Liverpool kicked off their start to the season with a defeat at White Hart Lane today. It was a game that had its fair share of talking points but also a game that the Liverpool players will look back on and know that they have to do better when they take on Stoke at Anfield this coming Wednesday.
Rafa Benitez had to wait on the fitness of his captain Steven Gerrard, before the kick off. He was passed fit to play hours before the game and it was Steven Gerrard who got Liverpools only goal of this fixture.
The game kicked off and at first it seemed like a cagey affair where both teams struggled to cause any real danger. But as the time passed, it was Spurs who started to test Pepe Reina’s resolve.
Former Liverpool forward Robbie Keane had three very good chances to open the scoring for the home side, but Pepe Reina was determined to deny any joy for the irishman and made some excellent stops.
It was apparent that there wasn’t much communication between the Liverpool players as Spurs continued to press and this resulted in one incident where Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher collided after going for the same ball. Skrtel was eventually subbed with a jaw injury and Carragher soldiered on with 12 staples in his forehead, thanks to this collision.
Liverpool just couldn’t get any real attacking move going as the first half progressed and this inevitably invited pressure around the Liverpool box.
One minute before the break, Skrtel brought Wilson Palacios down outside the Liverpool box and Spurs were awarded a free kick. The resulting free kick was a poor one that rebounded off the Liverpool wall. But Benoit Assuo-Ekotto was waiting to get possession of the ball and he made certain of his shot which flew into the top left corner of the goal past the helpless Reina. 1-0 to Spurs.
Liverpool came out in the second half with a bit more determination, but unfortunately not the crisp passing we all know the Liverpool players can display. The game was certainly taking on a more open approach as both sides increased the tempo.
Gerrard had an attempt which just fizzed wide left of the post. But in the 56th minute, Glen Johnson, making his league debut for the reds, made an excellent determined run with the ball into the Spurs box and was brought down by Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes. It was a decision not even ‘I don’t award pens to Liverpool’ referee Phil Dowd could deny and the reds were awarded a penalty. Steven Gerrard stepped up and placed the ball dead centre into the net. 1-1.
The excellent traveling reds fans’ joy was short lived though as three minutes later, Liverpool were hit with a sucker punch.
Jermaine Defoe got the advantage of Jamie Carragher but the Liverpool defender blocked off the run of the Spurs forward, just outside the right of the Liverpool box. A free kick was awarded and Luca Modric floated in the cross. Spurs debutant Sebastien Bassong was on hand to outjump the Liverpool defenders and head the ball home past Pepe Reina. 2-1 to Spurs.
Liverpool were clearly lacking the inventiveness in the final third, no matter how much they tried to put pressure on the Spurs defence. In the 67th minute Yossi Benayoun was introduced from the bench at the expense of a disappointing Ryan Babel. Suddenly, Liverpool looked a lot more dangerous with the help of the tricky Israeli.
But it was too little too late. Glen Johnson, not for the first time in the match, crossed in an excellent ball from the right wing to Fernando Torres, but the Liverpool striker could only head wide.
In the 79th minute Andriy Voronin replaced Dirk Kuyt and not long after Voronin was denied an obvious foul in the Spurs box. But referee Phil Dowd waved away the claims from the Liverpool players – something he seemingly likes to do when he referees a game involving the reds.
Minutes later there was another call for a Liverpool penalty when Assou-Ekotto seemed to handle the ball in the box.
Rafa Benitez and his staff were understandably angered and frustrated by these decisions. And moments later, it resulted in Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee being sent off from the bench.
Maybe the pens should have been justified, but the influence on the result they would have had if they had been converted into goals, possibly wouldn’t have been justified. Some will argue that Liverpool didn’t deserve anything from this game. But then some will say that decisions can go against you unfairly at times.
Certainly a bad day at the office for the reds. Thankfully it was the first day of the season rather than the last. There’s still a lot of time left to put things right. But we’ve got to improve our football if we want to win trophies this season.
Post Match Comments
I think everybody could see, especially the challenge on Voronin. It was so clear. You could maybe say the second incident was ball to hand, but the first one was clear. We didn’t play well, especially the first half, but we were much better in the second half.
We pushed harder and had more options in the final third, but clearly we have to improve if we want to win these kind of games.
We have to improve in the middle and keep the ball more and pass it better. The understanding has to be better. As a team we were not comfortable in possession in the first half.
We were playing against a good team so we knew we needed to play well. We didn’t but we have another game on Wednesday against Stoke and we have to improve.
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel (Ayala 75), Johnson, Babel (Benayoun 67), Mascherano, Leiva, Kuyt (Voronin 79), Gerrard (captain), Torres.
Subs not used: Cavalieri, Spearing, Kelly, Dossena
Goals: Gerrard 56
Tottenham: Gomes, Assou-Ekotto, King, Bassong, Corluka, Modric (O’Hara 83), Huddlestone, Palacios, Lennon, Defoe (Pavlyuchenko 92), Keane (captain)(Crouch 67).
Subs not used: Gudicini, Bentley, Naughton, Hutton
Goals: Assou-Ekotto 44, Bassong 59
Ref: Phil Dowd