Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Liverpool 3 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

Premiership Match report

Tottenham were playing for a European place, Liverpool for pride and possibly to give the home fans a good sending off before the summer. At times the football from the reds was wonderfully flowing and to be fair Spurs offered little resistance in the early part of the game, considering they were still vying for a place in the newly formed Europa League. However one of the first chances came from Spurs as Ekotto struck a fierce shot at Reina, which was comfortably saved, but it gave Harry Redknapp’s men a small period of possession albeit with little to show for it. Torres then gave a display of his magic, receiving the ball virtually at the half way line he ran at the spurs side turning Jenas and Corluka, with such explosive pace, that one may have suspected he had a secret turbo charger hidden in his boots. Leaving both Spurs players looking like statues he screamed forward, unfortunately Jenas determined not to be shown up, regained ground and did enough to put Torres off and his scuffed shot was easily saved. The breakthrough came after a poor clearance by Ekotto on the edge of the Spurs penalty area, which Gerrard received and passed to Kuyt who was making a blistering run down the right wing. His perfect cross into the danger zone was met by Fernando Torres who despite being surrounded by three Tottenham players easily headed the ball past goal keeper Gomes. It hit the underside of the cross bar and in. It was his fiftieth goal for the Reds, achieving the landmark quicker then Dalglish, Rush, Aldridge, Fowler or Owen. It’s difficult not to imagine how the season would have turned out had a fit Torres been terrorising defences in every game. The goal seemed to begin the festivities with the fans, and they sang through the greatest hits: Torres, Rafa, Alonso, even Dalglish. But the biggest reception was for their soon to be departing Anfield legend: Sami Hyypia, playing his final match for the Reds.

Just before the end of the half, Spurs had their first real chance as Defoe clear on goal, left the Red backline and hoping for a flag, but offside he wasn’t. Pepe Reina ran to meet the pacey striker and must have looked like the towering ape goliath: Kong to the diminutive forward, whose attempt at a chip/shot was easily saved. The ease of how he beat the offside trap, should have set off the alarm bells, but it didn’t. Robbie Keane would profit from this later. The first half almost over gave Benayoun one last chance, but his fizzing shot didn’t dip enough to hit the target.

Liverpool have not lost a game at Anfield when they have scored first, during Benitez entire reign as manager and the statistic bode well for an attacking Liverpool. The second goal almost came as Gerrard made a surging run down the left wing flicking the ball towards Torres, but it was deflected out for a corner. Then Alonso tried two of his long range specials in quick succession, the second almost catching Gomes unawares. Through all this Tottenham almost had a breakthrough after a series of sloppy tackles gave them a free kick on the edge of the D. Bales kick was decent enough to beat the wall and Reina saved after initially spilling the shot. Liverpool now surged forward determined to score a second goal and it came after clever interplay between Gerrard, who passed to Benayoun who laid off towards Kuyt, whose shot was deflected off Hutton into the open net. It was almost three when Gerrard receiving the ball from midfield shot at goal but the angle was too acute. His shot passed Gomes, but hit the post. As the crowd demanded ‘Justice for the 96’, Gerrard almost came close again as his shot seared over the top of the goal. Then it became like goal practice as Riera’s shot scorched the post.

As the crowd persisted for Sami Hyypia to be introduced with chants of “Sami on!”, Robbie Keane found himself in acres of space and the Anfield back line wanting. The defenders looked for a flag that would never come and Keane shot the ball past Reina into the net. Keane’s goal signaled the end of Pepe Reina’s pursuit of the Golden Gloves for the fourth year running. Much to his credit, the Irish Striker, once a boy hood Liverpool fan, did not celebrate his strike. It was a gesture that brought appreciative applause from the Anfield crowd. Tottenham’s hopes that this would spark a comeback were short lived, when a defencive mix up left Gerrard with the ball who stabbed it through to a surging Benayoun. The Israeli slotted the ball low past Gomes’s right. The keeper got a little touch, but it wasn’t enough and the ball rolled into the net. It was almost four as Gerrard took a stinging free kick from 30 yards out which fizzed past the post. It was to be his last touch of the game, for an Anfield legend was about to make his final appearance. It brought the biggest reception from the Anfield crowd as the towering Finn came onto the pitch. The Hollywood ending almost came as he met an Aurelio corner, but his goal bound header was cleared by Gomes who sprawled the shot out of danger. It was the final chance of the game and a fitting end to Liverpool’s campaign and Sami Hyypia’s ten years service. Although no trophy was won, this season has brought a number of positives. It was Liverpool’s first unbeaten home programme for 21 years, with the team loosing only two matches away from home. Their 86 points tally is their highest in the Premier League, likewise their total of away wins is their highest in the Premier League and in March 2009, Reina then went on to become the quickest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to keep 100 clean sheets in all competitions. One feels that we are only a few short steps away from the biggest prize of all.

Match time and date: KO 16:00. 25 May 2009

Goals: Liverpool: Torres 31, Hutton 64 og, Benayoun 81. Tottenham Hotspur: Keane 77

Yellow cards: Tottenham Corluka.Referee: P Walton

Attendance: 43,937

Liverpool: (4-2-3-1): Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio; Alonso, Mascherano; Kuyt (Riera, 65), Gerrard (Hyypia, 86), Benayoun; Torres (Ngog, 78). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Lucas, Insua, Degan.

Tottenham Hotspur: (4-1-3-2): Gomes; Hutton, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto; Zokora; Modric, Jenas (Bentley, 39), Bale (Bent, 78); Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 69), Keane. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Gunter, Campbell, Chimbonda.

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