilst maintaining the great pass and move, high tempo football we've been playing of late. It's not going to happen overnight, certainly not when he's missed so many training sessions with his team-mates since he arrived.

 

I didn't think Carroll had a bad game, he was pretty good with his touches and layoffs, and we didn't fall into the trap of hitting it long to him either. Not that there'd have been any point in doing that, as Dawson and King were dealing with that kind of thing with ease, but still, you have to wonder whether his presence had a detrimental effect on the way the team played. Personally I'd say it did, and that's not a reflection on Carroll. It's gonna take some time to bed him into the team though, because we aren't set up to get the best out of him and he isn't ideally suited to play in the style we've been playing of late.

 

One of the main reasons we've done so well recently is the partnership of Kuyt and Suarez, and more specifically the constant movement of the pair with and without the ball. They never stop, and that has set the tempo for everything else we've been doing. Kuyt has been brilliant up front, but with Carroll back in the side Dirk had to revert to the right flank. He was alright, but the balance of the side wasn't as good as it has been and without natural wingers it isn't set up to get Carroll the service he needs. It was as though we were caught between two styles.

 

We didn't have the striker to play the kind of game we've been playing, and we didn't have the widemen to play the game the striker needs. New signings will help with the latter, and work on the training ground will hopefully fix the former.

 

We missed Meireles too I thought. He's not been pulling up any trees of late, but the team has been playing well and he's played his part. Lucas and Spearing have bossed everyone they've faced since Kenny paired them together, but not this time. Modric seemed to have a lot of time and space in midfield, not because he wasn't being picked up, but just because neither Lucas nor Jay could get close enough to him as he played so well and perhaps because we didn't have Raul tucking infield and helping? Modric is a really good player, a lot of clubs will be thinking they should have snapped him up when Spurs took a chance on him. Was he signed by Comolli? If so, hopefully he has a few more like him in his little black book for this summer.

 

We started and finished the game badly, but in between wasn't that bad on the whole. I certainly don't think we were outplayed, but then Spurs can say the same. I don't remember Cudicini or Reina having to make any real saves, which is surprising given the calibre of some of the attacking players on the field. Van Der Vaart scored early on with a shot that looped off Johnson and over Reina. Without the deflection I doubt he's beating Pepe from there, but shit happens. I didn't like his celebration though, giving it loads in front of the Kop. Classless.

 

Defenders dominated this game. Carragher and Skrtel were largely untroubled by Crouch, Van Der Vaart and later Defoe, Johnson dealt with the pace of Lennon very well and I thought Flanagan was our best player on the day. For Spurs, Dawson and the remarkable Ledley King shackled Suarez as well as anybody has, and Luis was fortunate not to be sent off early in the first half.

 

I don't think the little flick of his boot deserved a red card, but if you do something like that right in front of someone like Howard Webb, you really are playing with fire. Suarez had been taken out a minute or so earlier and didn't get the free-kick. He was hot under the collar about it, and when Dawson hit the floor and stayed there after what looked like minimal contact, Luis saw red and gave him a little kick and gestured to him to get up. I'm surprised Webb didn't send him off, as he doesn't usually need any encouragement.

 

For the next ten minutes or so, Suarez kept going to ground wanting free-kicks. Webb was having none of it, and I'm sure Kenny will have had to have a word at half time as there was a danger Suarez would push his luck too much. He didn't do it at all after the break, but we didn't get him enough of the ball either and he wasn't really much of a factor in the second half.

 

I felt we'd done ok after falling behind, it took us a little while to settle but when we did we looked as though we definitely had a goal in us. Spearing dragged a shot wide when well placed following a nice passing move, Kuyt had a reasonable penalty shout turned down when Rose pulled him to the floor ('reasonable' as in if it had been any ref other than Webb we may have had a chance of getting it) and there were other good situations that we didn't capitalise on. Suarez curled a free-kick just wide after a mazy run by Carroll had been halted by a lunge from Sandro, but probably the best opportunity was when Carroll put a header horribly over the bar after some brilliant work by Skrtel. I wasn't worried at half time, but I did think the next goal would be the key as we couldn't afford to go 2-0 down the way Spurs were defending.

 

Unfortunately that's exactly what happened. The penalty was a joke. From my seat in the Main Stand I was looking at it from a similar angle to Webb, and it was clear that Flanagan did not move towards the player, they both went towards the ball and went shoulder to shoulder. Both braced themselves for impact and both bounced off eachother and fell to the floor. That was how I saw it, and having since watched the replays of it, it's an even worse decision than I originally thought as if anything Pienaar ran into Flanagan. Both ran towards the ball, but the Spurs player also angled his run slightly towards 'Flano' to try and ease him off it. You can even make a case that it was outside the box, but I don't even care about that as it's irrelevant given that it wasn't a foul in the first place. Scandalous decision given the great view he had of it.

 

He's just a complete twat is Howard Webb. People often ask where he got his reputation from as 'the country's best referee'. He got it because Ferguson said it a few years ago. Then Webb made the mistake of giving a decision against United (in a game against Arsenal if I remember correctly) and Ferguson publicly tore a strip off him. Webb never made that mistake again.

