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Liverpool 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - Prem (Feb 6 2012)

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LIVERPOOL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield

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Scorer(s) –

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Anfield

Date - Mon 6 Feb 2012

Star Man – Martin Skrtel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight home draws from twelve home games now. This was probably as frustrating as any, although looking at the bigger picture a point against Spurs is far more palatable than drawing with Sunderland, Norwich, Blackburn etc. In recent meetings with Tottenham we've been distinctly second best but this time it was the Londoners on the back foot for most of the game. I guess that's progress of sorts.

 

Former red Brad Friedel wasn't stretched too much but he was certainly busier than Pepe Reina and Spurs were reliant on outstanding defensive performances from King, Dawson and Parker to keep them in this game. Overall we played well, dominated the game and should have won it. Carroll and Suarez both wasted great chances late on although Spurs will point to the Bale opportunity when he was denied by Reina and say they could have won it too. That would have been the most unjust outcome since… well since Suarez was screwed over by Evra and the FA.

 

There was only one side really trying to win the game in the end, Spurs were more than happy to hold on for a point but I don't think they set out that way, it's just how the game panned out. They probably fancied their chances prior to kick off as they've had our number recently. This was a very tough game for them though.

 

We played well and did a good job of stifling their key attacking players. We put them on the back foot and in the second half we pinned them back and made them defend, which they did superbly to be fair. Both sides can take something from this game, but Spurs will have been far happier with the point than us.

 

This is a game we've had circled in our calendar ever since Suarez was banned. It was his long awaited comeback game, and the big question was whether he'd come straight back into the side or not. Fitness wouldn't have been a major issue as he's not been injured and has therefore been training like everybody else.

 

The main considerations would probably have been the opposition and the form of Andy Carroll. The last couple of games have seen a marked upturn in the form of the big number nine. He scored at Wolves and deserved the chance to build on that by starting this game. Leaving him out and putting Suarez straight back in would have been unfair and counter productive. Carroll needs a run of games now, he's starting to look something like the player we thought we were getting a year ago and it makes sense to roll with him to see how far his improvement can take him.

 

So, could Suarez come in alongside Carroll? That's where the opposition come into it. Playing 442 against Spurs wouldn't have been a good idea in my opinion. Their midfield has dominated ours in recent encounters, so we needed an extra body in there to combat that. Suarez could have played to the right or left of Carroll in place of either Kuyt or Bellamy, but Spurs are dangerous out wide with Bale who switches flanks regularly. Both Bellamy and Kuyt are more suited to helping out the full back than Luis is.

 

So, it would have been difficult to put Suarez straight back in because of these factors and Kenny might have felt it was best to just ease him back in anyway. He started on the bench, with the rest of the side being pretty much as you'd expect it to be. Enrique was missing through injury so Kelly started at right back with Johnson moving over to the left. Not a problem, they're both good players.

 

Spearing and Gerrard were shoe ins for the midfield, the only decision to be made was whether Adam or Henderson joined them. Kenny went with Adam and I thought the Scot had a very good game. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Henderson got the nod at the weekend but it wouldn't be a reflection on Adam's performance, it's just horses for course and maybe Henderson's extra mobility and running power could be useful at Old Trafford.

 

I like Charlie Adam though, and I don't understand a lot of the criticism he's had. For the most part I think he's played pretty well, he's had some bad games too but overall he's generally been good. Yet you can sense the dissatisfaction in sections of the crowd any time he makes a mistake. Hell, it's there even when he doesn't make a mistake. There was a moment early on when he received the ball in midfield and played it back to Skrtel first time rather than taking a touch and turning with it. There was a huge groan around the stadium but had Gerrard or even Spearing done that it wouldn't have happened. There was no groaning after that, largely because he very rarely gave possession away and he did a good job closing people down without conceding the kind of fouls he is sometimes prone to.

