Liverpool 3 Tottenham 0 – Fan dancers lose the banjo contest

Posted by Barrettski on September 25, 2006, 12:57:01 PM

Liverpool 3 Tottenham 0 – Fan dancers lose the banjo contest

Martin Jol brought his Tottenham side to Anfield looking for something.  It may have been life after Carrick, a cheeky three points stolen on the break or a robust well earned draw.  He got none of the above.  What he did get was an exhibition in missing the barn door and ultimately a footballing lesson in finishing a lesser team off.

Another early kick off meant chaos for people’s social diaries and shopping plans.  So, no tragedy there then but anything less than a win against Spurs would have been.  Anything less than three points would mean an alarming slide into mid table mediocrity early in the season and worse, seeing our illustrious neighbours open up a gap over us.  The pressure was on and Spurs were a sufficiently well organised and fancied side to make it difficult.

Tottenham Hotspur lined up with Robinson (class) in nets, Assou-Ekotto (promising newcomer) and Chumbawumba as full backs and the impressive central defensive pairing of Dawson and King.  A midfield of Jenas (wayward in mind and body), Tainio (chunky honest and hard working), Zokora (we all adore a) and Danny Murphy (still love watching the dink over Barthez) looked disciplined but ultimately uncreative on paper.  Upfront, Keane and Defoe were preferred to the slimline version of Mido.

Liverpool lined up with Pepe in nets (3/10 clean sheets completed) and a worryingly Carragher free back four.  In his place the almost Masonic twin pillars of Agger and Sami stood tall with Finnan and the returning Riise flanking them.  In midfield, Garcia was the surprise omission with Gonzalez starting on the left and Xabi and Momo in the middle.  Gerrard started on the right, if only to ensure “the debate” continued for another week.  Kuyt and Bellamy kept their places upfront so place your bets on who’ll start against Galatasary.

Liverpool won the toss again (tails never fails Stevie) and saw Spurs kicked off attacking the Kop.  After a few obligatory early lunges and ripostes, a very stalemate looking 4-4-2 vs. 4-4-2 pattern emerged.  Four banks of four meandering round each other? – it was Houllier heaven.  For those of you still wondering just how predictable the opening sequences were here, recreate it for yourself.  You’ll need sixteen Subbuteo players, twelve lolly sticks and some sticking tape.  Then simply move your four lines around a bit but make sure the ball generally stays with the red players.

Early highlights were genuinely hard to come by.  Xabi thumped a low volley past Robinsons left post that somehow managed to elude a sleepy looking Bellamy.  Danny Murphy slotted a Xabi-esque ball through to Keane that was well anticipated by Reina.  Riise sent a howitzer of a free kick into the Annie Road end and Gonzalez stuttered before failing to get a shot away after a neat run.  Apparently Tiger Woods was having a nightmare at the K Club, bless.

Liverpool continued to move the ball around well but ultimately failed to find any chink in Tottenham’s armour.  Replicate this on your Subbuteo pitch with lots of sideways and backwards passes, but resist the temptation to rename any of your players “Redknapp” at this stage. 

Clearly motivated by the need to entertain the neutrals, King decided to start a cow’s arse and banjo competition.  Having lost Gonzalez amongst the assorted pillars in the Liverpool box, Ledley somehow conspired to miss time the sweetest of Danny Murphy in swingers.  With Reina’s goal yawning (out of boredom), his free header went wide of the upright and an audible gasp echoed went round the old place.  Yes, the atmosphere really was that electric.

Liverpool were clearly alarmed at the possibility of actually losing this game and stepped up a gear.  Gerrard worked tirelessly down the right, earning corners for the left footed Gonzalez to whip in.  Robinson was equal to many but saw King pop one against his own post under pressure from Kuyt.  Sissoko hashed the rebound and we were still looking for a sniff of that comfortable half time feeling.

King almost gifted us the lead with a blatant hand ball just inside the area that Webby didn’t feel like giving.  Ledley’s follow up challenge managed to get to the ball ahead of Bellamy, but still looked more awkward than a Labour Party conference.

At the other end, Spurs’ game plan to nick a goal looked hopeful.  Tainio received a half cleared ball thirty yards out but only found Agger with his rasping shot.  Then Murphy was up to his tricks again, threading a through ball through a flat back four like old times.  Reina was again equal to his efforts and got there ahead of Defoe. 

Half time beckoned.  Re-enact this bit by filing your Subbuteo players into a shoe box, then stand quietly and contemplate Ledley’s miss.  Then consider how Liverpool might change things a little.  Only when Gerrard broke his lolly stick did Spurs look stretched.  That resulted in Gonzalez toeing his ball on to Bellamy and force a world class save from Robinson.  More of the same is what we all hoped for in the second half.

Thankfully, Liverpool left their lolly sticks in the changing rooms and stepped up the pace in the second half.  Gonzalez looked speedy (sorry) down the left and Kuyt provided the kind of movement that we probably haven’t seen since we saw a moustache upfront.  This of course required some marshalling to keep the score at nil nil and unfortunately Dawson was shaping up to be man of the match.

An hour without a goal meant only one thing, a return to the cow’s arse and banjo competition.  Spurs broke from a Liverpool corner and fed the ball to new arrival Davids.  The bespectacled one yomped down the left and trickled a ball across the six yard box for the advancing Jenas.  Jenas slid, got his studs to it and… ached as the ball rolled inches wide.  In competition terms he’d taken a good ten yard run up, swung the banjo and missed the cow’s arse by a country mile.  A fabulous effort.

