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Diouf at centre of yet another spat

El Hadji Diouf, already facing a four-game ban by UEFA following the spitting incident against Celtic, was at the centre of more controversy in Liverpool's win yesterday at White Hart Lane.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, accused Tottenham's Mauricio Taricco of attempting to get Diouf sent off and became involved in a war of words with his Spurs counterpart, Glenn Hoddle, who sprang to the defence of his player.

Predictably booed by the home fans from the start, Diouf became involved in a running duel with Taricco, who is no stranger to brouhaha himself.

"I'm a bit angry because Taricco looked as if he wanted to have him [Diouf] sent-off," said Houllier. "That is not nice from a fellow professional.

"It was easy to pick on him on the back of Celtic. Diouf has to expect this but he's mentally strong and is prepared for that."

Houllier spoke to Taricco in the tunnel at half-time which did not please Hoddle.

"For him to verbally attack our player is not on," said Hoddle. "I don't know where he is coming from. It's absolute rubbish. The crowd gave him [Diouf] some stick but everyone knew that was going to happen. I didn't see anything."

Diouf will no doubt find himself on the wrong end of further "wind-ups" but on a more positive note goals by Liverpool's England trio of Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard kept the Worthington Cup winners on target for a place in the Champions League and spared goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek from another costly embarrassment.

It has been said that Owen is going through a goal drought and if that is the case many other strikers would like to be in a similar position because his equaliser was his 21st goal of the season and his 38th in his last 60 League games.

Liverpool had fallen behind to a goal by Taricco. After a mediocre first-half, the Argentine broke the deadlock three minutes after the interval with his first goal for Spurs in 112 games even if some of the credit - or blame - for the historic strike must go to Dudek.

The Polish goalkeeper said he was "surprised by the trajectory" but he should have saved Taricco's shot from 25 yards. Instead, the ball squirmed under Dudek's body and rolled over the goal-line.

Man of the match in the Worthington Cup final win over Manchester United, Dudek is best remembered for howlers that have helped Sir Alex Ferguson's team to victory in the Premiership along with blooper-inspired wins by Middlesbrough and Fulham.

To that ignominious list of mistakes can be added Tottenham so it was no wonder Dudek punched the air in the 51st minute when Owen equalised.

An error by Teddy Sheringham allowed Gerrard, who had an outstanding game, to set up the chance for Owen to score from close range and, to Hoddle's frustration, another defensive mistake contributed to Liverpool's second goal in the 73rd minute.

"We'll never qualify for Europe if we keep giving silly goals away," said the Spurs manager.

Kasey Keller's clearance was intended to reach Matthew Etherington but it went to Jamie Carragher, who slipped the ball to Gerrard.

The midfielder's cross from the right was headed in by Heskey at the far post though Hoddle claimed the Liverpool striker was marginally offside.

Heskey's return of eight goals in 42 matches this season is less impressive than Owen's statistics but Houllier remains a fan of the much criticised striker - "he's scored some valuable goals for us lately".

Following a Tottenham corner in the 82nd minute the home side were caught on the break when Danny Murphy's superb pass to Gerrard allowed him to outrun Ben Thatcher and score with a low drive.

Sheringham pulled one back for Spurs with a low shot on the turn after debutant Jamie Slabber had knocked down Stephen Carr's 87th-minute corner but Hoddle was left to lament "two stupid goals" and "individual errors".

In a memorable summing up, Hoddle said: "There was nothing wrong with our performance other than throwing the game away."

Match details

Tottenham: Keller, Carr, Thatcher, King, Taricco (Freund 69), Davies, Poyet, Bunjevcevic, Etherington, Sheringham, Doherty (Slabber 79).
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Acimovic, Toda.
Booked: Carr.
Goals: Taricco 49, Sheringham 87.

Liverpool: Dudek, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Riise, Diouf, Hamann (Diao 88), Gerrard, Murphy, Heskey, Owen.
Subs Not Used: Arphexad, Smicer, Baros, Biscan.
Booked: Hamann.
Goals: Owen 51, Heskey 72, Gerrard 82.

Att: 36,077
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).

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