 

Our midfield functioned efficiently, they kept the ball moving and protected the defence well. Last season Modric completely ran the game at Anfield, this time he didn't. He was still very good and he's virtually impossible to get the ball off (he's a lot like David Silva in the way he can just change direction and glide away from people trying to get close to him), but for all his silky touches his impact on the game was minimal. Adam and Spearing in particular deserve credit for that, they got through a hell of a lot of work.

 

It was a fascinating game I thought. Not a great game by any means, but it was absorbing. Both defences were tremendous and the second half especially was on a knife edge. Would we be able to make our pressure tell or would we get hit with a sucker punch? The game was in the balance right up until the end and whilst it was frustrating that we couldn't find the breakthrough, the reality is that Spurs are currently better than us so it's not a bad result. It looks worse than it is because of all the stupid points we've squandered in previous games, but taken on it's own merit there was plenty to be pleased about in this game.

 

We were just about the better side in the first half, and we were by far the better side in the second. The only major criticism I have is the lack of quality service from out wide. Dirk was absolutely brutal until he was put out of his misery late on, Bellamy got very little change out of the excellent Kyle Walker and neither full back did much in the way of delivering crosses (with one notable exception from Kelly in the 2nd half that Carroll should have buried).

 

That meant Carroll was again feeding on scraps, so it's to his credit that he still managed to put in a very good performance. In fact, I'd even go as far to say was his best display since he came here. He should have scored in the second half, but that blemish aside he was pretty much faultless throughout and did everything right.

 

Last year in this fixture Carroll couldn't win anything in the air and was completely dominated by King and Dawson. We played too many long balls on the night and it wasn't a good team performance, but Carroll was bullied by those two. This couldn't have been any more different. This was the Newcastle Andy Carroll. He won everything, whether it be flick ons, knock downs or simply bringing the ball down and laying it off. He closed defenders down with a purpose too (usually it's more of a token gesture but now he looks like he means it), and he's starting to look like the player I was so impressed with when he was at Newcastle.

 

He even looked a yard quicker I thought. Has to be down to confidence that, he no longer looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and he is winning the crowd over. Not that the crowd have ever really left him. For all his struggles the matchday crowd has been very supportive of him, which makes the Charlie Adam thing even more strange to me.

 

If only he had a cross or two to attack eh? Time and again we had the ball out wide but either didn't deliver it or put a ball in that he had no chance of getting anywhere near. You can see the frustration in him, he's constantly berating the wide men and telling them to just hang one up there for him to attack. I've got no problem with him doing that when he's playing like this, in fact I applaud him for it. His head seems more into the game now, he's playing like someone who wants to be here and prove himself. It's just a pity he didn't take the chance that came his way as regardless of how he plays, he needs goals if he's going to prove himself.

 

Our best effort of the 1st half was a 20 yarder from Spearing that went just wide. Friedel then saved with his feet to keep out a Glen Johnson effort and we wasted two free-kicks from the edge of the box. At the other end, Adebayor was well shackled by Skrtel and Agger and Bale was invisible in the first half. It's not often you see a chimp upstaged by a simple cat, but it's fair to say that the feline intruder had more of a lasting impact on the first half than Bale.

 

Statistically I believe we are the most difficult side to create chances against. I'm sure I read that somewhere anyway, and the eye test certainly backs that up. We generally don't give up many chances and Spurs found it very difficult to break us down. Most teams do, which is what made the Bolton debacle so shocking.

 

Equally, statistics also show that we're the most wasteful side in terms of chance conversion. The eye test backs that up too. This wasn't a game of many chances, but we had two great ones in the second half and wasted both. Carroll's shot over the bar from eight yards was really poor, it may have been on his weaker foot but that's still no excuse for not at least hitting the target.

 

Suarez's miss was arguably even worse, heading Gerrard's pinpoint free-kick straight into the arms of Friedel when it would have been a certain goal had he put it just a yard either side of him. They were the only clear openings we created even though we were camped in their half for long spells. Kelly forced Friedel into a save with a shot from the edge of the box, and there were other half chances that were snuffed out, usually by King or Parker getting their bodies in the way.

