After The Match 


Tottenham-Liverpool 2-1 (1-0)         16.8.09                        PL
Goals: Gerrard (pen 56)            Assou-Ekotto (44), Bassong (59)
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Babel 67), Ayala (Skrtel 74), Voronin (Kuyt 78)
Crouch (Keane 67), O'Hara (Modric 83)
Not used: Cavalieri, Spearing, Kelly, Dossena
Yellow: Mascherano (32), Skrtel (51), Carragher (58)
Lennon (25), Gomes (55), Assou-Ekotto (66),
Red: None
Referee: P Dowd
Attendance: 35,935


Shots on target: 7-3
Shots off target: 7-4
Blocked shots: 6-2
Fouls conceded: 12-17
Corners: 6-5
Offsides: 2-2
Possession: 47.3-52.7
Yellow: 3-3

to improve in the middle, keeping
the ball."

Rafael Benitez
1708: Hansen: Spurs looked more like
          title contenders than Liverpool

1708: Lucas looking to get back on track
1708: Alonso’s absence was there for all to see
1608: Rafa: Shoddy work from everyone
1608: Spurs cause Rafa's Reds to stall

Hansen: Spurs looked more like
title contenders than Liverpool

Anfield legend Alan Hansen has slammed Liverpool’s performance against Tottenham, claiming it was the North London club who looked more like title contenders then their Merseyside opposition.

The former Liverpool stalwart admitted the club’s next few games took on added significance now, but he still backed Rafa Benitez’s side to pip Manchester United and Chelsea to the title.

Hansen told the Daily Telegraph: “Spurs looked more like title contenders than Liverpool.”

“I cannot believe how bad Liverpool were, particularly in the first half.”

“There were no positives whatsoever from a Liverpool perspective.”

“They were poor defensively, the passing in midfield wasn't up to scratch and Fernando Torres looked tired up front. He looked out of sorts and as though he has had too much football, which doesn't augur well.”

“You can't win the title in the first six weeks of the season, but you can certainly lose it in the first six weeks.”

“Liverpool are obviously not at that stage after just one game, but they are now under pressure to get something when they play Stoke and Aston Villa at Anfield over the next seven days.”

“There is still a question mark over whether some of the Liverpool players are good enough to help the club to the championship. We'll have to see.”

“Liverpool have paid the price for bad starts on more than one occasion in recent seasons, so they have to bounce back quickly.”

“I still fully expect Liverpool to finish above Arsenal and Manchester City, however.”

He concluded: “City, Arsenal, Chelsea and United have all made winning starts and left Liverpool needing to make up ground, but rule No 1 in any season is not to write anybody off after the first game.”

“I am still taking Liverpool to finish above the rest and win the title this season, but they have to improve quickly and get back to winning ways.”

“Against Spurs, they were a million miles from the team that went so close to winning the league last season, but they now have to bounce back from an awful opening performance.”

Lucas looking to get
back on track

By Al Campbell - LFC Online

Lucas Levia is aming to get back to winning ways on Wednesday.

The Brazilian midfielder admits yesterday's defeat at Spurs was disappointing and has vowed to put it behind him by helping the Reds to a home win over Stoke on Wednesday.

"We are very disappointed. We came here looking for a good result, but Tottenham played really well," said Lucas.

"The first half wasn't good for us and they pressed us really hard. I think if we had kept better possession of the ball it could have been key for us.

"We were better in the second half - we created some chances and could have had a penalty towards the end.

"Although we are disappointed, we now have to look forward to our next two matches at home and hope to take six points.

"We have to improve, we know that. Now we have two matches at home and we know we have to be stronger, especially for our fans.

"We have to try and beat Stoke and afterwards we can think about the next game with Aston Villa. We want to take six points."

Alonso’s absence
was there for all to see

Comment by Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

When Rafael Benitez said Liverpool were trying to manage expectations about the forthcoming season, this probably wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

A season in which many have tipped the Anfield outfit for the championship began in a manner that highlighted the shortcomings they must overcome if they are to end that long wait for the title.

This result may have been the same as last season’s visit here, but the circumstances were entirely different.

Last November, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp admitted his side had been “slaughtered” before snatching a last-gasp victory.

Yesterday, however, only the heroics of Pepe Reina prevented Liverpool from being on the receiving end of a beating akin to their Carling Cup humiliation nine months ago.

Certainly, there must be something about the White Hart Lane air that has caused Liverpool to press the self-destruct button in such alarming fashion in recent visits.

But the reasons for this defeat are deep-rooted, a consequence of a summer of under-investment, significant departures and less than ideal preparation.

The sight of Benitez turning to Andriy Voronin to help rescue a point would have surely been a worrying sight to supporters, no matter how well the Ukrainian fared at Hertha Berlin last season.

As it was, Voronin should have been awarded a penalty in the closing moments that could have earned Liverpool an undeserved draw.

Steven Gerrard had already pulled the visitors level once from the spot after Benoit Assou-Ekotto fired Tottenham into a spectacular first-half lead, only for a towering Sebastien Bassong header to win the game moments later.

