It was a result most Spurs fans wouldn’t have expected and would have bitten your hand off in a heartbeat had it been offered to any Tottenham fan at four o’clock earlier today. With most fans just hoping to keep the score down against a Liverpool side that had scored thirteen goals in the last three games, a 2-0 victory over Kenny Dalglish’s in form side was a great result no matter how you look at it.
A superb defensive display at the back, with the return of Ledley King keeping the likes of Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt subdued all game, meant goals from Rafael Van der Vaart and Luka Modric saw Spurs return to North London with all three points and their first win at Anfield in almost thirteen years.
Not following the script
The scene was set for a great day for the fans at Anfield. Dalglish had signed a three year-deal just days before and a win, thus solidifying European football for the club, would have been the icing on the cake. Spurs, however, failed to read the script and made a bright to the game against a Liverpool side still licking their wounds after having the title record snatched away from them by rivals Manchester United the day before.
The North London outfit broke the deadlock just nine minutes after Liverpool failed to clear Modric’s corner before it fell to Van der Vaart who expertly controlled and lofted a half-volley, with help from a Glen Johnson deflection, into Pepe Reina’s far top corner. Having hit an earlier effort wide, the Dutchman made no mistake the second time round and silenced the home crowd who were in high spirits prior to kick off.
Injury to Raul Meireles in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Fulham on Monday meant Dalglish was forced to break up the partnership of Kuyt and Suarez which had proved so effective in recent games. The lack of energy in the centre of the park was clear for all to see with Spurs taking full advantage of the extra time on the ball.
Liverpool wasted a series of chances after Van der Vaart’s opener as Carroll, Suarez and Jay Spearing all missed excellent opportunities to level the scores going into the break.
Controversy in another Premier League game
When Van der Vaart limped off five minutes into the second half, replaced by Jermain Defoe, looked to have quelled the Spurs attack but in the 55th minutes, one decision turned the game on its head. Stephen Pienaar, on the receiving end of boos from the home support following his time at Everton, made a darting run into the box and was adjudged to have been fouled inside the box by referee Howard Webb.
Replays showed the challenge was innocuous and, potentially, outside the box as well however, the Spurs fans wouldn’t have minded when Modric buried the spot-kick to make the score 2-0. Liverpool surged forward for the goal that would bring them back into the game but chances were few and far between as Carroll, John Flanagan and Jonjo Shelvey came closest to getting the goal that the club craved.
Spurs held on for the win that took them into fifth place and left them in the driving seat for European football heading into the final game of the season.
Man of the match
Club captain Ledley King was in fine form this afternoon and looked as though he had never been away from the game since October. Successfully keeping the attacking quintet of Carroll, Suarez, Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, fans saw today that the real King of Anfield certainly wasn’t Dalglish.
What Redknapp said
“We want to finish as high as we can. We want to finish fifth if we can and that would be great.
“We’ve had a great season. We had a great run in the Champions League and to finish fifth would be a great achievement from the players.”
On King, Redknapp added “I took a real gamble today with Ledley, he was a little bit apprehensive about playing and I think wanted to leave it to the beginning of next season.
“But I thought we needed to know sooner or later whether he was going to come back and play, and we pushed him into it a bit.
“But he is an amazing footballer when you think about it.
“He doesn’t train and then comes out and produces a performance like that, it’s amazing really.”