In my preview of this game I mentioned our Carling Cup defeat against a weakened Manchester United side. That was a match that was there for the taking, but for our lack of belief and any sort of gumption.
Last night against Liverpool we saw another insipid performance from Spurs. Let’s face it, our side are flat-track bullies. Perfectly happy and able to give the likes of Wigan a 9-1 hiding at home, but always likely to pull up short when faced with any major hurdle.
Liverpool didn’t play particularly well last night, but ended up as 2-0 winners and could have easily won by a more comprehensive scoreline. Aside from Kuyt’s early goal and a spell of pressure just before the break, they did nothing in the first half but defend in a committed and energetic fashion.
The possession was all ours, but time and time again the final ball went astray and we created next to nothing. The closest that we came to getting a goal in the first half was when Crouch was clearly impeded in the box, but as is so often the way, Howard Webb gave the foul against Crouch for the heinous crime of being tall.
There was another potential turning point in the second half when Defoe had a legitimate goal ruled offside, after the linesman made a very late decision upon suddenly realising that everyone in Anfield would shout at him, had he let the goal stand.
It’s annoying and of course could have changed the complexion of the game, but we can’t hide behind it. The goal, had it stood, would have been a gift courtesy of Reina’s mistake. You can’t bemoan the poor decisions of a referee when you fail to create any real chances to score during the rest of the game.
In the second half we had a spell of pressure when it looked like we might eventually carve something out, but apart from a couple of speculative long shots, we achieved little. In the final minutes when we should have been peppering their goal, Liverpool had taken control of the game and were camped around our area, eventually winning the penalty to put the match out of sight.
On the night we missed Lennon more than they missed Gerrard and Torres. The team was chronically short of pace and this was particularly highlighted every time Corluka was given the ball on the right, with no options in front of him. Eventually he was substituted for Hutton who provided more thrust, but it was too little too late. This was an obvious problem against Hull, so why play Corluka again, when we have attacking full backs like Hutton and Naughton?
Harry’s other substitution was baffling. Where was Keane meant to be playing when he came on for Kranjcar? I would have rather he’d given Pavlyuchenko a chance in place of the largely ineffectual Crouch. At least Pav would have plenty of motivation to score at Anfield, what with Rafa being in the market for a new striker.
I wish that sometimes Redknapp would think outside the box a little and take more of a gamble with his substitutions. We needed pace and had Rose and Dos Santos available on the bench. I know that neither are proven Premier League players, but unless you take a chance and give them an opportunity to prove what they can do, when will they ever be?
Our whole striker situation worries me, despite the amount of goals we’ve scored this season. Defoe is so reliant on his striking partner to create chances for him, but Keane is short of form and is Crouch good enough against the top teams?
More than anything there is a lack of any real leadership or drive. I know that he isn’t the best player in the world, but I wouldn’t hesitate to play O’Hara over Jenas. He at least does his work with commitment and enthusiasm. When you’re building a team, not every player can be a superstar, you need grafters as well. I remember plenty of Manchester United fans once bemoaning that Darren Fletcher wasn’t up to the job of playing for them.
I thought that the performance was best summed up by the fact that when asked by Redknapp to take the field, Bassong hadn’t even managed to put a pair of shorts on. Talk about being unprepared for the task at hand. If you’re a professional footballer sitting on a substitute bench, what more is there to think about other than making sure you have all your kit on?
On this evidence we don’t deserve a fourth place spot and won’t achieve it, but who knows? We’re still in pole position and our rivals will probably continue to drop points. Our only consolation after last night is that there are other teams in the Premier League who will give Liverpool much more of a fight than we managed.