But given Liverpool’s patchy pre-season form, this early setback should not be regarded as a surprise. And that in itself should give cause for concern.

Benitez’s side started slowly last season but at least continued to eke out results. Now, just a weekend into the new season, they are already playing catch-up on all their main title rivals. Improvement must be immediate.

They have only themselves to blame. When they weren’t running into each other, Liverpool’s defenders were too often diving into last-ditch challenges when a touch more poise would have sufficed, and that recklessness led to the two free-kicks from which Tottenham ultimately scored.

Debutant Glen Johnson was a rare positive for Benitez, but that the full-back was often Liverpool’s most attacking outlet spoke volumes for a spluttering forward line in which Fernando Torres was hounded out by Bassong and Ledley King.

While Johnson attracted criticism for his performance in England’s 2-2 draw against Holland in midweek, Ryan Babel impressed against his Anfield team-mate in Amsterdam.

It was enough to earn the Dutchman a starting role but a dismal outing did little to strengthen his claims; his replacement Yossi Benayoun was infinitely more effective.

After a poor second season, Babel has entered the last-chance saloon at Liverpool and he will have to improve on this showing, although in mitigation he isn’t the only player for whom that applies.

With Xabi Alonso departed and new £20million signing Alberto Aquilani sidelined until at least October, opportunity is knocking for Lucas Leiva in central midfield.

The Brazilian often polarises opinion among the Liverpool support, but his performances during the closing months of the last campaign and pre-season form suggest a corner may have been turned.

Yet no matter how tidy and busy Lucas was for the most part, it’s clear the midfield is crying out for the composure and creativity of an Alonso.

Concerns over Liverpool’s central defence were allayed when both Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel were passed fit, but that situation was threatened after 15 minutes when the duo challenged for the same ball, leading to a sickening clash of heads.

Carragher returned after a brief trip to the dressing room for some stitches to a cut while Skrtel soldiered on until the 75th minute after a hefty blow to the jaw.

The collision disrupted what little rhythm Liverpool had gathered during a pedestrian first quarter, and allowed Tottenham to assume the initiative with only the reflexes of Reina preventing an embarrassing half-time scoreline.

Robbie Keane, surprisingly selected ahead of fellow former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, helped justify Benitez’s wisdom in sending him back to London by twice spurning chances to open the scoring.

Unmarked and six yards from goal, Keane met a Luka Modric cross from the left with a header on the half-hour that, even allowing for Reina’s heroics in repelling the ball, was too close to the goalkeeper.

Keane was similarly at fault minutes later when put through by another Modric pass, Reina flinging out a left arm to deflect the ball to safety.

But the goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Tottenham forging ahead a minute from the break. After Skrtel fouled Wilson Palacios 25 yards from goal, Tom Huddlestone drove the subsequent free-kick into the wall.

However, a fortunate ricochet off Emiliano Insua’s face presented the ball invitingly to Assou-Ekotto, who arrowed a venomous volley into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Liverpool at least showed a bit more fight in the second half. Dirk Kuyt and Torres combined to tee up Gerrard for a daisy-cutter that skimmed narrowly wide, but Reina had to be alert to turn over a dipping Palacios drive.

Benitez’s side were gifted a route back into the game on 56 minutes. Johnson, again marauding down the right, did well to work into the box after cutting between Assou-Ekotto and Huddlestone but was going nowhere when unwisely upended by Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Gerrard kept his nerve from the spot, but parity lasted just three minutes thanks to another self-inflicted wound.

Carragher fouled Jermaine Defoe on the Tottenham right and, from the resultant Modric free-kick, was beaten to the ball by Bassong, who looped a header into the top corner.

Voronin’s late penalty shout after being bumped over by Assou-Ekotto was too much to bear for Sammy Lee, the Liverpool assistant manager venting his spleen at fourth official Stuart Attwell to such an extent he was sent off by referee Phil Dowd. The midweek visit of Stoke City has already become a must-win for Benitez’s side.

Rafa: Shoddy work from everyone


Rafa Benitez conceded Liverpool were disappointing at Tottenham - but he felt officials Phil Dowd and Stuart Attwell could also do much better.

Reds boss Benitez was left less than impressed by referee Dowd - and claimed fourth official Attwell was "too young" after watching his side lose their opening Premier League fixture 2-1 at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Liverpool, last season's runners-up, never really got going, and were fortunate to go into the break only 1-0 down following a stunning 25-yard strike from full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Captain Steven Gerrard equalised after 56 minutes from the penalty spot, after £17million summer signing Glen Johnson had been upended by Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

However, the lead did not last long as Sebastien Bassong, on his debut following an £8million switch from Newcastle, headed in what prove to be the winner.

Benitez, though, was more than a touch irritated when referee Dowd did not point to the spot after substitute Andriy Voronin appeared to be blocked by Assou-Ekotto, and also when further appeals for a handball against the same defender during the closing stages were dismissed.

Assistant manager Sammy Lee was eventually sent from the dugout for taking his protests too far. Lee was particularly vocal towards Attwell.

Benitez said: "Everybody could see there was a penalty against Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable.

"With this referee, I knew this (another penalty) was impossible."

