by "theredfella" at Taklfc
IT is an often related proverb that you wait for one bus for ages and then three come along at once. Yesterday Rafael Benitez was the happiest men at the terminal after watching his side take all three points with three second half goals against a Spurs team who were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal. Whilst Wednesday night’s victory over Newcastle United at Anfield had gone some way to appeasing the doubters in the goal scoring department, the fact that the Reds continued in the same vein against a team far more likely to push them hard this season for a Champions League spot will have been heartening to say the least.
The game started at a fairly pedestrian pace but nobody had told Sami Hyypia. Coming in for Jamie Carragher, one of three changes to the side that won in midweek, he thundered into a couple of early tackles; the first with fellow Finn Teemu Tainio and the second an exquisitely timed challenge to stop Jermaine Defoe in his tracks. However the same sort of intensity was somewhat lacking in other areas of the park, the early moments saw the two teams at tactical odds with the home side hitting too many central long balls which were snapped up by the Tottenham pairing of King and Dawson whereas the North Londoners, seemingly wary of the aerial threat of the home partnership of Hyypia and Agger, tried to keep the ball on the floor to work the channels but with little joy. The first sign of attacking threat came from the home side after a quarter of an hour when a poor clearance from King following a Riise throw fell straight to Xabi Alonso who could only put his shot wide of the right hand post. This appeared to galvanise the visitors, in particular ex Red Danny Murphy and Premiership new boy Didier Zokora, who began to step it up in the middle of the park leading to some wonderful one touch passing that almost let Keane in at the other end and then Spurs manager Martin Jol was almost apoplectic after seeing Ledley King miss a glorious opportunity to take the lead after a fine set piece ball from Murphy.
Doubtless feeling the jitters of the home crowd, the Reds began to impose some authority on the game. New man Dirk Kuyt flashed a header on to the post after a great ball from Gonzalez, the Chilean making his home Premiership debut for the Reds. The resulting corner saw an impassioned plea for handball against Chimbonda but referee Howard Webb, surely a profitable Zinedine Zidane lookalike in his spare time, waved the cries away. Sensing blood, Bellamy took a ball from Gerrard out of his feet only to be stopped by a magnificient last gasp challenge from King. The impressive Zokora had plans for the other side of the pitch though, a wonderful jinking run set Robbie Keane up who, after a weak clearance by Riise, was denied by a block from Agger.
The second half, much like the first, started somewhat slowly, the only highlight being an over the top header from Kuyt after a ball from Steve Finnan. However the hour mark changed all that completely. Davids came on for Spurs to replace Tainio and within moments was scampering down the left hand side. A weighted ball across the six yard area gave Jermaine Jenas the easiest of tap ins but inexplicably he turned it wide. It went from bad to much worse for the visitors; from the breakaway a wonderful diagonal ball from Alonso found Gerrard who, after ghosting past Assou-Ekotto, crossed to give Bellamy a certain tap in at the other end. Like Jenas though, he failed to hit the target, the ball bouncing off the post but was snapped up by Gonzalez who drilled his shot past Robinson. The jubilation coupled with the collective sigh of relief around the home supporters was more than evident.
In the ascendancy now, the Reds found the extra space they needed. Luis Garcia, who had made way at the start of the day for Gonzalez, came on for Bellamy after sixty eight minutes and was soon putting himself around in the final third. He was on the pitch for five minutes before a lovely clipped pass into the path of Kuyt saw the Dutchman take a touch before lashing home a piledriver of a shot from the right hand side of the area for his second goal in as many games. He was unlucky not to make it three goals after a fine solo effort saw him go past King but angled his shot wide of the post. The visitors never recovered and to make their visit North slightly worse, the last minute saw Riise take a pass from Garcia and at around 35 yards from goal, smashed home a rocket shot into the bottom right hand corner at the Kop end that sent the home crowd into rapturous applause.
Speaking afterwards, both managers were in unison that the Jenas miss on the hour was the turning point of the game. Spurs boss Martin Jol said, “How many times will that happen? In one minute we could have been 1-0 up, the next we are a goal down and the game is wide open”. Similar sentiments were echoed by Benitez who said, “Spurs made a mistake by missing a great chance and then we punished them on the counter attack. This gave us the space we needed”. Kuyt was in high spirits at the end, saying, “Two goals in two games is a good feeling and it was a great goal to score in front of the Kop. I know I can play better but right now my confidence is very good”. With the imminent visit of Galatasaray on Wednesday in the next instalment of the Champions League, Benitez, his team mates and the supporters will be hoping that confidence continues to grow.
Man Of The Match
Dirk Kuyt, whether chasing down defenders or foxing them with his movement, was tremendous and deserved another goal or two to go with his debut strike in front of the Kop. On this, and previous showings, it would seem that a certain Mr Crouch will have his work cut out to retain his place in this team.