x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Attack pays off again for Spurs

Tottenham come back from behind to beat Liverpool as Harry Redknapp continues to believe his Spurs side are genuine tittle challengers.

Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon, centre, shoots past Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, in the last minute of regulation time to win the game for Spurs.
Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon, centre, shoots past Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, in the last minute of regulation time to win the game for Spurs.

LONDON // When you are chasing a dream it helps to specialise in the hard to believe. Harry Redknapp keeps selling the reverie of his Tottenham Hotspur side jumping from fourth to first in a single Premier League year and for White Hart Lane loyalists the last eight days have been truly fantastic.

Arsenal immolated on their own arrogance, a confident cruise into the Champions League knockout rounds, and this come-from-behind defeat of Liverpool.

Regardless of Redknapp's passionate PR, Spurs have strung three wins together just once before this season. That Aaron Lennon's 92-minute winner gave them three in a week here underlined an enviable ability to recover losing causes.

Sixteen of Tottenham's 25 Premier League points have been claimed after conceding the opener. If the adventure of their play regularly lands this team in trouble, it also offers a tool with which to dig themselves out of it.

"We've got attacking players, we always feel we're going to get chances," said Redknapp. "We're not a team you can write off and say 'they look like they're never going to score a goal'. We play with two wingers and we have a go. So we're always in with a chance even if we're one down. It's just a case of sticking them away."

Exactly the problem of an improving Liverpool side that outthought Tottenham for long periods without building on Martin Skrtel's scrambled opener.

"I'm finding it very hard to come to terms with the fact that we've had to come away from Tottenham with no points," said Roy Hodgson. "We played well enough to have put the game to bed by halftime."

For all the perceived gloom of Hodgson's first Anfield season, the difference between the clubs at kick off amounted to just three points, places and goals. Having warmed up to looped highlights of their derby victory, Tottenham were to lose two of their starting line-up before the break.

Described as "less than 50-50" to make the game on Friday, Rafael van der Vaart's succumbed to his troubled left hamstring - tearing it after a 10th-minute back heel.

Struck at close quarters by a strong Fernando Torres drive, Younes Kaboul limped off clutching a damaged hip muscle. With the recalled Wilson Palacios regularly misdirecting passes in the midfield, the team as a whole was under par.

Liverpool employed uncomplicated, tidy football. Torres and David N'Gog were paired up front, and the ball was fed through on the deck whenever possible. They easily claimed the better early chances. Twice Maxi Rodriguez was worked into the 18-yard-box to shoot at Heurelho Gomes; Dirk Kuyt also drew a competent save.

Tottenham offered little beyond counterattacks. Outpaced by Gareth Bale, Raul Meireles - incorrectly - and Paul Konchesky - accurately - saw yellow for sliding tackles on the winger. Carragher's caution came for upending the escaping Luka Modric. On the one occasion Lennon opened Liverpool up, their captain threw body across six-yard box to block Jermain Defoe's shot.

Three minutes before the interval, Liverpool claimed an embarrassingly straightforward goal.

Meireles, fresh from stretching Gomes with an accurate shot from distance, lifted a free kick into the area. Skrtel beat Peter Crouch to the first header only to see it blocked by teammate N'Gog. Little matter - Tottenham were slow to the breakdown, allowing the centre back to finish with feet. Only a smart recovery tackle from Sebastien Bassong prevented Torres making it two.

Spurs traipsed off for a Redknapp rant, re-emerging to gain a contentious penalty. There was no questioning the handball with which N'Gog stymied Bale's free kick, but the similarity to Cesc Fabregas's error at The Emirates ended with the striker's positioning. Here, hand and ball seemed just outside the area.

Defoe's attempted conversion also proved inaccurate - his strike low and powerful, but a foot wide of Pepe Reina's right-hand upright. Redknapp cursed the striker's seventh miss in twelve penalties.

"It's amazing for such a good goalscorer," said Redknapp. "He's not a great penalty taker is he?"

Lucas then hesitated on a high ball, permitting Modric to sprint down the left. As red shirts retreated, the midfielder headed for a byline cross. Skrtel's attempted clearance span past Reina and in.

Already upset by Martin Atkinson's decision for Tottenham's spot kick, Liverpool were infuriated by the referee's failure to punish Benoit Assou-Ekotto for a lusty penalty-area challenges on Kuyt.

Liverpool were to lose their captain to a dislocated shoulder and a point in the final minutes.

Defoe had seen a goal disallowed for offside, when Assou-Ekotto launched a long diagonal ball. Crouch missed the knockdown and Konchesky stood off Lennon, permitting the winger to run in on Reina and finish. Another win for Tottenham, another night to dream.