Liverpool presented themselves with Reina, Carragher (Capt), Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Degen, Mascherano, Lucas, Aquilani and Kuyt. On the bench: Cavalieri, Babel, Maxi, Ngog, Spearing, Darby and Pacheco. The Reds therefore opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Aquilani as a support for Kuyt (being the lone striker). The Reds came into this match with an impressive record against Spurs with 62 wins, 37 defeats and 34 draws. Referee was Howard Webb.
Spurs chose the Kop end to start play and that is where we would attack in the first half. Tottenham came into this match with 5 consecutive clean sheets, but this record was destined not to go any further as after the initial settling in skirmishes, Aquilani and Kuyt combined well, and the Dutchman let fly from outside the penalty area to beat Gomez. It was the 6th minute and the Reds were 1-0.
The Reds looked very enterprising but still could not construct a sequence of passes. Aquilani became more enterprising and delighted the Anfield crowd with some sublime touches. Kuyt got a little cut on the head in the 13th minute and in the first 15 minutes play was evenly distributed with 50/50 share of ball possession. Riera and Degen did not seem to make most of the width in the first half and Degen at times seemed very much like a headless chicken. The swiss international then got some physical abuse from Jenas (booked on 26th) and Bale (booked on 32nd). This last foul initiated a touchline debate between 4th official Andre’ Marriner, Rednapp, Jordan, Rafa and Sammy Lee.
On 39th minute Mascherano committed a tactical foul clipping Crouch’s foot to stop what seemed to be a dangerous Spurs onslaught. They were in fact in numerical superiority so the ensuing yellow card was justified in the end. Liverpool ended the first half mostly in Spurs side of the pitch and created chances coming very close with Kuyt and Skrtel from a corner. Webb awarded 4 extra minutes of play and Modric came close on a mistake from Riera, but Reina rose to the occasion and saved brilliantly.
First half was over with Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Carragher and Reina being a notch above the rest. Degen was a bit disappointing and did not make the most of the occasions that came his way. Five goal attempts for the Reds against 2 from the visitors, and all now everyone looking forward to Maxi’s Anfield debut in the second half.
The second half started with a huge scare as Reina got caught in possession by Defoe who quickly turned the ball into the Liverpool net. The goal was disallowed as the linesman had signaled an earlier offside possession for the England international. It did seem a bit puzzling though! On 50th min Palacios was booked for a foul on Lucas and a minute later Riera rose to hit the cross bar from an excellent Aquilani/Carragher combination which produced an excellent cross. After this episode, Spurs started slowly building a head of steam culminating in a powerful effort from Jenas turned away to a corner by Reina.
Hutton came on for Corluka on minute 61 in a straight swap. Three minutes later ex-Red meteor Robbie Keane came on for Krancjar but never really got into the game. On 65th Kuyt produced a fantastic run from the half way line passing the ball to the totally unmarked Degen who, face to face with Gomez, chose to cross the ball across the penalty area to Kuyt surprise. This was a good opportunity to bury the game.
On 71st Aquilani swerved in a freekick which was chipped onwards by Degen giving Kuyt a clear opportunity at goal which the Dutchman did make the most of. The Reds now had the upper hand again and were creating chances, the next coming from a venomous strike from Albert Riera that swerved away from Gomez’s top right corner at the last moment. Close shave! On 78th David Ngog came on for Aquilani and Liverpool immediately seemed to have a more positive attacking perspective, with the young Frenchmen giving the Tottenham back four a hard time from the first minute, what an inspired substitution it would prove to be. Two minutes later Maxi Rodriguez made his Anfield debut coming on for Albert Riera, while Rednapp sent Bassong in for King to counter Ngog’s agility, but this was not an inspired change for Spurs. Lucas was yellow carded on the 81st minute (does he play the next game?) after a dozen or so misdemeanors.
Ngog chased all the balls he was close to, at one point slipping through two Spurs defenders and unleashing a strike at goal that Gomez turned away superbly. On and around the 85th minute there seemed to be an eerie mood at Anfield in anticipation of a possible last minute drama, but on 87th Kyrgiakos (in blatant offside) fired a point blank shot at goal that Gomez again saved.
On the 90th minute and with 6 added minutes to play, Darby made his PL debut coming on for Degen, and barely 30 seconds later Ngog sprinter towards goal and was brought down by Bassong. Penalty! Kuyt stepped up, and smashed the ball in the top left corner. Webb ordered a retake for encroachment. Kuyt stepped upa again and smashed it in the right corner. Liverpool 2 Spurs 0. Game over!
Not a vintage Liverpool performance, but one thing’s for sure. There was definitely commitment and belief, and loads and loads of passion.
There were a lot of positive points here. We are now just one point behind Spurs and definitely much closer to the coveted 4th spot. We kept a clean sheet. We increased out tally to 63 wins on Spurs. Aquilani was brilliant, Kuyt best game we’ve seen from him in ages. Kyrgiakos eliminated Crouch and was flawless the whole 101 minutes. Skrtel dominated Defoe and Carragher was our captain fantastic for the day. Riera is getting back to top form and had a good return.
A special mention for Degen! The lad ran his socks off, sometimes even resembling a headless chicken. His missed open goal opportunity was even hilarious! The lad did his best, but he did not seem too convincing.
Overall a positive performance, and three points in the bag, and what three points they may prove to be!