Spurs 2 Liverpool 1
Now wasn’t that just a perfect way to start the season? Three points, more than we accumulated in the opening eight of last season – so I reckon there's no fear of re-writing the history books this season. Two goals from defenders, both made in Cameroon. The winning one from a debutant who we all thought wouldn’t be able to play. It wasn’t a classic, but unlike last year’s 2-1 mugging of Liverpool this time round we thoroughly deserved the spoils.
First half was untidy, especially the opening 30 minutes where neither side was able to put their foot on the ball. Meaning there was plenty of scrappy play and no real attacking excitement. Credit to Harry for starting Huddlestone and more so the positioning of Tommy took up, swapping with Palacios, driving forward a number of times, taking it in turns, protecting each other’s offensive play. Got to say seeing Wilson run forward with the ball with intent has made me re-think a few things regarding our structure in the middle of the park. Wilson isn’t just going to be the brick wall between defence and the forward line. I guess it’s all about confidence. Team have belief so this allows certain players a little more freedom of expression. And as for Tom, he handled himself superbly out there. Messy game that it was in the first half hour, he never looked out of position or left wanting. Liverpool’s midfield was contained without us sacrificing too much when we began to turn the screws a little.
Robbie Keane had three decent chances. Should have scored the header, probably better off drilling his second chance low rather than attempting to chip it and for his third he had more than enough time to control look up and place it. All forgiven after the 44th minute. Where the hell did that Bennie shot come from? Last player on the pitch I expect to see power in a thunderous shot from outside the box. Well worked free-kick (wink) saw Hudd’s effort hit the wall and then Beniot Assou-Ekotto decided to show the big man how to hit the back of the net with a cracking effort that took everyone by surprise. More of that please. Brilliant finish, 1-0. Half-time. Game on.
More than obvious how the second half would pan out. Liverpool opened the game up a little by pushing forward which allowed us to counter. Bit more of the end to end stuff. Aaron went on an early mazzy run. Should have passed, and he'll learn from that. As long as Harry has a word on the training ground. One touch too many, otherwise we might have been in for number two. It’s probably too easy to start analysing the game and saying that we need someone in midfield who can kill the tempo, bring it down to a pace we control so we can conduct the play rather than soak up the pressure that Liverpool were having. Wilson and Luka will probably begin to do this as the season gathers motion.
But for all their ball hugging, Liverpool lacked the midfielder who could play a clever disguised pass or supply a creative spark to do any real damage. Well, that was until Johnson drove forward and Gomes (who was steady as you like through-out the 90 minutes) had one moment of madness, which to be fair is the type of thing most keepers are guilty of. Brings down the man, nowhere near the ball. Penalty. Stevie Me strikes it down the middle and suddenly its nails to mouth time.
This, IMO, was the moment of truth. How would we handle ourselves? Would the mentality hold strong or would we allow Liverpool to take the initiative? Took three minutes for the answer to be delivered, off the head of Sebastien Bassong. Now that’s a response. No apologetic nonsense, just get up the field and look to make amends. Up he climbed to guide the ball in from Luka’s free-kick, past Reina to make it 2-1.
Not long after that the match deteriorated with several lulls and messy periods of play, but still our midfield worked hard. Look, this was in no way a perfect performance. Some of the passing wasn’t great. Modric was stuck out on the left somewhat, and couldn’t really get a stranglehold on the game and Lennon wasn’t as industrious as we know he can be. But this was the first game of the season and it was up against Liverpool – not a great Liverpool, but still – we can’t take anything away from the grafting done.
Should Rafa's men have been given a second penalty? It’s the kind of decision that tends to go the way of the big teams. Maybe the ref got mixed up today.
We saw out the match to the very end with the usual one or two textbook moments of concern (knowing how good they are with last minute goals), but when it was over, it was three richly deserved points. Love to see the stats for this. I’d say we had far more efforts on goal than they did and far more clear cut chances. Rafa will have to stroke that beard plenty to work out how to replace the grace of Alonso.
Excellent display. Triffic job done.
- King had Torres in his pocket all day long. He's an absolute monster of a player. All this with no training and a dodgy knee.
- Bassong was assured and the goal a wonderful way to begin life at the Lane.
- Moddle was a little off the pace, but it’s the first day and his work rate was decent. It's no like he was isolated and ineffective.
- Defoe held the ball up well and Keane had a little bit of his buzz back. When he does score, he’ll probably reclaim his form, pre-Anfield nightmare.
- Lennon was contained at times, when he got away his end product (it’s the main gripe) was a little inconsistent, but we all know its where the development needs to be in his play.
- Wilson was simply exceptional. Defensively a rock and showed he can be more than useful going forward. Cracking effort on goal.
- Can’t complain too much about Gomes. Penalty aside (how often do we see keepers do this?) he had very little to do and what he did he did well.
- Huddlestone shocked me. Didn’t quite expect him to look solid in there, considering how frantic the opening 30 minutes was, especially up against a hard-working Liverpool midfield. Passed well, looked good on the ball and off it. Can’t say he did anything to frustrate me. I guess it’s kudos to having a player like Palacios lining up beside you. Hudd stepped up and did a job. Against lesser opposition he'll be able to spend a little more time threading balls and fulfilling the quarter-back role.
- BAE and Corluka also comfortable. Charlie in particular played Babel out of the game. BAE and his thunder-bolt. Stunning.
- Pav and Crouch had late cameos, but too late for them to get a foot into the game.
No real gripe other than we need to learn to how to take control of games and dictate and not sit back and invite.
I’m chuffed. Good start to the season. Squad looks to be sharp and ready for the challenge. Liverpool were disjointed, only occassional dangerous - but never easy to break down.
Well done 'arry. The next test is away at Hull. Another three please.