Spurs Slug It Out But Can’t Land The KO

Spurs came away from Anfield with a point in a match of stunning quality and excruciating tension. The NHS may be busy but all Tottenham fans need a heart check-up. It’s an emergency.

The game crackled with electricity throughout, a feeling a bit like the time I picked up the end of a bare wire when I was a kid. I accidently pulled the flex from the standard lamp in our front room. Playing football, see, the standard lamp was a perfect goalpost. Football, the cause of all my troubles…

Like the shock, this was breath-taking stuff, football of the highest quality played at breakneck speed. Spurs got on top from the whistle, knocking it around with panache and majesty. I could have reflected on how far we’ve come this season, that this is the norm now, but there was little time to draw breath let alone stop and think. Couple of might have beens as Son and Alli stretched to balls that were just a touch too far or when Walker should have shot himself, instead passing to Eriksen who hit it straight at the keeper.

Then Liverpool collected themselves, got their game together and so from then on the two highly drilled pressing teams pressed each other in a pressing contest. Impressively. They hurled themselves at each other like two boxers in a 50s black and white boxing B-movie, going the distance toe to toe without landing the knockout blow.

Spurs were denied any space yet refused to back down, skilfully improvising their way out of defence, sprinkling the pass and move with long passes and crossfield balls to change the point of attack. For their part, Liverpool surrounded the man with the ball in the hope of forcing errors and saw the spaces vacated by our advancing full-backs as an opportunity. Then, they inserted Lallana and Sturridge into the gaps between our back four, allowing the wily Coutinho to find them with clever passes.

Palace and Wham closed down our full-backs. Liverpool instead targeted the awe-inspiring Dembele as our danger man. He shrugged them off like a wounded bull in the ring. Yet while the Reds never downed him, they did enough to limit his effectiveness going forward and in a game of the finest margins, that was sufficient.

Liverpool landed the heaviest blows. Lloris made three excellent saves, those powerful hands pushing away efforts at full stretch then an easier fourth when Sturridge shot straight at him, wasting the best chance of the half.

For Spurs it was one of those might-have-been evenings. The abiding image is of touches being a fraction too heavy and forwards stretching for balls that were just out of reach. I’ve not bothered with the stats but it felt as if we carved out more room in the box than for many a game with no shortage of bodies up front. However, the best opportunities were squandered. Kane uncharacteristically hesitated twice and saw his trademark cross-shot blocked as we glanced up expecting to see it nestle in its customary spot inside the far post. Alli and Eriksen too. Son meanwhile took his chance first time but volleyed a long ball from Dier decisively wide when a mis-kick or toe-poke might have seen it dribble in.

Liverpool finally scored in the second half. Not for the first time Tottenham were split apart by neat, incisive passes and Coutinho slotted home. Replays focussed on how Dier lost his man’s run from the edge of the box. Sure, but for me this was a game where good football from both sides rather than crass errors created the opportunities. Pressing occupied players further upfield, exposing the back four and limiting numbers. Both sides did it supremely well, Liverpool probably had the better chances. One cross come shot, I can still see it in my mind’s eye hitting the back of the net, but thankfully it was an optical illusion and the ball somehow drifted past the post.

But this is Pochettino’s Tottenham and they are relentless. Spurs came at them again, or rather did not stop attacking despite the setback of conceding. When Eriksen chased a lost cause into the corner, nothing much looked on but with the outside of his foot he hooked the ball back into play. There was Kane, one touch away from the defender but also away from goal. Such difficulties mean nothing to him. Second touch, he turned the ball back across the keeper into the goal, a masterful finish.

Good performances across the board with Lloris’s contribution by a whisker having the most influence on the final result. Kane and Alli were not quite as good as they were for England in Germany where the four Spurs players made a fanbase deeply proud and confirming that Pochettino is the best England manager since Ramsey. Predictably though their efforts blunted their edge on Saturday evening. The passes that connected in Berlin were inches wide, the first touch an inch too heavy and as I’ve said this was a fullblooded game with no room for error.

That 11th man problem in the forwards was again highlighted. We need everyone to function to win games of this level and Son for all his movement and effort failed to make an impact in and around the box where we need it.

Spurs have a knack of bringing out the best in their opponents. I keep reading about how Liverpool are weak in the last 15 minutes and concede late goals but no sign of that. Then of course the London derbies turn hurdles into Grand National fences. Claiming Leicester’s scalp doesn’t apparently have the same kudos. Then again, you can’t expect any favours.

Playing like this feels like earning a point not dropping two. I don’t carry a sense of failure from this match, which we could just as easily have lost as won. What can we do except keep playing, keep attacking, keep going for the win as we did to the final whistle yesterday. A wise man once said something about it being better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. If in the end we’re not quite good enough, so be it. It’s the manner in which we take on the challenge that I’m so very proud of.

12 thoughts on “Spurs Slug It Out But Can’t Land The KO

  1. I am a liverpool fan. This is the best balanced article I have seen in a while from opposition fan. Very Good article. You should write for ESPN, they have such terrible writers.

