Harry Redknapp shrugged his shoulders apologetically before shaking the hand of Rafael Benítez. The Tottenham support was gripped by delirium, for the second time in four days, at a deliciously undeserved last-gasp result and as the club's previous managerial regime was picked apart, the feelgood factor of the new extended to an optimistic mention of European qualification.
"Perhaps Harry should be a little bit embarrassed," said Benítez, the Liverpool manager, as he digested a first defeat of the season. "I agree with him that this was difficult to explain." Fantastic plot lines and extremes of emotion are the norms at White Hart Lane.
As at Arsenal last Wednesday, when two late goals had salvaged an improbable 4-4 draw, Tottenham's players bounced off the field. "David Bentley is doing cartwheels and stupid dances," said the striker Darren Bent who, together with Bentley, had featured prominently in Roman Pavlyuchenko's injury-time winner. "Bentley is one player who has been fantastic since Harry came in."
In his week in charge, Redknapp has been credited with bringing a "new lease of life"... to borrow Bent's phrase. Where there was angst and alienation under his predecessor Juande Ramos, whose struggle with the English language rendered him ill-equipped to massage Premier League egos, Redknapp's people skills have brought liberation.
"Harry can talk to people one-to-one, have a proper conversation and know what he's going on about," said Bent. "Harry has made people believe ... whereas Juande, with the Spanish, it's a bit hard. At one stage, the training ground was a horrible place to be. Everyone was down and there was no team morale. Harry seems to be able to work these miracles."
Bent and Bentley are not the only ones to feel reborn. Redknapp's recall of the players who were sent to train with the reserves has been hailed as vital. "It wasn't nice before," said Bent. "Ramos banished a lot of players to the reserves because he didn't want them but Harry has made everyone welcome and that's the respect you've got to show to people. If we can put in performances like we did [over the last week] then there's no reason why we can't push right up into Europe again."
There had been no hint of the drama to come as Liverpool led through Dirk Kuyt's near-post blast. Their short-passing game was easy on the eye while their pressing across the field stifled Tottenham. They hit the woodwork three times, Kuyt also went close and Xabi Alonso glanced a gilt-edged opportunity wide.
Robbie Keane was booed on his return to White Hart Lane by the noisy minority, although he was applauded by the majority on his substitution, and the frustration of the home crowd was vented in ironic cheers at the goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who combined suicidal distribution with recklessness under high balls.
The game turned, though, when Jamie Carragher headed Bentley's corner into his own net. Rather abruptly, Tottenham looked the team likelier to score again. Their fans came alive and without a hint of irony, they suggested that they sing a song for the vocal travelling hordes. How they crowed after Pavlyuchenko's deft finish.
Benítez hopes to include the striker Fernando Torres, who has had a hamstring injury, against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League tomorrow and despite his protestations to the contrary, Liverpool missed him here. Keane was ineffective as the lone striker and Ryan Babel also laboured when he replaced him.
The debate about Tottenham's striking options concerned whether Bent and Pavlyuchenko could prosper as a partnership. Ramos and his assistant, Gus Poyet, had said that they could not. "It was a bit of a silly thing to say," said Bent, who felt that Tottenham were livelier in the second half with Pavlyuchenko on alongside him. "It is strange that you pay £16.5m for Bent, then you pay £14m for Pavlyuchenko and you realise that they can't play together," added Redknapp.
The manager had been short and sweet in his instructions to Pavlyuchenko, whose English is a work in progress. "I said to the Russian interpreter, 'Tell him to just fucking run about'," said Redknapp with a smile. White Hart Lane is smiling with him.
Man of the match: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Did not deserve to be on the losing team. Was all action in a central roaming role, driving forward and hitting the woodwork twice, and pressing when Spurs had the ball
Best moment: Showing composure to chip from the right-hand side of the area, but his shot hit the crossbar
Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1
(HT 0 – 1)
Carragher (og) 70
Bookings King 75
Tottenham Hotspur's Percentage Liverpool's Percentage
Corners 4 50% 4 50%
Goal attempts 7 30% 16 70%
On target 3 33% 6 67%
Fouls 18 58% 13 42%
Offside 1 16% 5 84%
Tottenham Hotspur Heurelho Gomes, Jonathan Woodgate, Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Alan Hutton, 46), Vedran Corluka, Ledley King, Didier Zokora, Jamie O'Hara (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 46), Tom Huddlestone, David Bentley, Luka Modric (Aaron Lennon, 75), Darren Bent
Liverpool Jose Manuel Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Andrea Dossena, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, Albert Riera (Yossi Benayoun, 78), Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt, Robbie Keane (Ryan Babel, 66)
Referee Dowd, P
Venue White Hart Lane
Copyright - The Guardian