Wednesday 27th August 2003 (8pm)
Anfield, Liverpool

Houllier can only look on

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After this game: Pos 15th Pl 3 Pts 2
MATCH REPORT - Liverpool 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

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Liverpool were stung enough by criticism to go for the attacking option against Tottenham but they still finished bitterly frustrated at Anfield.

A second goalless draw in four days left them with just two points and one goal from their opening three Barclaycard Premiership games.

Boss Gerard Houllier might say he is not bothered by the critics, but he clearly set out to show the attacking side of his Anfield squad.

But in the end he could not legislate for a poor display by Michael Owen and only fleeting flashes from Harry Kewell.

Spurs secured their point with a solid team shape, good organisation and a refusal to buckle when Liverpool's attacking flow threatened to overpower them.

Liverpool brought in Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros, El Hadji Diouf was retained in a midfield that included Harry Kewell in a free role with Danny Murphy dropped.

Houllier was missing the injured Emile Heskey and Stephane Henchoz, and that meant playing Igor Biscan in the centre of defence, giving adventurous full-back Steve Finnan his full debut and switching Jamie Carragher from right to left-back. John Arne Riise was also left out.

It was a refreshing change with the accent on mobility, pace and neat, accurate passing.

But Spurs had their moments. Helder Postiga flashed a 25-yard effort over and youngster Rohan Ricketts popped up unmarked on the corner of the box to force Jerzy Dudek into a plunging save, palming the ball out for Stephen Carr to drive the rebound wide of the far post.

Dudek was again in action on 20 minutes when he had to hurl himself to his left again to push a Postiga shot wide of the post.

And only the swift intervention of Kewell forced Anthony Gardner to shoot wide when the corner was not cleared properly.

But Liverpool slowly got into their stride. Smicer flashed a drive over and a flying break from defence by Kewell almost caught Spurs cold, with Smicer's edge-of-the-box drive from the Australian's pass dipping inches over the top.

Dean Richards, Jamie Redknapp and Carr were all booked in the first half as they fought to contain a Liverpool side growing in confidence and relishing its new found freedom.

As if to underline Liverpool's new intent, there was the remarkable sight of a home central defender, Biscan, charging out of defence with the ball, linking with Baros and racing on into the box looking for the return, which almost reached him.

Smicer showed instantly after the break that the policy was still attack. He won possession on the edge of the centre circle, brushed past two tackles and forced Kasey Keller into a diving save from the edge of the box.

The danger for Liverpool was being caught on the break as they sought to turn their positive approach into goals.

Such a break cost Finnan a 49th-minute booking when he tripped Mauricio Taricco as the full-back threatened to storm away.

Liverpool then had a goal disallowed on 53 minutes when Sami Hyypia climbed to head home a Diouf corner, but was rightly penalised for pushing.

Ledley King was the next Spurs man to be booked for body-checking Baros.

A touch of frustration was now creeping into Liverpool's play as all their efforts to break Spurs down were failing. Kewell, running from deep, launched a 20 yarder high over and Steven Gerrard surged into the box to snatch at his shot and find only the side-netting.

Another Gerrard burst into the box, to meet a pass from substitute Murphy, forced Keller into an excellent save before Gardner became Spurs' fifth booking for a foul on Owen.

But in the end it was a dispirited Liverpool who finished in deep frustration.

Gerrard had two more efforts, Baros likewise, but Spurs held on for a point their organisation and commitment deserved.

Press Association

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Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Biscan, Hyypia, Carragher, Diouf, Gerrard, Kewell, Smicer (Murphy 72), Owen, Baros.

Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Diao, Riise, Le Tallec.

Booked: Diouf, Finnan.

Tottenham Keller, Gardner, Richards, King, Carr, Davies, Redknapp, Ricketts, Taricco, Zamora (Kanoute 66), Postiga (Anderton 86).

Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Bunjevcevic, Marney.

Booked: Redknapp, Richards, Carr, King, Gardner.

Att: 43,778

Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).

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BBC Sport 'Spurs frustrate Liverpool'

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Match Report filed: 27th August 2003