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  2. Lovely piece, thank you. Normally a very good result but there is no normal this season. I OD’d a bit on football on TV this weekend. Chelsea v Villa was men against boys, Villa so weak it was easy for the fallen champions. Our game was sumptuous viewing, as they like to say great for the neutral. as you say heart stopping for the committed, and maybe all we will be fit for is the asylum when all this is over. Utd Everton, interesting, Everton more prepared to make the play, Utd largely playing on the break, It wasn’t all pretty but it was largely ‘proper football’. And then there was Leicester, refs bought, playing ugly, paint drying, it’s breaking my heart. To lose the title to one of many teams with their own version of playing proper football, fair enough. But if, as seems unbelievably ever more likely Leicester stay the course what should be a glorious season (whatever the outcome) will, for me, be for ever ruined.

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  3. Good balanced article.I too thought it was very good game and in the circumstances a draw was a fair result.True Alli was just off his normal game,but I worry about Son’s inclusion.I know he had his injuries earlier in the season,but to me he doesn’t offer enough to be a starter and even as a sub he does nothing to influence a game.
    Certainly this coming transfer window will need to see 3 or 4 quality signings to bolster the squad.Even if we dip out on the title we have the Champion’s League to think about and as the games against Dortmund showed there is a lot of work to be done.

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  4. Thanks Alan,

    It was a good performance, second half especially and, in the normal run of things, a good result, but not enough really, though I thought we might and maybe should have nicked it towards the end. Still, we are a fine side in the making and I expect us to be right up there again next season.

    I thought the ball was given away a lot by both teams, unsurprisingly given the hectic pressure both sides put on each other, though there was a lot of fine play, too. Aesthetically I don’t much care for this uber pressing like mad stuff, for that reason, but guess that’s modern football. It’s incredible how much good football gets played at the lick they are all going, these days.

    Son really hasn’t found his legs again after the injury earlier in the season. I hope for and predict much better from him next season. He cost a lot of money and i think Poch has big plans for him. I agree about Dembele being targeted but thought he was very good again, anyhow. Kane is special and so was our support on the night. there was a lovely comment by an Anfield Rd (next to the Spurs fans) season ticket holder (Sam Bailey) on the Guardian website about our support at Anfield. I’ll copy and paste it here and hope the commenter doesn’t mind.

    Sam Bailey

    Here’s an unusual comment, but it’s worth making. I’m a Liverpool supporter of over 40 years, and a season ticket holder in the lower Anfield Road, just 5 yards from the visiting supporters. Yesterday was the first time in years that supporters of one of the so called big visiting sides simply got behind their own team! No ‘Bemba Ba / Steven Gerrard’ songs, no ‘in your Liverpool home’ songs, and no ‘Hillsborough or Heysel’ songs that we had to endure for 90 minutes in a Europa League game at Anfield just a couple of weeks ago!!! Just support for their own, very very good, side! Their supporters were a credit to their club! No doubt this will be a cue to all the empty heads of other clubs to justify their pathetic, repetitive garbage……….

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  5. Thanks for another great read Alan 👍

    I was watching the game at my local and was to nervous to enjoy the game fully, knowing that them up the road had won 4-0 and it needed to be a must win game for me.

    Despite not the win, I am proud that we played with urgency and passion .
    This is all a fan can ask for, that their team at least give it their best shot regardless of the result .

    I can see Liverpool improving a lot under Klopp next season and will definitely be up there again with new quality to the team . I also think we will improve as well with a couple of more additions to help Kane upfront.

    Keep up the good work Alan

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  6. Nicely put, Alan. And as “Jill” put it, Leicester and their “paint drying” catenaccio football is killing me. Let’s just take care of our business. But here’s some hope from tail tend of 2014 season, when Pool beat M-City on 13 April they were on 34/77P, MC were on 32/70 then 33/71 after a makeup game draw. If my maths are correct. Pool beat Norwich on 20 April weekend to go to 80P, 5P ahead of Chelsea and 6P up on M-City (74) who had one game in hand. So going into their last 3G, Pool were clear of Chelsea by 5P and M-City by 6P (who still had one game in hand). Pool only got 4P from their last possible 9P in three games, and M-City got 9P from last possible 9P in three games (and 12P from their last 12P) to pip Pool. It was done just two seasons ago. If we’re within 3-5P of Leicester with three games to go…and we win out over our last three, while Foxes only W-D-L, we’re in. Still possible, eh? COYS!