 

The only chance Tottenham had all night was a breakaway by Bale. He looked about three yards offside to me but the flag stayed down and he ran clear on goal. Pepe did well to stand up and then make a good save, but Bale should have buried that. He's a great player but he's an annoying twat too isn't he?

 

I haven't seen the replays yet, but it looked like he dived to try and get Agger in trouble. Agger told him what he thought of him and Bale then shoved him in the chest and was booked. The ref didn't give Bale a free-kick, so presumably he thought it was a dive. Why no yellow card for that then? He's lucky he wasn't booked for the dive and then sent off for the shove.

 

He also pissed off the fans (and Kenny) when he went down screaming after a hefty challenge by Skrtel. It was a great tackle, he won the ball cleanly but appeared to catch Bale with his follow through. The ref didn't even give a foul initially, it was seconds later when he decided to blow the whistle because Bale was rolling round like he'd been shot and their players were going mad.

 

A furious Skrtel was booked, the crowd went ballistic as Bale hobbled off only to return a few seconds later. He may have been hurt, I don't know, but there was no way he wasn't coming back on and after his earlier antics the crowd weren't giving him the benefit of the doubt. He's getting a reputation for this sort of thing sadly.

 

Scott Parker is another that could have been sent off, the 1940s looking gobshite. He was booked in the 1st half for a foul on Gerrard and got away with a couple more later on. Anyone so much as breathes on him though and he's giving it the full beans, writhing in agony and rolling around the floor. He's another who loves a bit of playacting. He looked like he'd broken his leg early in the second half as he rolled around in agony. Seconds later, miraculously he was fine.

 

He also milked that Suarez kick for all it was worth too. Being kicked in the stomach like that doesn't actually hurt much at all, but look at Parker's reaction. Embarrassing. He's the new golden boy though is 'Scotty', the London press love him, he's a proper salt of the earth, London lad, oozing that good old 'British Bulldog' spirit. I bet he loves his dear old mum too does 'Scotty'.

 

That being said, I don't know what the hell Luis was doing. I don't think he deliberately booted him as that would be stupid beyond belief, even though I accept it must be incredibly tempting to take a swing at him. I've seen the replays though and it doesn't look good at all. Kenny said Luis didn't see him, but it's not like Parker just came out of nowhere is it? He was stood in front of him the whole time, even if you're looking at the ball there's no way you can't see Parker stood there.

 

Initially I was furious with the ref for booking Suarez, but that was before I saw the replay. If he'd wanted to be a dickhead about it he could easily have sent him off and I doubt anyone outside of ourselves would have had a go at the ref for it.

 

So the yellow card was fair enough, even though it was hilarious seeing Bellamy race twenty yards to complain about it. Parker made another predictably swift recovery, but to his credit he didn't make anything of the challenge when asked by Sky afterwards, so that's something I suppose. There are plenty who would have done. I dunno, maybe I've got such a downer on Parker because I wanted us to sign him and we didn't.

 

The closing stages of the game were incredibly frustrating. We were piling on the pressure and Carroll and Suarez were both looking threatening. They linked up well a few times too, something we've not seen a great deal of to this point. Unfortunately, any time we got near the Spurs goal the referee seemed to spot some sort of infringement and awarded them a free-kick, much to the anger of the Kop.

 

For 80 minutes Michael Oliver had generally done ok I thought, but I don't know what he was doing late on. Friedel comes charging out into a ruck of players, punches the ball and then collides with Skrtel. Ref awards a free-kick. What's Skrtel supposed to do, vanish into thin air?

 

Carroll knocks one down for Suarez, he turns and has a shot that hits King (possibly on the arm, I couldn't really tell) and bounces back and hits Luis on the hand. Ref gives a free-kick. It did hit his hand, but if that's the other way around and the ball rebounds of Suarez onto King's hand, he doesn't give a pen for that in a million years, and nor should he. A lot easier to punish a striker with a free-kick than a defender with a penalty though isn't it?

 

Finally, the ball is played into Carroll who controls on his chest and the whistle is blown again. I don't even know what that was for, presumably it was either handball or backing in, either way it looked ridiculous from where I was sat. The crowd were going ballistic at this stage, it just appeared that the ref was doing everything he could to stop us scoring. Has he not watched us this season, does he not realise we're perfectly capable of messing things up ourselves?