Andy Gray will have been making Sky viewers’ ears bleed about now with his theories about psychological moments in the game and missed chances.  No surprise then as we went down the other end and scored.  Gerrard, now enjoying the space and liberty to exert his influence, took the ball on the right.  He then went round Assou-Ekotto putting the ball the other side of him and basically made him look like the boy who was always picked last in the playground.  Stevie’s instant low cross just wanted poking home.  Up stepped Bellamy with his banjo and scuffed it against the post, winning the cow’s arse competition in the process.  Fortunately Gonzalez was on hand to strike home through the crowd and Craig’s blushes were spared.  Almost.

Spurs appeared to wilt visibly.  Liverpool’s pressure was now telling and unlike the Newcastle game, a second felt like it was coming.  Garcia was now on for Bellamy and within minutes he’d spliced the Dawson–King partnership with a pitching wedge through ball to find Kuyt.  Dirk took the knee high from behind him, took two strides and lashed it beyond Robinson.  England’s number one didn’t move and is probably still looking for the ball now.  Any suspicion of Gerrard being offside was waved away, he was on the floor after all.

Shanks called Tottenham the Drury Lane Fan Dancers.  He never believed they had the guts for a fight. In modern parlance, they’re a team unlikely to grind out a result and this was the case as the final moments of the game were played out.  Spaces opened up at will and the combined athleticism (Gerrard, Riise) and guile (Garcia, Alonso) looked likely to make Spurs pay once more.

I’d have put money on the third being a well worked tap in.  John Arne Riise had other ideas.  Garcia delayed his pass enough to give him an extra acre of space to run into and with a shuffle he lined up to shoot.  Blocks 205 and 206 cowered, but needn’t have worried this time.  Riise cracked yet another rifle shot from beyond thirty yards, the onion bag rippled, Robinson despaired.  Three nil, game over.

The neutral (Spurs) fan will say this could have been a very different game had King and Jenas not turned up with their banjos.  It didn’t feel like that though.  As spaces opened up in the final half hour there was only going to be one winner, regardless of the score, and Dirk was always going to feature in the headlines.  This result gives us all a bit of confidence, although we can do without Alan Shearer saying we have championship credentials just yet. 

Redmen performances:

Reina:  Largely untroubled but showed the kind of alertness to Murphy’s antics to shut out Defoe and earn the clean sheet.  Good handling from crosses this time too and no Grobbelaar moment to be seen.

Finnan:  Needs his own fan club (if he hasn’t got one already).  Solid, consistent and dependable… in fact I’ll start leaving the same words in here to see if anyone notices.  A fantasy league managers dream and on this performance, probably Rafa’s too, yada yada yada.

Hyypia :  A welcome back for the big man but at the expense of a fit Carragher.  Looked slow and cumbersome when picking up his yellow card.  Looked bloody imperious the rest of the time.  Interesting selection problem for Rafa, especially given Agger’s ability going forward.

Agger:  A gangling sprawl of limbs one game, a pair of zippy runners the next.  Agger has come through this week with two clean sheets to his name and many may well deserved plaudits.  He also has the ability to carry the ball.  Alan Hansen anyone?  Or have I just Piecnik – Kvarme – Wright jinxed the lad?

Riise:  I think I’d be happy if one in three of his efforts beats an international keeper from 30 yards.  Defensively I’m not sure this game was too much of a challenge with Keane unwilling / unable to run the channels and Jenas pretty useless throughout.  That said, he’s a potential match winner and in games like these we need all the potential match winners on the pitch.

Gonzalez :  Speedy (sorry again), surprisingly robust in tracking back and lively going forward.  Waited until the second half before really turning on the pace and style – which suggested an interesting half time team talk.  Proving himself to be a good addition to the squad and with a coolly taken goal too.

Gerrard:  Anyone fancy a right side vs. central debate?  For me it’s down to the organisation of the opposition and the openness of a game.  For vast swathes early on in each half he was seen out on the wing waiting for others to come up to his standard, create the space and find him.  This coincided with a distinct lack of energy and movement.  When that happens he needs to be in the thick of it and be free to come into the middle and wreak havoc.  When there are spaces opening up and the pace of the game increases he’s lethal on the right and always looks capable of creating a goal scoring opening.  Plan A should be starting on the right, Plan B is to move him inside when things are getting stale or pedestrian. 

Alonso:  Oozing class but in a less distilled format than midweek.  Passes were generally crisper all round and so he wasn’t likely to stand out as much.  I could gush for a whole paragraph but will leave it there.

Sissoko:  Working so well in tandem with Xabi that even a Match of the Day pundit can spot it.  I’m seriously enjoying watching him improve his game.  He no longer looks like a yellow card waiting to happen (well not as often anyway).  His energy and short ball game is unreal… if only he could pass the ball more than ten yards.

Bellamy:  Every striker has a low point when it’s just not happening.  The important thing is to keep doing the right things and I think Bellamy is.  He looks keen and hungry, he’s causing problems and he’s in the right places to score.  Another keeper would not have saved his first half effort.  As for his miss, we’ll gloss over that.

Kuyt:  Now beginning to look like a bargain and a twenty a season goal scorer.  His movement is sublime, his work rate unbelievable and now we’ve seen his finishing.  What a way to score your first in front of the Kop.  The best bit for me is his take no shit attitude.  Babayaro slaps him and he ignores it, leaving Baba looking sheepish.  Studs scraped down the Achilles? all part of the game… superb.

Kop:  Asleep for large parts of the game and unable to get out of bed for a Tottenham game.  Fair enough.  Nice to appreciate Danny as he was subbed, louder than the Spurs fans too.  Recognising your old stalwarts – far from shit support.

Them:  Did nothing to suggest a Spurs game is much of an event to look forward to in future.  Also came up with the frankly purile cockney drivel that is “your support is fucking shit”.  Famous for hating Arsenal.  Enough said.

© Barrettski 2006

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