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  7. Spot on Alan. Liverpool played us as though they competing in the FA Cup Final ..even though their only realistic chance of getting into the CL is via the start of eliminating Dortmund next Thursday. Most clubs would have been saving themselves, even a little, for that vital game! But then that’s the story of the season. Clubs have raised their game hugely against Spurs …but barely ever enough against Leicester. It hurts more that many pundits and genuine experts (and we can see it too, although we’re biased) think Spurs are the best team overall this season, but the football gods have deemed Leicester City to be champions. Maybe it’s not even the gods …simply every neutral in football, both consciously and sub-consciously, who hope, and (yes) contribute to, the Leicester dream.
    Oh, stop it, Chris (sour grapes and bitterness) but although it would have been a harsh sending off, it WAS a definite penalty for Southampton yesterday, and how it WASN’T given is beyond me …stopping a ball from going into an empty net with your arm out!!! When you think of some penalties that are given, when there’s not even a sniff of a goal resulting!
    So what game (after rejecting TWO handball penalties) was the referee and the linesman playing, watching or just playing out?
    Oh well. No point worrying now about catching them (and Chelsea will definitely not bother with trying to win against the Foxes if it comes down to their title or ours on the final day of the season). We just have to concentrate on finishing ahead of Arsenal and getting our best place finish since 1963 (ie 2nd).
    I know I’d be thinking ‘great for Leicester and football’ if I were a neutral, but you just know that the Foxes will be taken seriously by everyone next season, and, as a result, will struggle to hit the heights again. Ahh, but good luck to them. They certainly deserve what they’ve accomplished in terms of the past 12 months. Talk about coming in under the radar and wiping out all in their path ..even if most of their wins were by the odd goal. I just wish a tiny bit of luck could have gone against them in the past 4 or 5 matches, instead of everything and the kitchen sink going with them.
    Leicester aside. What of Tottenham? I was so proud on Saturday ..and it felt like a point honestly and genuinely earned in a damn cauldron. It’s not the West Ham and Liverpool, or even Arsenal, results that have cost us, however ..it’s the games we dominated earlier on this season, and ended up drawing or losing. Leicester, Newcastle, Stoke, Everton etc. to name but a few. I also agree re Son. I really liked this boy when he first arrived ..still do, as I did Holtby, because of his energy, pace and enthusiasm ..but for the past 3 months he’s just not cut it, either as a starter or an impact sub. So much of our build-up against Liverpool was superb but often ended up with Son on the edge of the area either losing possession, not accelerating past the defender, not making a telling pass which could have kept the momentum and fluidity going, or simply prodding the ball safely back into less dangerous territory (for Liverpool, that is). No football brain, no quick thinking in the frantic surroundings, and, in the position he played, we needed the right choices to be made when we had good attacking possession. We really were, and often have been (accepting Ali had a quiet game on Saturday), just one player away from possible glory in so many of our games.
    Finally, but on a very optimistic note,to finish. Assuming our manager and best players don’t depart in the summer, this is the dawn of something special for our club. Unlike Leicester (I believe) I’m certain we can kick on with just a couple of additions to this squad next season, and, as Fergie himself very recently said, there is a great opportunity for Spurs of winning the PL quite soon. . .

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  8. I agree, a game played at frightening pace – I thought though in particular Dembele excellent and right up there for any plaudits, and the energy displayed by Rose and especially Walker is truly fantastic. It’s my view the three (from the five of Alli, Eriksen, Lamela, Son and Chadli) behind King Harry Kane all have great ability and have excellent spells in the season but maybe fall a little short consistency wise in terms of goalscoring which is not surprising given their relative youth compared to similar, massively expensive, players from the other CL chasing teams – arsenal have Ozil & Sanchez, Manchesters utd & City have Mata, Rooney, Toure, Silva, De Bruyne etc, none of whom I’d swap for our first choice three ( well, maybe De Bruyne!). I like all five of our lads but think they are all maybe another season away from true, consistent, excellence.
    It will come though, Alli of course and Eriksen I feel have true greatness ahead of them.
    We’re still hanging in there, we still have chance, and one little bounce or reversal of the luck that has all been very much to Leicester’ s advantage lately could see the whole insurmountable seven points reducing pretty quicksmart! Confidence is a very fragile beast as Spurs fans know better than anyone, theirs may be dented over the smallest reversal of fortune.
    Here’s hoping anyway. But we need now to win on Sunday and put that recent horrible Manchester United WHL hoodoo to bed, and in some style.
    Thanks for the read.

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  9. Thanks Alan, another great read and another great game . I thought a draw was a fair result.
    We are still there but must win nearly every game starting with Manure on the weekend.
    We are building something good at Spurs and if we don’t quite make it this year next season should be ours.
    COYS

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  10. Thanks for the article Alan, a good read as always.
    I, like others, felt that Dembele was immense on Saturday, having said that, all the players are a credit to themselves and the team.
    This in my opinion is the best team since David Pleat’s class of 87 and it’s only nostalgic sentimentality that stop me from admitting that today’s boys are a match for any I’ve seen down the years.
    The title seems unlikely however, but all the players can do is accumulate points, one point away to Liverpool aint bad.
    It’s still all to play for, trouncing Man utd would spell that out for Leicester and whatstheirnames down the road and I’ve not yet given up on a twist in this season’s tail.

    COYS

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  11. “Pochettino is the best England manager since Ramsey”

    A nice joke. Or else you really mean Roy Hodgson, and I could agree with that. Certainly the team for the Germany match is the first England team I’ve wanted to watch for many years. Though if this becomes the new England, I will still spend most of their games hoping that our players don’t get injured and that the best team wins. (I’m a British Spurs supporter, but not an English one.)

    Thanks for the blog – one of the best.

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