Monday, November 29, 2010

Match Report: Tottenham 2 - 1 Liverpool

Aaron Lennon scored deep into stoppage time as Tottenham completed another amazing comeback to beat Liverpool and stay in the Barclays Premier League title hunt.

An incident-packed game looked certain to end in a 1-1 draw after Martin Skrtel netted at both ends and substitute Jermain Defoe also missed a penalty.

Several other clear-cut chances went begging for both sides before Lennon became the hero to move Spurs to within a point of fourth-placed Manchester City and back to six of the summit.

It was the second time in eight days, and the fifth time this season, Tottenham had come from behind to win a Premier League game.

This match was the first meeting between the sides since Tottenham usurped Liverpool as a member of the top four and one of England's Champions League flag bearers, a mantle they have assumed with aplomb.

They suffered a blow early on when they lost Rafael van der Vaart to injury in the 12th minute, the midfielder having been passed fit to play after an ankle injury.

Replacement Defoe curled a left-foot volley at Jose Reina before the lively Maxi Rodriguez forced a fine fingertip stop from Heurelho Gomes, who then improvised a save to turn Dirk Kuyt's angled volley behind.

Raul Meireles was cautioned midway through the half for felling Gareth Bale in full flight and referee Martin Atkinson had his yellow card out again for Paul Konchesky on the half-hour after a brilliant 40-yard run by the Tottenham winger.

A minute later, Defoe should have put Spurs ahead when Reina spilt Luka Modric's cross to leave him with an open goal but Jamie Carragher threw himself in front of the ball to block.

It was frantic stuff and David Ngog then powered a header wide from Kuyt's cross before Spurs suffered another blow when Younes Kaboul hurt himself after being hit by a Fernando Torres shot.

Sebastien Bassong came on for the final nine minutes of the half, which saw Gomes almost fumble Meireles' speculative shot into his own net and Carragher carded for tripping Modric in full flight.

Liverpool then snatched the lead when Spurs made a complete hash of trying to clear Meireles' flighted free-kick and Skrtel pounced to prod the ball past Gomes.

Maxi and Torres could have doubled the deficit in stoppage-time but the former fell over his own feet with only the goalkeeper to beat and the latter was thwarted by a brilliant last-ditch Bassong tackle.

Incredibly, Lucas Leiva sent Torres clean through again a minute after the restart and hesitated long enough to allow Bassong to challenge.

But Spurs were unlucky not to level in the 52nd minute when Lennon's cross eventually dropped to Bale and his vicious shot somehow found the head of Meireles on the line.

Atkinson was not interested when Peter Crouch went down in the box but did penalize Carragher for a challenge on Defoe which led to a 61st-minute Tottenham penalty.

In a repeat of the spot-kick they were awarded at Arsenal the previous weekend, Bale blasted a free-kick which Ngog inexplicably handled.

Skrtel was booked for disputing the award but it did not matter as Defoe dragged the penalty wide, Spurs' fourth miss from the spot this season.

However, an inspirational run from Modric did see Spurs equalize four minutes later, the midfielder jinking his way into the box.

Skrtel tried to cut out his cross but could only turn the ball past Reina.

Kuyt was adamant he should have had a penalty following a strong challenge from Benoit Assou-Ekotto but Atkinson was unmoved.

The visitors were forced to replace Ngog with Fabio Aurelio for the final 15 minutes.

Neither side was settling for the draw and Bale saw another effort blocked when his volley crashed into a crowd of Liverpool players.

The impressive Meireles also sent a beautifully-struck left-foot shot inches wide from 25 yards before the Reds lost Carragher for the final four minutes to a shoulder injury, Sotirios Kyrgiakos replacing him.

Glen Johnson was booked after leaving Bale in a heap, with light snow beginning to fall in north London.

Defoe then netted what he thought was a brilliant last-minute winner but he was offside lashing the ball home.

But, two minutes into stoppage-time, Lennon sealed another incredible Spurs fightback when he raced onto Crouch's flick and fired past Reina.

Defoe was immediately withdrawn for Sandro and Lennon almost made it 3-1 with another barnstorming run.

