It was once an irrefutable fact of life that teams had to go some to master Liverpool once in the season. Yesterday Tottenham, two goals ahead just past the half hour, were on course to record their third victory over these opponents when they were torn apart by a ferocious recovery which recalled the fighting spirit of the Liverpool of old.
All over the place defensively, the home side were helped by Mauricio Taricco's sending-off before the interval and spared themselves the agony of another Anfield inquest by exerting sustained pressure on the visitors' goal. They secured the points through a Steve McManaman drive 11 minutes from time.
The players' player for this season was again a non-starter for Tottenham as George Graham continued to use the final games to look at those on the fringes of his first choice. Intriguingly, the rumour mill which suggests David Ginola will not be a presence at White Hart Lane for the next campaign has also begun turning once more.
Both sides utilised a lone striker but it was the visitors who looked the more threatening with their midfield runners continually offering support up front. Liverpool, on the other hand, showed an over-elaborate fondness for the square pass in attack to give Tottenham time to cover and fill the gaps.
Liverpool also had a problem at left-back where Dominic Matteo's keenness to join McManaman upfield left them badly exposed when moves broke down, as they frequently did. The first goal came from there as an adroit, instant pass from Chris Armstrong supplied Steffen Iversen down the unprotected right. When the cross came over Armstrong was alert to it but as two Liverpool defenders and an uncertain goalkeeper converged it seemed that the ball took a final touch off Jamie Carragher.
The football from Spurs had an economy that Liverpool's lacked and they were a great deal more clinical as well. In the 35th minute Darren Anderton curled a free kick into the area and Iversen moved purposefully to head home the second.
If the Merseysiders were to make a genuine fight of it they needed something to happen quickly. The half-time whistle was only seconds away when encouragement came with the dismissal of Taricco for a second yellow card in the space of five minutes. Both cautions appeared unnecessarily harsh but referee Stephen Lodge, wired for sound with his assistants as part of a Premiership experiment, seemed convinced of the seriousness of the two challenges.
As much as that decision both angered and disrupted Graham's team it could not fully explain the conviction behind the comeback which only began to emerge as a possibility when Ian Walker brought down Karlheinz Riedle and Jamie Redknapp converted the penalty.
The introduction of Steven Gerrard had provided fresh impetus and just as crucial was the directness which McManaman had brought to his game after the interval. It was McManaman's corner helped on by Redknapp and diverted into the far corner of the net by the head of a diving Ince that gave Liverpool parity and two minutes later a firm McManaman shot following a Rigobert Song cross provided an unlikely victory.
Goals: Carragher (o.g. 13 mins), Iversen (35), Redknapp (49 pen), Ince (77), McManaman (79).
Half-Time : 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Booked: Riedle (23 mins).
Sent off: Taricco (44 mins).
Attendance : 44,007.
Team (4-4-2): Friedel, Kvarme (Gerrard 46), Carragher, Staunton, Matteo, Thompson (Bjornebye 87), Redknapp, Ince, Leonhardsen (Song 75), McManaman, Riedle.
Substitutes (not used): James, Dundee.
Referee : S. Lodge (Barnsley).
League position: 8th (50 points after 35 matches).
Copyright - The Sunday Telegraph