 

It's easy for people to say he's got it in for us, and certainly I don't ever want him near any game we have against the mancs, but I don't think this is a personal issue with LFC. I just think he's fucking shit and incredibly arrogant and smug. He isn't the best referee in the country, not even close. There is no 'best' referee in the country, it's simply a case of who is the least shit, and Webb isn't anywhere near the top of that list.

 

Spurs made the most of their gift, Modric drilling the penalty straight down the middle as Reina dived to his right, and Spurs now had one foot in the Europa League. Remember when Pepe used to be ace at saving pens? I miss those days, they seem like such a long time ago now. He may as well come and sit next to me in the Main Stand these days and hope they put it wide or over, as he sure as hell ain't saving any. Can we get his old keeper coach Xavi Valero back? Just a thought.

 

Chants of "You Manc bastard" "Fergie's Rent Boy" and "You're just a South Yorkshire Bastard" rang around Anfield as the game just petered out into a comfortable Spurs victory. We had some shots from distance, most notably an effort from substitute Shelvey that flashed just wide, but we didn't really put Spurs under any sustained pressure.

 

Spearing had made way for Shelvey, but it could just as easily have been Lucas as neither hit the heights they have been scaling recently. It probably shouldn't have been either of them really, as taking Carroll off would have made more sense and allowed us to revert back to the system we've been using so successfully of late. Ngog also came on, but he was never going to do anything except give us all a reminder that we need to sign a new back up striker as he isn't anywhere near good enough and never will be. For me he's the living embodiment of the team's mediocrity of the last couple of years.

 

The longer the game went, the less we looked like scoring. We ran out of ideas, and often resorted to looking to hit Carroll with diagonal balls to the back of the box. It was incredibly frustrating, and then we had a streaker run on the field. Am I the only one who doesn't find streakers the least bit funny (especially when we're losing!)? Actually don't answer that, I know I'm not the only one because I saw the reaction of some of our players, most notably Skrtel who I thought was going to beat him to a pulp. Shame he didn't.

 

Was this Kenny's first home defeat? I can't think of any others and can't be arsed looking it up, so I'm assuming it was. It shouldn't really be seen as a big shock, as Spurs have some good players and can beat anyone on their day. But going into this game I was convinced we'd beat them comfortably, and so was everybody else I spoke to. This great run we've been on recently has gotten us a little carried away I'd say. Kenny has done such a great job that some of us were actually starting to think we were virtually invincible! Clearly we aren't, but it's great to be in a position again where when we lose it's a shock to the system as opposed to confirmation of something we were expecting.

 

It's hard to see Spurs not beating Birmingham next week, but I don't really care what happens at White Hart Lane as if we don't get into the Europa I think we'll benefit from it in the long run. I just want us to end the season with a win at Villa, and if Spurs do stumble and we do end up in Europe, then there's positives in that too I guess. I just want us to beat Villa and end with a win, and then whatever will be will be.

 

Star man was Flanagan, who was robbed with the penalty and who put in a very assured display in defence and attack. The rest of the defence played well too, and I didn't think anyone played badly individually. We just didn't play well collectively, but hopefully we can bounce back next week and end on a high. Then the real work will start this summer.

 

Final word on the mancs who went to so much trouble to get tickets and get a banner on display at the Anny Road end. Yes they are obsessed, yes they're a bit sad, but fair play if we'd done something like that at Old Trafford I'd have laughed. So they can have this one, and Rooney can perform to the galleries like the shaved chimp that he is.

 

We'll be back next season stronger than before, and let's see who's the first to reach 20 eh?

 

 

Team: Reina; Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson; Kuyt, Spearing (Shelvey), Lucas, Maxi (Ngog); Suarez, Carroll (Cole):

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Yes, it's Kenny's first defeat at home since coming back.

 

I think there was a big ironic cheer when Webb blew to award a free kick near central midfield to us. Think it was just after the penalty or after he'd made another call against us. Terrible, disgraceful ref.

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Final word on the mancs who went to so much trouble to get tickets and get a banner on display at the Anny Road end. Yes they are obsessed, yes they're a bit sad, but fair play if we'd done something like that at Old Trafford I'd have laughed. So they can have this one, and Rooney can perform to the galleries like the shaved chimp that he is.

 

If some of us had done it at OT we'd have been pelted with Malaysian cameraphones and then torn apart in the media for causing trouble...

 

Another great write up. Nice to lose a game and for it to be cause for analysis rather than the harbinger of Armaggeddon, if only a few more people had that knack for perspective.

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It's always nice to read your reports, Dave, as it puts thing into perspective ...

 

It could indeed be a blessing in disguise as there is still a long way from topping the league again, and we should not expect too much too soon !

 

I wanted us to win, just to finish as high as possible, but I also hate the EL, and I'm afraid we may be playing it again as I definitely see Spurs loosing vs Brummies who 'll be fighting not to go down ....

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Good, balanced report. There wasn't much in it really, and their defence was surprisingly good, so no cause for alarm. Then there is also the potential benefit of missing out on the B-league of Europe..

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Agreed with the thing about Carroll and our style of play. I just read the piece in the fanzine about Tony Hately and I hope he (Carroll)'s not this generation's Tony Hately.

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