Harry Redknapp had feared a backlash from Liverpool last night. Instead, he was treated to a rout. Tottenham Hotspur maintained their grip on this trophy after a thrillingly entertaining victory delivered in a style that sums up Redknapp's reign to date. Spurs, shaky at the back but glorious going forward, can do no wrong under their new manager.
They have now scored 18 times in his six matches in charge, five of which have been won. "I should get out now," said Redknapp as he contemplated the best start by a Spurs manager in 110 years. "I've clearly taken them as far as I can."
As an attacking force, they are unrecognisable from the mishmash that appeared to be ambling towards ignominy under Juande Ramos. Liverpool's first team had been beaten somewhat fortuitously in the Premier League 11 days previously. A virtual second string was dismantled here.
Only Spurs' fragility at the back offered the visitors any hope, yet once Heurelho Gomes had departed on a stretcher, even that soft underbelly felt stiffened. The Brazilian goalkeeper was accidentally kicked in the mouth by Philipp Degen as the pair challenged for a loose ball and needed Vedran Corluka's swift reaction to prevent him swallowing his tongue. He received oxygen and was lucid enough to watch the latter stages - "He'll probably go out for a Chinese later," said Redknapp - from the dressing room as Degen appeared to be tripped by Gareth Bale's lunge. The referee, Mike Riley, waved away the penalty appeal and after that Spurs were spared any nerves.
Liverpool did not deserve to muster a comeback to rival the one on that celebrated night in Istanbul three years ago. Their defending in the seven minutes leading up to the interval was shambolic, Jamie Carragher watching aghast among the substitutes and Steven Gerrard, presumably, switching off the television back home on Merseyside. Andrea Dossena and Degen were perplexed at full-back. The goalkeeper, Diego Cavalieri, panicked. Daniel Agger, a shadow of the player who burst on to the Premier League two years ago, and a leggy Sami Hyypia were helpless to contain those pouring at them.
The three goals in the frenzy before the interval were far too simple for comfort. Fraizer Campbell, revelling in the absence of Darren Bent, skipped to the byline, away from Hyypia, and his pull-back was dispatched emphatically by Roman Pavlyuchenko, ignored by Agger in the middle. Jamie O'Hara had already been denied by Cavalieri's block by the time the midfielder's optimistic cross from the left had the goalkeeper and Dossena colliding, the ball running on for Campbell to tap into an empty net.
The Manchester United loanee's performance was excellent, surely impressing the England manager, Fabio Capello, in the stands. "You could see why Sir Alex [Ferguson] turned down a £7m bid from Hull for him in the summer," said Redknapp.
Yet Liverpool had long since disintegrated as a defensive unit, leaving Rafael Benítez apoplectic at the ineptitude on show as his team of strangers groped desperately in the dark.
They were not permitted respite, O'Hara and Aaron Lennon combining for the winger's cross to loop over a grounded Agger for Campbell to nod in the third. It summed up the visitors' efforts that Didier Zokora, normally a becalmed defensive shield, was permitted to burst into the area seven minutes after the interval. The Ivorian's cross flicked off Hyypia and was tapped home by the unmarked Pavlyuchenko at the far post.
"We were really poor," said Benítez, whose only consolation was the 56-minute display of a rusty Fernando Torres which will have boosted his match fitness after his hamstring problems. "We had a lot of quality in that team and wanted to win. But you have to think about priorities. The Champions League and the Premier League are the priorities. After that, the FA Cup."
Les Ferdinand begins work at Spurs this week, coaching strikers. The Merseysiders can be thankful his impact has yet to be felt, but there is work to be done at the other end. Damien Plessis and Hyypia were both allowed free headers from Ryan Babel corners to offer brief hope.
Spurs may still languish perilously close to the Premier League's foot, but they are upwardly mobile. Everything Redknapp touches at present turns to gold.
Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 2
(HT 3 – 0)
Bookings Pavlyuchenko 41
Tottenham Hotspur's Percentage Liverpool's Percentage
Corners 7 58% 5 42%
Goal attempts 12 70% 5 30%
On target 8 72% 3 28%
Fouls 6 37% 10 63%
Offside 2 50% 2 50%
Tottenham Hotspur Heurelho Gomes (Cesar Sanchez, 74), Gareth Bale, Alan Hutton, Michael Dawson, Vedran Corluka, Didier Zokora, Aaron Lennon, Jamie O'Hara, Tom Huddlestone, Fraizer Campbell (Darren Bent, 90), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Kevin-Prince Boateng, 90)
Liverpool Diego Cavalieri, Philipp Degen (Stephen Darby, 84), Sami Hyypia, Andrea Dossena, Daniel Agger, Damien Plessis (Xabi Alonso, 66), Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel, Nabil El Zhar, Fernando Torres (Emiliano Insua, 56), David N'Gog
Referee Riley, M
Venue White Hart Lane
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