THFC1882’s Stuart Watts presents guest writer Ciaran Griggs match report of Sunday’s game:
“Can we play you every week”
Spurs: Friedel, Walker, King (Bassong 83), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Bale, Parker, Modric, Kranjcar (Van der Vaart 45), Defoe (Giovanni 83), Adebayor
Liverpool: Reina, Skrtel, Agger (Coates 27), Carragher, Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Downing (Spearing 70), Carroll, Suarez (Bellamy 70)
Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? So much so that I’m struggling to understand how it’s already late on Sunday evening. Didn’t I just get out of bed to go and catch my replacement bus service and two trains to make my season debut at our spiritual footballing home, White Hart Lane? Perhaps this introduction is giving away my thoughts on the game, but it deserves a much more in-depth treatment than this, so here goes.
Coming into the match, Spurs fans were cautiously optimistic. They had won and kept a clean sheet away to Wolves, with both the new signings involved in the goals and a good all-round performance. Ledley had returned to mastermind our defence and Luka was beginning to look like he was interested and motivated again, with the transfer window a, thankfully, distant memory. Liverpool fans also had reason to be cautiously optimistic, with a decent start to the season and £100m worth of new talent (all purchased in 2011) in the starting line-up. Carroll, Suarez, Henderson, Downing and Enrique are the beginning of the Kenny Dalglish rebuild and speaking to Liverpool fans, they enjoy the way that the team is beginning to shape up.
This Spurs fan was hoping to see the winning line-up from Wolves remain, and with the sun shining on my way to the Lane, my optimism was rewarded with Harry dealing out an unchanged side with Bale reverted to his true home on the left wing. Van der Vaart wasn’t quite 100% following his 2-week recovery from a hamstring strain so started the game on the bench.
Spurs started the game strongly with crisp passing and excellent movement opening Liverpool up again and again. We were unlucky not to go ahead within the first 5 minutes as an excellent move was almost finished by Adebayor from 12 yards out, his poked shot drifting just wide of Reina’s right-hand post. The fans didn’t have to wait much longer than that for a goal. Modric, often maligned for his goal-scoring record, picked up a rebound on the left edge of the D and hit a beautifully curled right-foot shot past a stranded Reina. Modric celebrated like a Spurs-man reborn and the fans reciprocated energetically.
Over the next few minutes, Liverpool had the occasional foray into Spurs territory but with Parker patrolling ahead of the defence magnificently, very little room was left for Adam and Lucas and Liverpool were largely contained. Spurs continued to slice Liverpool open with Bale in particular enjoying vast amounts of open space behind an isolated Skrtel, space which Modric was able to unerringly find on numerous occasions. Both Adam and Skrtel were booked early on for clumsy attempts to stop Bale’s marauding runs.
Having been thoroughly outplayed, Liverpool should have been looking to hunker down, regroup and get back into the game. Instead, 2 incidents in 2 minutes deepened their woes. On 27 minutes, a clearly distressed Agger was substituted, with new signing Coates on to replace him at centre-half. Coates name was greeted by a chorus of “Who?” from Spurs fans. The fans and players alike could sense a Liverpool side for the taking.
Compounding their woes a minute later, Adam was sent off for a second yellow card after a nasty high tackle, contacting Parker well above the knee. Adam was lucky to avoid a straight red card and will now have to make his annual public apology for recklessly damaging a Spurs player. The remainder of the half was dominated by Spurs playing neat possession football but without creating more genuine chances. The evidently frustrated Suarez was booked just before half-time for making some rather rude gestures to the home fans, I’ll leave the description to just that, so as not to offend…
The second half began with Van der Vaart replacing the quiet Kranjcar on the right-hand side, resulting in a generally narrower side for Spurs for much of the remainder of the match. Spurs had plenty of the football without threatening a second goal for the first 15 minutes of the second period. Adebayor continued to look lively and Walker and Assou-Ekotto started to become more involved in the general play. Liverpool on the other hand looked demoralised. If some of the away fans hoped for a comeback, this hope was crushed on the hour mark when Skrtel rashly went through the back of Bale, earning a second yellow for him and a second red for the team. 9 men now, you could almost see the Spurs players licking their lips.
Sure enough, 5 minutes later, Spurs extended their lead with Defoe rasping a shot low to Reina’s left after receiving the ball with his back to goal and neatly spinning Enrique. Spurs heaped further misery on Liverpool 2 minutes later when the excellent Adebayor showed great anticipation to follow up after Reina had spilled Defoe’s powerful shot from outside the box, tucking in from short range.
Spurs fans wanted more goals and were duly rewarded in the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Adebayor brought down a cross from the excellent Assou-Ekotto before extending a right-foot to push the ball past Reina, stuck on his line after Carragher had failed to hold his line, playing Adebayor onside.
4-0 was a fair reflection on a game where an energetic, tactically adept Spurs side dominated against the Liverpool team and for the record, Spurs dominated against not only 9 and 10 men but for nearly 30 minutes against the full 11 that Liverpool started the game with. This was an emphatic message of intent from Spurs. The new signings have slotted in quickly and Spurs have scored 6 goals without response in the last 2 Premier League matches. So for tonight, let’s forget any discussions of managers or signings and instead focus on an excellent performance. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading news stories tomorrows containing the words “Spurs are genuine contenders for CL football again”. Are you?
Ciaran Griggs ( @LordFIMM on Twitter )