by Anthony Jones at Talklfc
After the seemingly eternal break to the Premiership campaign as the World Cup qualifiers continued, Liverpool returned to action away to Spurs looking to build on a steady if albeit far from eye catching start to the season. Given the international fixtures, Benitez made his customary change with Alonso not featuring. Warnock and Riise were both lined up on the left flank, Hamann was brought in to partner Gerrard whilst Crouch and Cisse were picked to lead the line together for the first time in the league.
The game started in lively fashion with the first chance coming when Spurs gave the ball away, the ball was played into Crouch who found his strike partner Cisse who did well to make a yard for a shot but his effort went wide. At the other end Defoe latched onto a misplaced header from Warnock after Liverpool failed to deal with a long ball but his effort curled wide. Spurs looking lively with Lee pushing forward and they had another chance when Davids found Defoe who deceived Carragher and curled a shot which Reina saved though the official missed the touch.
In a congested midfield Spurs had the greater numbers and mobility in the centre with the combination of Davids, Carrick and Jenas as well as Gerrard and Hamann played, the German's mobility showed in this formation. Didi's great worth is when playing with Alonso and Gerrard allowing those two the freedom to play. There was a particularly good passage of play when Jenas and Gerrard took it in terms to track back to win the ball off the other - Gerrard just getting the upper hand and Riise nearly released Cisse.
Liverpool then got lucky as Defoe curled a cross into the box, there appeared little danger as Reina came out to catch the ball on the bounce but with Jenas rushing in he took his eye off the ball allowing the ball to travel through his six yard area though thankfully Rasiak couldn't capitalise. Cisse was then put through on the right but he seemed uncertain whether to shoot or cross from wide and ended up putting the ball harmlessly into space between Crouch and the keeper. Riise then put in a deep cross which Garcia volleyed with great technique, but summing up the start to the season he has made his effort was blocked. Lee was making an impressive debut for Spurs on the left giving Finnan a tough time. Rasiak was then nearly put through the centre but Finnan covered around well as Hyypia lost his man though there were valid claims for a shirt pull from the fullback.
Hamann played a brilliant cross field ball to Crouch on the edge of the box - the linesman flagging for offside as Crouch was bringing the ball under control having made a good move behind the defender. Luis Garcia then won a free kick on the right which Gerrard swung in at pace. Crouch at the far post looked a real threat but Gardner stood his ground well to prevent the sriker from getting on the end of the ball. Stephen Warnock whipped in a deep cross to the far post, Garcia was alive to the opportunity and with the Tottenham defenders out of the play and Crouch waiting the little Spaniard could only manage to sidefoot the ball into the outside of the goal netting from close to the touchline.
Cisse nearly put Crouch in by flicking the ball on but the tall striker was incorrectly flagged for offside when clean through. Lee then showed his ability down the left leaving Finnan for dead and earning a corner. Liverpool then looked very uncertain as the ball was swung in though thankfully Defoe missed the opportunity to strike a volley goalwards and the ball was scrambled clear.
Liverpool were then down to 10 men for a short period at the end of the half after a Carrick free kick from the flank caught Hamann flush on the back of the head leaving the German unsure of his whereabouts. Whilst he was off Spurs looked to take advantage of their numerical advantage, first making space down the right with some slick passing which forced a great clearance from Carragher and then Defoe was found in the box. The forward in a lot of space eventually put the ball in the back of the net but the flag had been up for off-side when the ball initially arrived to him.
Peter Crouch who had shown the odd sign of his threat then gave full demonstration of one of the main threats he will add to the Liverpool side. A free kick from the right was perfectly curled in to allow Crouch to attack it, and that's exactly he did, rising above Gardner but heading over. Luis Garcia then gave away a free kick with a silly shirt pull which allowed Davids to strike. Reina was forced to make a sharp save but the ball broke to Rasiak who looped a header goalwards but onto the cross bar and the rebound was cleared.
At the half time interval Sissoko replaced Hamann who was clearly suffering from his head injury. The second half started as the first did with both sides attacking. Spurs were nearly in and would have been had it not been for the strength of Carragher. Then Sissoko freed Riise down the left who cut inside Salteri and looked to slip a teammate in inside the six yard box but his low cross was cleared.
Luis Garcia then had two chances in a short space of time, the first coming from a cross from the left which Crouch battled for. The ball broke for Garcia but would not sit down to allow the strike. The ball was cleared but Garcia quickly was back in possession and cut inside but his shot was at Robinson rather than the curler to the top corner which he hit so regularly last season. Shortly after it was Garcia in the action, Cisse brok down the right and showing good composure he pulled the back to Garcia who struck the ball first time only to see his shot strike a defender. There were claims for a penalty but it looked like the ball had hit the chest of the defender who's arms were down anyway. Cisse was starting to look a menace making runs from a central position into the right flank.
With Liverpool in control Djibril Cisse then forced Robinson into action. Crouch winning a knock down that fell into the path of Cisse who hit an ambitious volley with some pace and swerve from about twenty five yards out that Robinson did well to punch out. The ball was poorly cleared and Riise made space in a central position but his shot flew over. Sissoko's arrival had made a big change on the game and it was the midfielders pass that found Riise again in space and he let fly from distance on the slick surface but Robinson was down well. It was also noticeable that Crouch was starting to drop off the play to act as the link between midfield and attack allowing Cisse to make runs which the midfielders could pick out.
It was from one such moment of play that Liverpool earned a free kick. Gerrard's cross was headed clear into a central position and Riise, flying towards the ball lept and acrobatically volleyed the ball goalwards with real venom which rattled the cross bar but bounced down a couple of yards the wrong side of the line from Liverpool's point of view. Spurs then played the ball over the top for Defoe, Reina was out to clear but under pressure his clearance stayed in play. Spurs worked the ball back towards the edge of the box where Reina found himself having to make a strong save to his right from a Carrick shot. Defoe hit the rebound over though was offside anyway.
Hyypia picked up a booking as Defoe ran at the defender, pushing the ball past him but then seemingly taking a dive, there was minimal contact from the big Finnish international. The free kick from Jenas struck the wall and went out for a corner. The free kick was swung in and Rasiak climbed above Riise to head home. The striker went off to celebrate without noticing that the linesman's flag had gone up long before he headed the ball as the ball was deemed to have gone out of play. Alonso was then introduced to replace Warnock who picked up a slight knock though, like Hamann, he is expected to be fit for selection for the midweek Champions League game. He came on as Liverpool were taking a corner. Gerrard's ball found Crouch on the far post who like Rasiak headed home but incredibly his goal was disallowed for the same reason as Rasiak's. Spurs then cut open the Liverpool defence to put Lennon through though Reina was quickly out to make a good save though once more the attacking player had already been flagged offside. Liverpool once more quickly countered and inside the box Cisse missed his kick with a goal on offer.
Liverpool then took off Crouch to bring on Traore to allow the team to revert into the 4-5-1 shape which they have used regularly since Benitez has arrived and following the earlier introduction of Alonso. With the game coming to a close it seemed Liverpool were ultimately happy to preserve the clean sheet first and look for Cisse on the break. The game eventually ended as it had started with both teams even with no goals scored though this was far from a bore draw.
The positives for Liverpool are yet another clean sheet with just four goals conceded in the ten games so far. Mo Sissoko came on and again impressed whilst this was the most fluid performance that Liverpool have put in this season. Crouch was regularly involved on his debut and given his recent injury problems, showed promise. Both teams will feel they could have taken the points in the game but both will also be pleased not to have lost. Given results elsewhere, with the exception of Chelsea, Liverpool are still well in the pack for the top places though Benitez will be hoping his side can find the net soon.