Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1
There was a spoof Brendan Rodgers quote doing the rounds on social media post-game that was so ridiculous in content that everyone believed it to be factual. I never saw the original tweet but did see several people discussing it (so the error was to believe it was from an official source - an error often made on Twitter). The quote cited how he believed possession was more important than goals. An apologetic deflection citing 65% of the ball in Liverpool's favour, the suggestion being the better football team is the team that passed and held the ball longer. Rodgers never actually said that. Although he did bemoan penalties that were not given and diving and whatever else he could think of to hide the fact that sticking the ball into the back of the net is how teams actually win games. No point crying over nearly scoring. Would it be okay for us to cry over nearly defending better but not?
Overcomplicating possession or being completely impotent up front is not Tottenham's problem. At least it wasn't early on. We did enough to win the game in the first half and when they did score, it was an own goal. For all of the actual possession the visitors had, they really didn't do enough in and around the penalty area to make it count. Sure, 'on another day' but then when is this game ever going to play out on another day?
We even endeavoured to place hearts in mouth and invite them to attack, testing Lady Luck's appreciation of Lilywhite. Some of our defending remains nervous and disorganised. The ongoing consequence of having key players missing at the back.
Sure, we lived dangerously. Yes, the second half performance didn't match the early parts of the first half where the likes of Bale were rampant in attack. Did we sit back? Or was it simply a case of Liverpool getting a better grip on proceedings? Probably a bit of both.
Our main problem remains in central midfield. Dembele's return pivotal for the weeks ahead. The manner in which he glides past players and leads us forward has been sorely missed. What we still don't have or at least didn't yesterday was an outlet of control with our own possession. Liverpool had most of the ball whilst we struggled to retain it. When we had the ball we wasted it. Perhaps Tom Carroll should have been considered for Dempsey rather than Siggurdsson. Then again the physicality of Liverpool might have seen Tom battered around the pitch but Sandro and Dembele would have offered plenty of protection.
For all our attacking intent if we surrender the ball in the middle of the park we're going to continue to invite that pressure. Up front Defoe was a passenger, hardly involved at all (8 passes) meaning there was little support with him dropping deep to aid the midfield. Outnumbered. Luckily we have something in abundance that Liverpool don't - match winners.
That Bale run, powering into the penalty area to assist Lennon for the opener was majestic. Bale made it 2-0 from a free-kick. Slight deflection or bend regardless...we scored from a set-piece. Rejoice! After that, we faded gradually and completely once into the depths of the second half. Villas-Boas refreshingly honest saying a draw would have been a fair result. He knows we got lucky. Liverpool had chances, a fair few, all wasted until an attempted Lennon clearance smacked Bale in the face and went it. Jamie Carragher must have been jealous of the finish.
Up to 5th spot, three points off third place. Seven wins out of eleven Premier League games. Not bad for a side with several key players out, one available striker, no classic 'playmaker' to aid with possession and creativity. Demblele will help us immensely in the coming weeks in turning our midfield into a more bullish proposition but we still need someone to stick their boot on the ball and dictate the tempo. We can't afford to give an opposing side so much time on the ball. We have to recycle possession with confidence and not give it away so cheaply.
Other thoughts: Suarez involved but not clinical. Dawson and Gallas (he's 35 years old) hardly error free with Lloris always alert and off his line (be it very early and too far out on one occasion where Henderson fluffed it wide). Bale yellow carded for a dive when it looked like a foul but probably given for the dramatics of the fall itself. Lennon continues to impress, he's having a fine season going forward and tracking back. Walker is beginning to improve with each game, kept them quiet down the flank and his goal-line clearance was fantastic. I can't for the life of me remember Steven Gerrard being assaulted on the pitch. I was obviously watching a different game to the one Rodgers was which must have been transmitting in ScouseVision wired into his retinas.
We were not very good against Liverpool. But you know what, **** it. Once upon a time, we could never beat them. Now we beat them even when we're sh*t. For all the possession they had, you'll only ever going to remember that opening 20 minutes or so where we stormed it and smacked them about for the two goals that, in the end, won us the match.
With better players, Rodgers might achieve some success with Liverpool given time and patience. It's clearer what his football philosophy is at this moment in time with how they are attempting to play their football. Ours remains distorted mostly because of reasons explained. Once our defence is settled and the midfield equilibrium is perfected (DM to deep-lying playmaker to progressive midfielder), in the long term I'd rather our aggression and pace than their imitated tiki-taka.
Momentum to continue away to Fulham please.