Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Kuyt Meireles Lucas Maxi
Skrtel (og) 65'
Missed chances and the worst left back I've ever seen in a Liverpool kit (and I saw a lot of Djimi Traore) destroy any chance of taking something from Liverpool's best away performance this campaign. Yet another 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane, and just like in '08-09, it's after a 1-0 lead at halftime. Wonderful.
Liverpool deservedly had the advantage after 45 minutes. Maxi had a shot saved and another narrowly wide within the first 20, linking up exceptionally well with Torres. Meireles blistered Gomes' palms with a shot from distance in the 40th. Spurs were limited to few opportunities as Meireles and Lucas bossed the midfield, although Carragher had to brilliantly clear the one threatening chance off the line as Reina flapped at Modric's cross when the Croatian left Konchesky for dead. And in the 42nd, Liverpool got its just rewards when Skrtel poked in a shot following a scramble from Meireles' free kick.
But Liverpool clearly regret not extending their lead before the interval, twice through on goal in stoppage time. First, Maxi mis-controlled after Torres' lovely pass into the box, allowing Gomes to smother. Then, Torres was put through on the break, only to linger and see Bassong somehow get back. Immediately after the break, Bassong – who had come on for the injured Kaboul in the first half – replicated his heroics, again getting back to stop Torres after Lucas' excellent throughball.
But from there, Spurs upped the pressure. Unsurprisingly muted after their midweek exertions, the home side constantly threatened. For once, Liverpool under siege was down to clear improvement from the opposition instead of a steadily-retreating defense hoping to hold a narrow lead. Meireles provided Liverpool's second clearance off the line in the 52nd after Reina again flapped at a cross.
The home side should have leveled on the hour mark, given a soft penalty when Ngog raised his arms on a soft free kick, even though offense appeared outside the area on replay. Thankfully, arguably justly, Defoe missed his spot kick, hitting the outside of the post. But Spurs would equalize less than five minutes later after Modric embarrassed Carragher and Johnson, easily splitting the two, before Skrtel unfortunately turned in his cross.
Atkinson could have equaled the soft spot kick count five minutes after that when Assou-Ekotto took Kuyt out in the box, but the referee – who seemingly favored Spurs at every opportunity – waved play on as Tottenham continue to press. Defoe scuffed a shot wide, Reina saved Bale's volley after again missing a cross (although fouled, unsurprisingly uncalled), and Defoe was rightfully ruled offside after heading in following a well-worked move. Meireles' fierce left-footed shot from distance in the 84th, inches wide, was Liverpool's lone riposte, increasingly pushed back after Ngog went off with a calf injury in the 74th.
And the stomach punch came in the second minute of injury time. The backline was already unsettled by Carragher's dislocated shoulder in the 87th, replaced by Kyrgiakos. When the Greek was beaten in the air by Crouch, the flick-on caught Konchesky flat-footed for the 45th time this match, allowing Lennon to nip in for the winner. Unacceptable. Embarrassing. How Konchesky continues to draw a paycheck, let alone start, is beyond me. Liverpool would have been better served setting £5m on fire. Instead, they bought him, while shipping out Insua and two youth prospects. And that's why Liverpool's going home with no rewards for a mostly excellent display from the other 10 players.
I'd feel a lot better if we'd seen this performance a month ago. Losses are far easier to stomach when the side shows ambition. But we're getting to the point where wins are essential; the season's almost half over. Liverpool merited at least a draw, and that point would have eased the pain of conceding an unfortunate equalizer.
Meireles and Lucas were impressive throughout; they're becoming an excellent pairing. Despite the missed chances, Maxi and Torres combined promisingly. Johnson kept Bale quiet for long stretches, while Liverpool's center-backs played well despite mistakes on Spurs' opener. But one player can ruin the entire day, and however unfair it is to pick out scapegoats, Konchesky did that today.
Tactically, Liverpool were excellent, despite the inevitable Spurs pressure and the result. The team looked to play at a high tempo, press the opposition, and get forward. Liverpool created chances, fullbacks entered the opposition half, and central midfielders made runs to the edge of the box. The only blame Hodgson takes today is for buying and playing Konchesky. Sadly, that was enough.
With the loss, Liverpool remain 10th. Seven points behind 4th and seven points from last place. Despite today's improvement, this is still a mid-table side. But, hopefully, if Liverpool can replicate this form, results will follow. It's just hard to think that way after losing in such a manner.