Liverpool 0 Tottenham 0, and if we’re anywhere near honest with ourselves, not the result we expected. Given Liverpool’s recent resurgence, Tottenham’s lengthy injury list and Harry Redknapp’s personal difficulties, noone would have been surprised if the home side had run out comfortable winners. Sadly for the Liverpool faithful, who were expecting an inspirational return of the suspended Luis Suarez quite distinct from a wild kick at Scott Parker which earned him a yellow card soon after entering the fray, it wasn’t to be and they were left to be mighty thankful that Gareth Bale failed to put away a golden chance that would have left them, undeservedly, with nothing at all. But that is the stuff of match reports. This particular review is more about this new Tottenham, who turned up at Anfield without their manager, missing Aaron Lennon, Younes Kaboul, Rafael Van der Vaart, Sandro and Jermaine Defoe and with a bench bordering on the unknown.
For this new Tottenham, the mission was clear: Win if you can, but do not lose under any circumstances. Even the pre-match huddle seemed to take on new intensity before Spurs set out their stall and went quietly about their business. Much was expected of them, the press daintily ignoring the fact that they were without several key players and anticipating a goalfest from the two in form sides in the Premiership, but only one winner. The game itself turned out to be somewhat disappointing and wasn’t much of a spectacle, but there was a revelation on hand. The Spurs fans and the press discovered, though there has been little mention made of it yet, that this new Tottenham is not just about flowing, attacking football, incisive passing and pure entertainment. Unlike so many Spurs sides of the past, this new Tottenham is also about team spirit and character which, when the need arises, results in cooperative defending and a resilience which had always proved to be out of reach of its predecessors.
Liverpool had a point to prove, eager to avenge the 4-0 roasting they had received at White Hart Lane and wanted a perfect return for Luis Suarez. They got neither, even though they did manage to subdue a recently rampant Gareth Bale, the always influential Luka Modric and the ever threatening Emmanuel Adebayor. However, they could do nothing about Scott Parker, who turned in a heroic performance, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, who won every tackle he went in for, the youngsters Jake Livermore and Kyle Walker or even Niko Kranjcar, who defended as we’ve never seen him defend before. There were indeed some moments of panic, especially after Suarez made his much awaited return, but Tottenham sides of old would have folded. This one didn’t. This one seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. Liverpool’s desperation grew and they threw more men forward without ever really threatening, creating little more than half-chances and a couple of hopeful digs at goal from distance. In fact it was Spurs who created the clearest chance of the match. Bale missed, but through it all, Brad Friedel remained unbeaten, a couple of good saves adding to his growing reputation among the visitor’s faithful. In the first half, the Spurs keeper touched the ball with his hands a mere seven times and only once was called upon to make a save.
This was very much a point earned, even if in unspectacular style. It’s a point which keeps Tottenham seven points clear in third place and on course for automatic Champion’s League qualification. For all of Liverpool’s huffing and puffing, Spurs still enjoyed 48% of the possession and their house remains very much intact. There is a familiar expression around White Hart Lane: “We’ve got our Tottenham back”, which is used when Spurs are on a great run, but equally in ironic fashion when things are going wrong. Perhaps the ironic version is finally a thing of the past.
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