 

The final whistle was greeted with boos, but they were for the referee and not directed at the team who generally played very well. The only player who I felt didn't perform was Dirk. Nothing he attempted came off and it was one of those days for him. A pity, as he's been much better of late.

 

I was leaning towards Carroll for the star man award but that missed chance blotted his copybook a little so I'm going for Skrtel instead. He's been our most consistent player all season and he was tremendous again in this game. Agger was very good too, and aside from some poor crossing Johnson impressed on the left. Gerrard started off brilliantly but seemed to tire in the second half, whilst both Adam and Spearing did their jobs to a good standard.

 

We should have won but once again our inability to score has proved costly. We're still only four points behind fourth spot although we've lost ground on both Newcastle and Arsenal this weekend and we have a very difficult fixture coming up next.

 

It's a game where the pressure is off us to an extent though. We're already in a cup final, we knocked them out of the FA Cup and we aren't chasing the title. Yes, we need to win to keep up in the race for fourth place, but generally there is a lot more pressure on them to win this game as a defeat has bigger repercussions for them than us. They'll be desperate to win this because of the FA Cup defeat and the Suarez factor and that puts extra pressure on them.

 

We can go there and just throw everything at them and hopefully we will. They're vulnerable if you attack them and I'd love to see Kenny go in with Suarez, Carroll and Bellamy and really try and get after them. They've got issues at the back and in the goalkeeper position, and Andy Carroll in this form could cause them all kinds of problems. Bellamy will relish it too.

 

The one worry is that Suarez may be a little bit too keen to make his mark, and if he were to boot any of their players like he did Parker I dread to think what would happen. A red card would be the least of his worries, especially if it were Evra he kicked. Can the FA authorise firing squads? That's what Ferguson would be calling for.

 

I'm sure Suarez can handle whatever their fans throw at him but he may be targeted by some of their players and he needs to be very careful. That said, I can't fucking wait for this one! Come on redmen, let's do these manc bastards!!

 

 

Team: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Gerrard, Spearing, Adam; Kuyt (Suarez), Carroll, Bellamy (Downing):

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Sound report Dave. Agree that Luis may need to 'calm down' a bit. I heard that Arry got on the wrong plane and ended up in South America (Convenient for him). A second win in Manchester this year would be great!

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If Roy were still here I'd tag "The Owl and the Pussycat".

 

Skrtel did catch Bale btw, he had a nasty little studmark over his shin, I don't know why players don't use proper shinguards these days.

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To be fair, in the situation after about 80 minutes with Friedel and Skrtel the latter came in with his studs up. I was angry about it as well, but after the replay I was happy Skrtel wasn't given a second booking.

 

Our backs and wingers need to learn how to cross a ball. I don't know and really doesn't want to know how many chances we've wasted through poor crossing this season. It's laughable now.

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Bale was easily a yard onside. Reina was excellent to brow-beat Bale into fluffing that chance. My main gripe was with our crossing; couldn't clear the first man on most occasions. Great battle between Walker and Johnson.

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I wanted to read more about the cat.

 

Agreed. I was expecting a big part about it. You need to seriously look at your report, Dave.... :whistle:

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Nice 'Scotty' Parker section. With the whole Capello thing and 'Scotty' for King campaigns it's interesting to see how the media take the facts, shred them, and present whoever their mates are with the prizes. In Italy the player with the most caps is captain. It's a good idea and seems to work a lot better than our system and might make me want to read a newspaper again if it didn't contain a load of arse about who should be England captain. Oh and Buffon the captain of Italy has 112 caps, 'Scotty' has 10.

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Great report Dave, have to say re/ us not signing Parker, you rightly say yourself, he's a good ol' Landan boy is Scott, so I think he was always going to prefer a move to Spurs if we did make an enquiry about him.

 

Also notice you didn't even mention Downing's "cameo". Bernard Diomede had more end-product than this chump.

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