Tottenham lurched into a genuine early season crisis after John Barnes and his rampant Liverpool handed them their second White Hart Lane humiliation inside 72 hours. Ossie Ardiles must be laughing his head off down Mexico way. At least his suicidal Spurs lost him his job last autumn with a sense of style -- and he began last season with three wins out of four! In contrast, Gerry Francis has just one point from three games and at this rate chairman Alan Sugar's patience may not hold out until November.
Hamstrung by the continued absence of England winger Darren Anderton, Spurs lost with barely a whimper and well before the end the Merseyside fans were taunting "Easy, easy" as Roy Evans' men strung together a virtuoso passing exhibition. At the heart of everything were the men Terry Venables must surely build his European Championship team around -- Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and the enduring Barnes.
He answered mutterings about his international future after an indifferent Umbro Cup with two sensational goals which should ensure his presence in the England squad named on Tuesday to face Colombia. Peroxide blond Fowler added an equally scintillating third to ensure that injured 8.5 million pound Stan Collymore was not missed.
By the end Spurs were being toyed with to the embarrassment of home fans who could only admire the instinctive play of a Liverpool side which re-established themselves as leading championship contenders after the unwarranted defeat to Tony Yeboah's thunderbolt at Leeds.
Spurs, beaten by Villa on Wednesday, gave Clive Wilson, a free signing full-back from QPR, his debut and brought in 21-year-old Irish winger Gerry McMahon.
But the ghost of Jurgen Klinsmann, the talk of the town a year ago, hovers over this side, and particularly 4.5 million pound new signing Chris Armstrong. The pressure on him to live up to a legend is unfair and destructive. He almost delivered his first goal after two minutes, James athletically saving his crisp angled shot. But then he subsided, Spurs' lack of width and support leaving the former Palace striker and Teddy Sheringham with a thankless task.
Liverpool's well-oiled midfield simply overran the home side with their effortless passing game.
They were launched by a spectacular seventh minute Barnes strike, gliding onto an Ian Rush pass to crack a 25 yard shot into Ian Walker's top left-hand corner.
Collymore might never have signed, Fowler slipping back into his familiar role alongside Rush, and Redknapp continuing his excellent start to the season. A favourite to earn his first England start against Colombia, Redknapp could have had a hat-trick, firing over from Barnes' pass and Walker saving his best shot from 20 yards. It should have been 2-0 to the visitors after 13 minutes, Liverpool's crisp passing culminating in Fowler turning Rush's ball brilliantly into the path of Steve McManaman. But the young England midfielder, with only Walker to beat, angled his shot invitingly for the Spurs goalkeeper to save going to his right. But Barnes had no such flaws and opened up the killing two-goal gap in the 43rd minute with a surgical low angled shot. Ironically, the move started with Spurs' hugely disappointing Romanian Ilie Dumitrescu, who provided neither the work-rate to match David Howells or the inspiration. And when he passed sloppily along the edge of the Liverpool penalty area, Redknapp pounced and sent McManaman away on the counter which ended up with Fowler getting Barnes in on the left for his second.
Walker kept Spurs respectable with a leaping save from Fowler's chip, but had no chance in the 55th minute when Rob Jones unhinged the home side with a storming drive down the right channel. He laid the ball out wide for the overlapping McManaman whose first-time cross was met by an equally accurate first-time shot by Fowler, spearing the ball low between Walker and the near post. Only a sense of wounded pride kept Spurs going but their consolation was more than fortuitous, Dumitrescu's 88th minute corner looking as if it crept in untouched, though Spurs credited it to Colin Calderwood while some thought Michael Thomas had deflected it past his own goalkeeper.
Roy Evans delivered a chilling message to the rest of the Premiership after the 3-1 destruction of Tottenham which earned Liverpool a near-perfect rating. "It wasn't bad -- but I hope and I think we can do better," said the Anfield boss. "You are always looking for perfection and we got a little bit careless -- you need an end product to all that passing and we have to work at our concentration."
Liverpool, with John Barnes and Steve McManaman toying with Spurs like a matador, look an outstanding championship prospect. But Evans said: "We are obvious contenders, we are in the frame and people are saying we are among the favourites. But last year they said we had no chance. We didn't listen to them then and it is pointless to talk about titles now. All I will say is that with all things being equal, we have as good a chance as anyone."
Liverpool, who humiliated Tottenham despite the absence of 8.5 million pound Stan Collymore, were put on their way by an outstanding shot from Barnes, the first of his two goals in the 3-1 win. "He has hit the bar and hit the post about 10 times pre-season so it is nice to see him hit the net when it counts," said Evans. "He was magnificent today. You can talk about age but he controlled it, passed it and looked as good as anyone on the pitch -- that's great for Liverpool and for England."
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