Asked for his overall assessment of Dowd, Benitez went to his pocket and pulled out his glasses.

The Liverpool manager added: "We had a meeting the other day, and they said we cannot talk about the referee as a person or the decisions, but I think everybody today could see the situation."

Attwell became the youngest referee in the Premier League when he took charge of Blackburn's match against Hull in August 2008.

However, the 26-year-old was at the centre of last season's 'Phantom Goal' controversy involving Reading and Watford.

Discussing Attwell, the Liverpool manager said: "The fourth official is a young referee, and maybe he needs to calm down a bit.

"I do not know how old he is, but the fourth official is too young."

Benitez did accept Liverpool were just not up to their usual high standards this afternoon as they failed to match the opening-game wins of probable title rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We did not play well in the first half, but were much better in the second, when we pushed harder and had more options in the final third," he said.

"Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these types of games.

"We have to improve in the middle, keeping the ball. The understanding has to be better.

"But it is too early, and we have another game on Wednesday when clearly we have to improve in the possession."

Even though Gerrard was passed fit following a groin problem, the link was poor between attack and a midfield which is now missing Xabi Alonso after his sale to Real Madrid.

"We had games without Alonso last season, and won a lot of games, so I think we have enough quality in the squad, and we have to prove this," insisted Benitez.

"We knew that we had to play well, but it was not because of the pressure on us."

Benitez added: ""As a team, we were not comfortable in possession during the first half.

"Gerrard was doing his job, but the rest of the team were not playing well.

"Everybody has to improve.

"We have to win the next game, but for everything else, it is too early."

Spurs cause Rafa's Reds to stall


Title hopefuls Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Tottenham in their first game of the new Premier League campaign on Sunday.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez had spent the summer plotting how to overhaul champions Manchester United, having fallen just short last season in the quest for a first title since 1990.

New arrival Glen Johnson, who cost £17million from Portsmouth, started at right-back, Dutchman Ryan Babel was chosen ahead of Yossi Benayoun with Spain forward Fernando Torres expected to again provide the goals along with captain Steven Gerrard, fit following a groin problem.

Given title rivals United had won earlier in the afternoon, coupled with victories on Saturday for both Chelsea and, most impressively, Arsenal, there was little margin for error if Liverpool were to avoid playing catch up after just one match.

However, the Reds never really got going, with Torres particularly disappointing.

Indeed, Liverpool should have been more than 1-0 down at half-time had Anfield old boy Robbie Keane not missed a couple of clear chances before full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto smashed in a 25-yard effort past Pepe Reina.

Although the visitors were handed a lifeline back into the match when Johnson was upended by keeper Heurelho Gomes to give away a penalty, which Gerrard converted on 54 minutes, Spurs soon regained the lead as Sebastien Bassong, an £8million signing from Newcastle, headed in a free-kick from Luka Modric.

While there is, of course, plenty of football left to be played between now and May, Benitez knows his men will have to do much, much better if they are to finish ahead of the rest.

After a slow start, there was a stoppage on 14 minutes when Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher collided heads after both jumping for a high ball.

The English defender had to go off for treatment on a bloody gash, before returning with some heavy bandages.

Gerrard let fly with a 25-yard effort, which was just wide of Gomes' right-hand post.

Spurs then really should have gone ahead on 30 minutes.

Wilson Palacios got away down the right, and looped the ball across to the far post.

Modric lofted it back into the six-yard box, where Keane arrived with a diving header - but one which was straight at Reina, who reacted brilliantly.

The Liverpool keeper then denied his former team-mate once again, this time standing up well as Keane tried a chip.

On 44 minutes, Skrtel gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position, some 25 yards out, when he fouled Palacios.

Tom Huddlestone drove his effort into the defenders - but the ball fell kindly for Assou-Ekotto, who promptly smashed it back into the top corner.

Liverpool regrouped at half-time and produced a flowing move when Dirk Kuyt touched the ball back to Torres, who laid it on for Gerrard, but the England midfielder struck his low shot just wide from 20 yards.

A fine fingertip save from Reina then denied Palacios a second goal for Spurs following a rasping 25-yard drive towards the top right corner.

Liverpool found a way back into the match when they were awarded a penalty on 54 minutes.

Johnson was upended by Spurs keeper Gomes as the full-back burst into the right side of the box, and Gerrard stepped up to fire the ball past the Spurs keeper.

Tottenham looked to respond straight away, with Defoe's shot on the turn blocked by Carragher.

The defender was then booked for a foul on the striker as the home side pressed again.

It proved a costly free-kick to concede, as from it, Spurs regained the lead on 59 minutes.

Modric, from the right, floated the ball over through a crowded penalty area, where Bassong got up to head into the corner and mark his debut in style.

On 67 minutes, Liverpool replaced Babel with Benayoun as Benitez opted for 'Plan B', while Spurs sent on summer signing Peter Crouch for Keane.

Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty when substitute Andriy Voronin went down following a shoulder challenge by Assou-Ekotto - but this time, referee Phil Dowd was not interested.

Tempers frayed on the Liverpool bench, with assistant boss Sammy Lee sent to the stands for continued protests.

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