A repeat of last seasonâ€™s result but a totally different game as this time out we were the team dominating from the off. Liverpool brought their disappointing preseason form to WHL and could easily have been more than the one goal down at half time. The fact that it was only one nil was down to two good saves by Reina from Robbie Keane. Add these to a skied volley from 18 yards and the IrishmanÂ could perhaps have been looking back on a first half hat-trick as he snuggles under his This Is Anfield duvet tonight.Â
Against most peopleâ€™s expectations I think itâ€™s fair to say, Redknapp started with the pocket strike force of Defoe and Robbie. Given our experience in the corresponding fixture last season of not being able to get a sniff of the ball in midfield and having to hoof it forward to make any ground this seemed a bit of a strange one, after all isnâ€™t making the ball stick up front why we bought Crouch? Stand Defoe on Robbieâ€™s shoulders and get Lennon and Modric to clamber up as well and the whole combined height of our front four would barely stretch from Peterâ€™s toenails to the tip of his stylishly ruffled hair. Looking at the man mountains in the Scouse backline I feared for our team of brave pygmies but as it turned out, I neednâ€™t have.Â
Following the rapturous minuteâ€™s applause for Bobby Robson the game got off to a slow start as we began respectfully and Liverpool sluggishly. My initial thoughts were that this was a cunning tactic of theirs to make us do most of the running in the heat but in fact they were just crap. As we know Jamie Carragher saves most of his comedy moments for games against us and he pulled out a corker this time by going up for a header with Martin Skrtel after Jermain Defoe had given up the ghost and smashing his forehead into the jaw of his teammate. Our Jamie went off to get a Terry Butcher bandage and Skrtel some painkillers.Â
It was around this point that we started to realise that something was amiss with our much vaunted foes. Where was the rampaging Gerrard, the darting quicksilver Torres the metronome passing of Alonso? (Oh no, hang on.) Palacios was dominating in the middle, Huddlestone pinging the ball about a bit quicker, Modric was finding a bit of space and Corluka and Lennon were forcing Babel and Insua back into their own box on a regular basis. Now, in the space of ten minutes, we had the trio of Keane chances. First a clear header from about six yards that Reina saved well but Robbie should have buried, then a one on one with the keeper after Luka again made the opportunity â€“ this time Reina got a paw to Keaneâ€™s attempted cheeky chip. Finally after another bit of pressure big Tom found our skipper with an excellent header but Robbie got completely under his volley and over it went.Â
Hearts sank, we needed to make this spell count as surely Liverpool couldnâ€™t be this limp in the second forty five. But then, the awesome Palacios was tripped in front of goal. Going for subtlety rather than power (why?) Huddlestoneâ€™s free kick rebounded off the wall back to Assou-Ekotto who brought the ball down with one touch and absolutely smacked it into the top corner with his next. BAEâ€™s first Spurs goal and the new man destined to be followed by cries of â€˜shooootâ€™ whenever heâ€™s in range. He was 40/1 to get the first goal today.Â
Half time came and went and Liverpool looked marginally livelier. Their fans had started the match in great voice but as it became clear that things werenâ€™t going to plan soon fell into collective slumber. With about half an hour left they woke up for a while when Gerrard ignored the chants of â€˜self defence, youâ€™re havinâ€™ a laughâ€™ and thumped home a penalty. Glenn Johnson had broken into the box past a dithering Huddlestone and perhaps bored by his inactivity, the Octopus tried to thrust a tentacle out to touch the ball away from the full backâ€™s feet but instead only brought him down. Gerrard celebrated his goal with comic theatricality.
â€œHere we go againâ€ was the thought of the majority of the Spurs fans Iâ€™m sure but we counted without the dramatic intervention of a new hero. Within a couple of minutes of the equaliser, Luka Modric curled in a free kick and new boy Sebastien Bassong put the polish on an accomplished debut by burying a textbook header past Reina and into his top corner.Â
The Liverpool fans plumped up their pillows and their team went back into its shell. Reina blocked a long range Robbie shot but that was the end ofÂ Keaneâ€™s contribution as he went off suffering from the after effects of one of the many crunching tackles that were appearing all over the pitch. Peter Crouch came on for his Spurs debut and we spent the rest of the game hoofing towards the big feller rather than carrying on with what had served us so well thus far. Liverpool brought on Benayoun and actually started to look dangerous though the end result of their attacks were generally desperate penalty appeals rather than efforts on goal. After Voronin came off second best to Assou-Ekotto in the box Sammy Lee was ordered to the changing rooms for his own good before his head exploded.Â
So there you go. An excellent win to begin the campaign. The back four started where they left off at the end of last season with Corluka especially dominant down the right. Assou-Ekotto coped extremely well with Kuyt and Johnson given how little help he gets from Modric in front of him and King and Bassong kept Torres under wraps all afternoon, to the point where he was having girly hissy fits whenever a flag or whistle went against him. Gerrard found room occasionally but was even more of a one man band than usual.
Hull City on Wednesday and presumably the team will suffer a bit of a shake-up due to Ledleyâ€™s knee and maybe Robbieâ€™s foot injury. Weâ€™ll be confident if nothing else.
By Mick Faldo
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