Hodgson Insists He Is Happy With Fernando Torres

Roy Hodgson insists Fernando Torres' crisis of confidence has not returned despite the striker's killer instinct appearing to desert him in Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

Torres twice hesitated when clean through either side of half-time while the visitors were leading at White Hart Lane in the Premier League yesterday. The delays allowed Sebastien Bassong to snuff out the danger and keep Spurs in a game that was in danger of slipping away from them.

Hodgson admitted last month that Torres was mentally "a bit low" following an injury-hit spell and a poor World Cup. He looked back to his best in Liverpool's victory over Chelsea but has now failed to score in his last three matches.

"I think 'crisis of confidence' may be too strong," said Hodgson after Torres' display yesterday. "I was pleased with Fernando Torres. Fernando himself, because he sets very high standards, will be disappointed he didn't take one of the goal chances which his good play – to be fair – created."

Hodgson also refused to be too harsh on the Spaniard's strike partner David Ngog after the latter inexplicably handled Gareth Bale's free-kick to gift Tottenham a penalty yesterday.

Ngog enjoyed a reprieve when Jermain Defoe missed from the spot and Hodgson said: "Players do these things. I don't think he jumped with his hands to actually stop the ball with his hands."

Ngog hobbled off in the second half but Hodgson's main concern was a serious injury to stand-in captain Jamie Carragher, who went off in the 87th minute with a suspected dislocated shoulder.

Roy Hodgson Confirms Defender Jamie Carragher Dislocated His Shoulder In Tottenham Defeat

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed defender Jamie Carragher is set for a spell on the sidelines after he dislocated a shoulder in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

The veteran defender had to be helped from the field late on in the match and his manager confirmed it was a serious injury.

“He’s dislocated his shoulder, it’s a very unfortunate thing to happen,” Hodgson told Sky Sports after the game.

“It’s his 450th Premier League appearance today, a record of which he is right proudly and now we will be without him and Steven Gerrard for a while and they are the lifeblood of our club.”

Hodgson also admitted that defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane was “difficult to take” after a late Aaron Lennon goal secured a 2-1 victory for Harry Redknapp’s team.

“We haven’t played that badly this year but we haven’t got enough points, that’s the problem,” he said.

“We are still harbouring ambitions to get up closer to the top of the table and at least a point or three points would have been a big, big step but to go away with nothing sets us back once again. I suppose one can take consolation from the performance but it didn’t get us any points.”

The former Fulham boss found it hard to hide his disappointment and he bemoaned the fact his side missed chances to double their first-half lead, after both Maxi Rodriguez and Fernando Torres spurned opportunities.

“To lose it in injury time in the way we did of course is very hard to take. I’m very disappointed for the players, very disappointed that we didn’t go away from here with at least one point which would have been something we could have been proud of. Unfortunately it’s a defeat and defeats hit you very hard,” he added.

“There is no doubt about it, we missed some very good chances today. We played some good football to get ourselves in that position. But Tottenham are a very good, dangerous team and they also create chances.”

Tottenham also missed a penalty in the game after David Ngog handballed a Gareth Bale free-kick and although Jermain Defoe missed from the spot, Hodgson had no complaints about the decision.

“There were quite a few instances in the game where there controversial decisions in the penalty area, difficult for the referee,” he said.

“The penalty is quite clear, David Ngog had no right to have his hands where he had them.”

Magpies Aim To Keep Darby

Notts County manager Paul Ince is optimistic of being able to extend Liverpool defender Stephen Darby's loan until the end of the season.

Darby has impressed in making four appearances at right-back for the League One club since moving to Meadow Lane at the start of the month.

The 22-year-old is currently due to stay with the Magpies until January and Ince has praised Darby's form since his arrival at the club.

Ince is hopeful he can keep Darby for the rest of the campaign, but concedes his son Thomas is likely to return to Liverpool in the New Year.

"Darbs has not had a bad game. He has been exceptional from the very first day he came here," Ince told the Nottingham Evening Post. "He's only 22, but plays with a lot of maturity.

