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Liverpool Echo report

THEY need not have bothered. A politely written fax explaining that their fear of humiliation had, unfortunately, prevented their participation on Saturday, would have brought Tottenham more dignity and less trouble than this Anfield encounter.

Level at the break, thrashed at the finish, one can't help wondering why teams turn up for fixtures when they expect nothing other than defeat. At least they should give it a go.

It wasn't in the second half where Spurs were beaten; it was in their heads. Once Steve McManaman had tapped Liverpool into a 47th minute lead, the points were safe. They're a gutsy lot at Tottenham.

Whoever coined the phrase "Southern Softies" must have had them in mind. They are the founder members of the Roll Over and Die Club, and manager Gerry Francis, sent rolling and reeling by this result, now awaits his fate.

The Spurs fans are contributing to his departure as much as the players. The "Bye, bye Gerry" from the terraces was soon followed by "We want our Tottenham back," a desperate plea for a raising of standards.

The only standards Tottenham raised were white ones, signalling the abject surrender which could have dire consequences for their beleagured boss.

Like Francis, Roy Evans hasn't been free from pressures this season, but at least his players pulled for him. And while most managers will stick together it must, nonetheless, be relieving for Evans to see someone else looking up at the shiny axe.

I don't know what the Spurs fans were calling for. After all, wasn't this a typical performance? I mean, they've never quite been a gritty, roll-up-your-sleeves team, have they?

With just one win in their 10 previous fixtures and only five Anfield successes in 54, the visitors had probably convinced themselves that they would again return home pointless. A pointless, pathetic philosophy.

But, after a first half where they worried Liverpool, out-played them and even hinted at victory, one would have thought they would be heartened. What greater boost did they want?

It is for this reason that it's hard to judge the Reds on this game. Poor before the break, they were much-improved after it, and they did what every self-respecting side should when opponents just lay down: try and score as many as possible.

John Scales, Steffen Iversen and David Ginola all had opportunities in a first half of squabbling team-mates and midfield mess, where a cross which Stig Inge Bjornebye sliced behind goal summed things up perfectly.

With Scales and Sol Campbell repelling most which Liverpool hurled at them and Ian Walker stopping the rest, Spurs had every reason to believe that, with similar second half application, they would secure a scoreline which would do wonders for morale.

Predictable and desperately lacking in width, the Reds were grateful for that early post-interval breakthrough, which instantly rendered any deficiencies irrelevant. And poor Walker was made to suffer.

The Spurs keeper has had far more important matters on his mind lately than a football match, so it's hard and, possibly, unfair to criticise. Let's just say that under the circumstances he probably shouldn't have played.

Walker could only parry Jamie Redknapp's low cross-shot, which allowed McManaman to convert the rebound when only inches out. Then, three minutes later, Walker beat out a Robbie Fowler blast, only for Oyvind Leonhardsen to ram home the loose ball.

Walker later denied Paul Ince and Fowler again, but just past the hour he was given no chance by Redknapp's glorious 25-yarder, after Bjornebye and Fowler had set him up.

Redknapp has seized his opportunity with both feet, playing the kind of football which makes him an ideal foil for Ince. He has always been skilful, but these days he seems to have added steel to his game. How Spurs could have done with him!

But then, how Liverpool could have done with four second half goals last Tuesday. Only one was required to see off Tottenham, who buckled under far less pressure than Strasbourg, and it's a pity the results can't be swapped.

Redknapp tested Walker again, as did substitute Michael Owen. But the youngster had the final word five minutes from time by racing onto Ince's perfect through pass.

Walker, when fully focussed, probably would have gathered possession, but he released the ball when faced by Owen, who slotted home. All too easy.

Team (4-4-2): James, Jones (McAteer 87), Kvarme, Matteo, Bjornebye, McManaman (Berger 87), Redknapp, Ince, Leonhardsen, Fowler, Riedle (Owen 75).
Substitutes not used: Harkness, Neilsen.
Booked: No Liverpool players.
Referee : S. Lodge (Barnsley).

League position: 6th (22 points after 13 matches).

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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