30 December 2006

Liverpool 1-0 Tottenham

Well, that was nerve-wracking to say the least. Enjoyable to watch to be sure (especially for a game with only one goal in it), and not only because of the victory, but nerve-wracking nonetheless. It was a good advertisement for the English game; the match was close all the way, end-to-end soccer with chances for both sides, and all with the standard inclement (exceptionally inclement) British weather.

Liverpool deserved the win today, but Tottenham must feel hard done by. The first half went well for Liverpool; they bossed possession, had a couple of good chances with Kuyt narrowly shooting wide and Robinson making two saves on Bellamy, and looked fluid despite the conditions. At the stroke of halftime, Zokora gave the ball away, Kuyt flicked on brilliantly to Gerrard, whose mishit ball fell kindly to Garcia.

Partly thanks to a hamstring injury to Bellamy which saw him off right after the restart and partly due to better Tottenham play (mainly inspired by Berbatov coming on as a sub), Liverpool was on the back foot for most of the second half and invited Tottenham on to them. They still looked dangerous on the counter attack until the end, but Tottenham was the better team. The biggest threat to Liverpool’s goal was Berbatov’s smart run and cross that forced Finnan to unknowingly head the ball onto the crossbar, but Hossam Ghaly also missed two decent chances.

Pleased with pretty much everyone’s performance today. Both Kuyt and Bellamy worked hard despite not scoring, threatening the Tottenham back line (which is surprisingly quick) throughout. Garcia was classy the entire game, looking threatening wherever he popped up (left wing, right wing, as a supporting striker after Crouch came on), keeping possession better than expected, and with a very composed finish on his goal. Aurelio, who received his first start since October, never looked out of depth despite this being a difficult game in a new league in conditions not usually experienced by Brazilians. The defense bent but never broke, with Carragher standing out with some excellent last-ditch tackles and winning everything in the air. All in all, there was a lot to be pleased about.

An away win is always welcome. An away win at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham was unbeaten in 12 matches, is even better, any way that you come by it. It was marginally worrying to see Spurs put so much pressure on Liverpool late, but with how difficult it has been to play at White Hart Lane and Liverpool’s difficulty beating good sides away from home, it had to be expected. On paper, this may have been the most difficult away fixture left in the league; Liverpool has already been to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, Goodison Park and Reebok Stadium. That bodes well for the second half of the season.

MOM: Carragher, with Garcia running close

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