Tottenham got off to another fast start; then Liverpool controlled the possession and tempo, but couldn’t break our defence down as it finished Spurs 2 Liverpool 1.
Andre Villas-Boas made a few changes to the side that beat West Ham at the weekend. William Gallas came back in to the defence to partner Michael Dawson and Moussa Dembele made a welcome return to the midfield.
This performance really mirrored a few of our away days this season, where we’ve blown out of the blocks, scored a couple of goals, then hung on.
Spurs quick start
We’ve seen Spurs shoot out the traps on several occasions this season, most notably at Old Trafford, St. Mary’s, the Madejski and the Emirates. In all of these matches we’ve bagged an early goal or two from a quick transition after a turnover. Here was no different, as Gareth Bale ran the show for the first 20 minutes.
He laid on the opener for Aaron Lennon after receiving the ball just inside our half from Michael Dawson. The second came about from his free kick after the ball was quickly moved to Clint Dempsey and he was fouled. The American was also cynically hacked down from behind by Martin Skrtel to avoid another quick counter.
Andre Villas-Boas said that the fast start was vital.
“We were extremely good in the first half. We managed to go 2-0 up, deserved it and it was important. The players did well to hold on to the result. They showed great strength of character and the reward is a very important three points.”
At this point, it looked as if another 4-0 could be possible, but after our initial burst, Liverpool came more in to the match and controlled through ball possession and pressing.
Liverpool lined up in their 4-3-3 formation and controlled possession in this game through moving the ball out to the flanks, then winning it back quickly by pressing.
If we look at their average positions throughout the match, we can see how advanced the full backs were playing and how Joe Allen (24) drops between the centre backs.
This allowed Liverpool to control the game by having an extra man at the back to pass the ball out. They also had 3v2 situations on the flanks when Suarez moved out to help Enrique and Downing on the left and Johnson and Sterling down the right.
Without the ball, Liverpool pressed high up the pitch and either won it back quickly or forced our defenders and Hugo Lloris to clear long.
As a result, Liverpool enjoyed 65% possession and created the better chances due to the fact that they were able to get more shots in the box. Spurs did have more shots on target in the match, but Liverpool took theirs closer in, whereas we generated opportunities in transition from passes made further out.
Luis Suarez was the main threat and had a shot cleared off the line by Kyle Walker and also blazed an effort over the bar after it looked as if the ball had gone out for a goal kick.
Luis Suarez was a constant thorn in our side all evening and despite his recent run of goal scoring form, fortunately the player of last season showed up.
I looked at his play in the Tottenham tactics preview and the same game of Luis Suarez was very much in effect here.
The Uruguayan has been moving out to both sides of the formation in the build-up, but looks to play higher up on the right than on the left.
On the right side, he looks for passes in to the area and behind the full back from Johnson and Sterling that allow him to dribble and shoot. When he moves out to the left on Enrique’s and Downing’s side, he is looking for passes in down the channel and for balls to be cut back.
As in previous matches, the Uruguayan was very much playing that way here. Deeper passes played in to or towards the penalty area on the right and balls in to the channel and cutbacks from the left.
He had 7 shots at goal, which included several good opportunities to score; fortunately we were able to keep him at bay, as we’ll look at now.
After a good opening 20 minutes, Spurs were really pushed on the back foot by Liverpool’s dominance of the ball and ability to win it back.
In the Tottenham tactics preview I looked at the role of Pepe Reina and his short distribution in order to keep possession and start moves forward. With Joe Allen dropping in between the centre backs, so they had three players against Clint Dempsey and Jermain Defoe, Reina’s job was made easy.
The Spaniard was able to move the ball forward which helped Liverpool retain it, but when we did force him to kick long, we won it back every time. Spurs should have learned this earlier and played Lennon and Bale higher up, forcing Reina to go long more frequently. As it was, they were playing deeper trying to deny the ball moving in and through the midfield.
As a result, the ball was making its way through, but we were doing a good job of blocking shots. Out of Liverpool’s 17 attempts at the target, 9 were blocked.
When we weren’t stopping shots, we were clearing the ball from our penalty area and twice off the line, as both Walker and Lennon cleared from under the crossbar.
It was another resolute display and although Liverpool created some decent chances, their goal arrived courtesy of us, as Lennon struck the ball in to Gareth Bale.
Like in several of our away performances this season though, Spurs were able to hang on and take the three points
Spurs 2 Liverpool 1 conclusions
This was a good victory against a very under-rated opponent. Liverpool are slowly getting stronger under Brendan Rodgers and were in control for much of the game.
They bossed the possession, as Rodgers likes them to do, but they had fewer shots on target as Spurs defended resolutely and blocked half of their efforts at goal. We were looking to create on quick transitions and this is how we jumped in to a two-goal lead, unfortunately we were unable to sustain the intensity of our attacks and were restricted to playing on the counter.
We were unable to stop Liverpool building from the back through Reina and Joe Allen dropping in between the centre backs. This allowed them to push their full backs on and gave them three players in wide areas, as Suarez was moving out to help on both flanks.
Despite this, Liverpool didn’t create many chances, but when they did, they were very good scoring opportunities and they should have finished them.
The one player they couldn’t contain all evening torched them for two goals, but also scored theirs.
Final score: Spurs 2 Liverpool 1