"He has good awareness and always puts himself in good positions. He's brave too. He will put his foot in and put his body on the line for the team.

"Thomas might have to go back, but hopefully we can keep Darbs.

"He's been schooled well at Liverpool and he's playing well at the moment. He is the type of player we want to bring into the side. We want to raise the bar."

Balmelli Confirms Liverpool's Interest

Valentin Stocker agent Marco Balmelli has confirmed Liverpool’s interest in the FC Basel midfielder.

The versatile 21 year-old has been attracting a plethora of interest around Europe this season with Liverpool, Wolfsburg, Roma and Juventus all reportedly keen in his services.

Roy Hodgson knows all about Swiss talent, having successfully managed the national side and a season with Grasshoppers and it appears he has got his eyes firmly on one of Switzerland’s brightest prospects.

Balmelli claims that he has had contact with the Merseysiders, although no formal offer or approach has been made:

“Liverpool? Yes, with the English club I have had contact. How much? Valentin is good technically, can play multiple roles, both on the wing and the centre.”

Valentin Stock recently graduated to the full national side where he has scored three goals in seven appearances to date.

Liverpool Dealt Blow As Swede Pledges Future

Liverpool‘s hope of securing a January deal for PSV’s Ola Toivonen was dealt a blow today as the striker committed his immediate future to the club.

The Swedish target man has been in superb form and has been linked with a plethora of clubs around Europe, after scoring 10 goals in 20 games so far this season.

Toivonen is more than aware of the interest in him, but has no desire to leave PSV until the summer at the earliest.

“I am set to set stay at PSV. We’re losing Afellay and I have no plans to leave,

“I know that there are clubs looking at every game so rumours are something that I have to live with.”

Manchester United Get Liverpool In FA Cup Third Round

Manchester United will face bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup.

It is the only all-Premier League tie in a draw that also sees Leeds travel to Arsenal, holders Chelsea face Ipswich and Stevenage play Newcastle.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's Leicester host his former club Manchester City, while non-league York and Dover are away at Bolton and Huddersfield respectively.

The ties will be played over the weekend of 8/9 January 2011.

The stand-out tie at Old Trafford will be the ninth post-war meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool in the competition, with the Red Devils victorious in seven of the previous eight.

However, the last time they met, in a fifth-round tie in 2006, seven-time Cup winners Liverpool recorded their first FA Cup win over United in 85 years courtesy of a single Peter Crouch goal.

Newcastle's trip to Stevenage is a repeat of the 1998 fourth-round tie, when then-non-league Boro held United to a 1-1 draw at home before losing 2-1 in the replay at St James' Park.

Three other teams from outside the Football League took their places in the draw with their second-round ties yet to be decided.

FC United of Manchester will host Portsmouth if they come through their replay against Brighton, while Crawley will tackle Swindon again for the right to take on Derby.

Droylsden, of the Blue Square Bet North, face League One Leyton Orient on Monday with a trip to Norwich the prize for the winners.

St Etienne Chief Slams Comolli

St Etienne co-chairman Bernard Caiazzo has launched a bitter parting shot at former employee Damien Comolli.

Comolli was previously in charge of transfer signings at the French club but quit to become Liverpool's director of football strategy earlier this month.

The decision has been greeted with mixed response from Reds fans but Comolli is no stranger to the English game, having also worked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

However, Caiazzo has slammed his former colleague's 'arrogance, incompetence and judgement' while also claiming the Ligue 1 side are better off without his services.

"We are not crying into our handkerchiefs," Caiazzo told the News of the World.

"You need some humility in football and Damien was convinced he was right 100 per cent of the time. There was never any question of dialogue.

"Damien enjoyed total power in his first year with us. His was the last word on all transfers and that is how he wanted it.

"The manager at the time, Alain Perrin, had not even seen some of the players he was given. Damien was his boss.

"His powers were much reduced in January after the failure of his transfer policy the previous summer and he was not pleased.

"I would have fired him then but my co-chairman defended him for months, even when results were poor.

"It was a mistake bringing him back to the club."