Liverpool (H)-Where's our European Cup?


Active Member
Feb 23, 2004
Thread starter #1
I really didn’t expect to be as nervous as I was for the game on Sunday as I made my way to White Hart Lane. Throughout the week, we had seen off the old enemy in classic Spurs style and then done an extremely-un-spurs-like-but-very-nice-and-professional-job against Werder Bremen that secured our passage through to the last 16 of the Champions League. As a result, I woke up on Sunday just assuming that we would beat them comfortably-after all, they are supposed to be rubbish now and according to reports, we wouldn’t have too many problems demolishing a rep team comprised of the Harlem Globetrotters, Brazil 1970 and the current Barcelona team, even with all of our injuries. And then reality set in-we are playing Liverpool, a club who regardless, of current form, remain one of the great footballing institutions in the world and one that we should see as at least a benchmark for success if we are truly going to bridge the gap between what we are now and what we have the potential to be in the future.

If we were in any doubt as to the remaining quality of our opposition, the frantic opening exchanges of the game made it absolutely certain that we were going to be in for a tough, but potentially memorable evening. After Modric squandered a good Kaboul-esque chance after excellent work from Lennon, we lost Van Der Vaart to a hamstring tear which will see the Dutchman sidelined for a month. In retrospect, this was bound to happen eventually; when someone has a couple of injuries and is continually rushed back to the first team, you are always liable to expose him to greater damage. Hopefully this will be a message to the staff that, whilst it might be great to have Rafa available for every game, we may need to give him a rest every now and again to avoid him returning to the injury-plagued days that he experienced at Ajax and Hamburg.

With Van Der Vaart playing off Crouch, his natural replacement was the returning and ever-sharpening Jermain Defoe who came on to a rapturous reception. Although this gave us a more familiar shape to the team that enjoyed such success last season, it did remind those inside White Hart Lane of some of the failings of such a formation, namely that with two out and out strikers we leave enormous gaps through the middle of the pitch which Liverpool were able to exploit and take control of the game. Whilst positional frailties were important, it didn’t help that Palacios had one of the worst 15 minutes I’ve ever seen performed by a professional footballer, and whilst I would never advocate and did not join in with the jeering of the Honduran when he finally completed a pass, the crowd reaction was almost understandable given the ‘exhibition’ of passing that Sergeant Wilson was treating the watching world too. Sadly, this fractious atmosphere was growing, leading to a frankly ridiculous reaction every time a Spurs player gave up possession, and our ever-improving visitors took a lead that their patience and pragmatism deserved as Martin Skrtel prodded home following a poorly defended free-kick.

The general reaction to the game in its aftermath was that Liverpool deserved something, primarily due to the chances carved out once for Maxi Rodriguez and twice for the dangerous Fernando Torres, one either side of half-time. I don’t buy into that argument one bit. Whilst it is undeniable that Liverpool managed to get into good positions far too frequently, I struggle to see how a team deserves anything from a game if they can’t really be bothered to shoot when the chances arise. Through a combination of profligacy and fantastic defending from substitute Sebastien Bassong who performed admirably after replacing Younes Kaboul, Liverpool wasted what would be their best period of the game, and were made to pay the price.

Despite wasting a number of free-kicks in the first half with unrealistic shots, we persisted with this tactic in the second period and earned a penalty a David N’gog did his best Fabre-makh impression to gift us a way back into the match. The Liverpool players protested that the handball took place outside the box, thus basically admitting to encroaching before the kick was taken, so it’s difficult to have any sympathy with the complaining visitors. However, as per usual, a Spurs penalty resulted in the opposing fans celebrating as Defoe dragged his kick wide and worsened an already embarrassing record. With regard to penalties, something HAS to be done about the way we are (not) converting them. There’s a reason that fans cheer the award of a penalty as if a goal has been scored, and that’s because it should lead to one, 100% of the time; missing 4 already before the end of November is simply not acceptable and at one point will come back to haunt us if we don’t do something about it.

In spite of this miss, the tide of the game had turned. After Bale had seen a shot cleared off the line, a moment of absolute magic from Luka Modric, who has had an outstanding month, brought us right back into the match. Having skipped past Lucas, Carragher and Glen Johnson (who will be dreading the England vs Wales match as much as anyone after being torn apart by Bale), the little Croatian teased Skrtel into adding to the almost laughable number of Liverpool own goals against us and leveled up the match. From this point there was only one possible winner, and despite a cracking drive from Mereiles, Liverpool were a spent force in attack and dropped deeper by the minute, a tactic that was seemingly punished by Defoe only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside. With the game headed for a draw, Ekotto’s long ball was flicked on by Crouch into the path of Lennon who tore past Paul Konchesky and slid the ball under the onrushing Pepe Reina to send the ground into raptures for what seems like the millionth time already this season.

At the start of the game, the Liverpool fans took great delight in enquiring about the whereabouts of our European Cup. It is impossible to deny that in terms of history we certainly have a long way to go before we can be mentioned in the same breath as the Anfield club. However, after looking at the changing fortunes of the two clubs over the past two years, we may be able to go a long way towards bridging the silverware gap that currently exists should we continue to build on the progress we are making week-by-week.