06 February 2012

Liverpool 0-0 Tottenham

Spurs played for a scoreless draw, Spurs got their scoreless draw.

While Liverpool's attackers could and should have done more, Tottenham's defending merited the scoreless draw. King and Dawson were outstanding, with Parker almost as important. After a paucity of clear cut chances for both sides, each could have scored the winner in the last five minutes, with Friedel and Reina making huge saves on Bale and Suarez.

The narrative will remain the same. Liverpool outplayed a top-three side at Anfield but come away with a draw, the eighth time (out of 12 matches) the score's ended level on Liverpool's ground. Liverpool "dominated," but Liverpool couldn't score. At least this time, more credit goes to the opposition than Liverpool's never-ending wastefulness.

Having lost the last two matches against Tottenham after conceding in the first 10 minutes, Liverpool played it safe to start the match, more focused on keeping possession and setting the tempo rather than an all-out attack, the usual house-afire start. Each keeper was tested exactly once in the first half: Reina claimed Kranjcar's shot from distance in the 32nd, Friedel parried Johnson's blast in stoppage time. Otherwise, opportunities were few and far between at best; Spearing hammered a shot wide, Reina easily claimed an audacious flick from Bale. That's about it.

Given how effortlessly Spurs' midfield has overrun Liverpool's in the last two meetings, whether Liverpool played with two or three central midfielders, a first half with Liverpool on top even if not threatening is progress. Yes, Carroll was isolated and rarely looked like scoring, with both Kuyt and Bellamy just as focused on defensive duties, but the striker's growing confidence clearly improved his touch. And yes, Liverpool were still crossing to little or no effect far too often, as in the first half against Wolves. But having established control, you'd expect Liverpool to push on in the second half, again, as against Wolves. No such luck.

I hate referencing my own often-incorrect analysis, but as written here and here, among others, Liverpool's attack remains far too dependent on crossing. Liverpool attempted 23 crosses in total, with just 4 successful. Which is less than previous worst offenses (43 attempted in the draw against Blackburn for starters), but still too many with the tactic almost wholly unsuccessful today.

The home side had four decent chances to take the lead in the second half – clearly not enough, but bear with me. Just one came from a cross: Carroll, proving his right foot is just for standing, blasted over in the 75th after Kelly's cross fortunately fell in his direction. Otherwise, Kelly's swirling shot from distance in the 59th required a diving save at the near post, Suarez headed Gerrard's free kick straight at Friedel in the 86th, and the same player had two shots blocked after a Carroll flick-on in the 90th following Gerrard's long-range ball over the top. No matter Carroll's supposed strengths, Liverpool cannot play so one-dimensionally, especially when the likes of King and Dawson thrive on defending crosses. There needs to be a Plan B. Even with Suarez coming on for 25 minutes, replacing Kuyt (followed by Downing for Bellamy in the 72nd), there was no Plan B.

Make no mistake, the aforementioned King (who somehow always manages to be fit for Liverpool matches) and Dawson were crucial. At the same time, Tottenham made 25 interceptions in its own half, and importantly blocked seven of Liverpool's 17 shots (four on target, six off target). Walker also did excellently on both Bellamy and Downing. Tottenham barely threatened on the break; Bale nearly snatched an unjust winner with a clever onside run in the 85th, foiled by excellent keeping from Reina and a scrambled clearance, while the same player put a shot wide after charging forward 10 minutes earlier. But a Spurs goal would have been icing on the cake. At Anfield, and with so many players missing, the primary objective was a draw. Mission accomplished.

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool's best players were in midfield and defense. Skrtel was man of the match again, Adebayor's shadow and a rock at the back. Johnson silenced Walker's frequent forays forward. Adam, Gerrard, and Spearing all did their parts in Liverpool's midfield improvement against an opposition that's given them fits in the past; notably, Adam was more consistent, safer in his passing and much smarter in defense.

Once again, it's the attack that let Liverpool down. Even crediting Spurs' near-immaculate defending, that's a very tough sentence to write yet another time.


cybersix said...

I think next transfer, finding another good and skilfull striker is a must.

Our winger not creative enough.

Suarez cannot score goal becoz he was busy creating chances upfront because his partner not as creative as him. If we get another skilfull striker, I bet Suarez can score more.

Glen, good job filling left back position.Good defensively and play naturally although he cannot go forward often.

Anonymous said...

this will be the score when carroll plays. end of story.