Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carling Cup: Tottenham 4-2 Liverpool, Lightning Strikes Twice for Harry

Lightning struck twice at White Hart Lane tonight as Spurs beat Liverpool for the second time in ten days thanks to a brace from Roman Pavyluchenko, and another two from Frasier Campbell, who scored his first goals in a Tottenham jersey since his loan move from Champions Manchester United.

Tottenham were 3-0 up by half time thanks to a Pavlyuchenko goal and two goals in two minutes from Frasier Campbell. Spurs dominated the first half to such an extent that they could have doubled their tally.

Liverpool were miserable and were at sixes and sevens all over the pitch as they failed to get into the game or to match Spurs' superb momentum.

Rafael Benitez chose to rest his star players as Liverpool fielded a young side. Torres came in up front to partner Ngog as he searched for match fitness. Babel, Lucas, El Zhar, and Plessis made up Rafa's midfield. Carragher made way for Hyypia, who was paired with Agger in the centre of defence, Dossena and Degen filled the full back positions with Cavalieri deputising for Reina in goal.

Redknapp rested seven from the team who beat Manchester City at Eastlands on Sunday as he strove to keep Spurs' momentum going after going unbeaten in five games since he took over as manager.

Gomes kept his place in goal, Dawson returned from suspension to join Hutton, Corluka, and Gareth Bale in the Spurs defence.

Lennon made his first start under Redknapp on the right with Zokora, Jamie O'Hara, and the ever-present Tom Huddlestone making up the midfield. Roman Pavlyuchenko was partnered by Campbell as Spurs started with two up front for the first time this season.

Spurs were excellent throughout and only two goalkeeping errors by Gomes to hand Liverpool both goals blotted an otherwise superb night. Tottenham are now only three games away from retaining their trophy.

Liverpool will point to the fact that they made 10 changes to Saturdays team, but that will be scant consolation to Rafael Benitez who looked furious after the match as his team were out-fought and out-thought in every department.

By half-time Liverpool hadn't even managed a shot on goal as Spurs played as well as they have all season. They worked hard throughout the team, closed Liverpool down at every opportunity and created multiple chances only for wayward crossing and finishing to let them down.

Pavlyuchenko and Campbell looked like a real partnership and had gone close on a couple of occasions before they combined to give Spurs the lead.

Campbell burst past a static Hyypia, who looked as if he thought the ball was going out for a goal kick. With Campbell in control he produced a text book pass to the penalty spot that caught the Liverpool defence on the half turn and Pavyluchenko finished with ease to put Spurs in front.

Spurs scored again three minutes later. Campbell capitalised on the lack of communication between Cavalieri and Dossena, he nipped in between them to control a long ball on his chest and finish into an empty net.

He doubled his tally a minute later when he headed in Lennon's far post cross to give Spurs an unassailable 3-0 lead at half-time.

Rafa was fuming as he stormed down the tunnel and one could only imagine the reception he gave his team as they returned to the dressing room.

Whatever he said it had an immediate effect; Plessis scored from a corner as Gomes went missing. Liverpool piled the pressure on the mistake-prone keeper with successive corners.

But Liverpool's revival was short lived as Didier Zokora burst from midfield into the box, he crossed to an unmarked Pavlyuchenko who stroked the ball home from two yards to leave Liverpool with a mountain to climb at 4-1 down.

Hyypia gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope as he headed past Gomes from another corner. The Brazilian failed to command his area but it was to no avail as Spurs soaked up Liverpool's remaining attacks.

After being anonymous for most of the match Liverpool right-back Phillipe Degen was at the centre of the matches two talking points.

On the first he broke into the Spurs penalty area only for Gareth Bale to slide in from behind. Replays suggested the referee got the decision right as Bale seemed to make contact with the ball but if he did the contact was minimal, and on another day Spurs would have conceded a penalty.

Five minutes later Degen again broke through but Gomes produced a stunning piece of bravery and goalkeeping as he dived at the Liverpool man's feet to deny a certain goal. Unfortunately, Degen caught him accidentally and the Spurs goalkeeper lay prone for several minutes as medical staff rushed to his aid.

After the match Harry Redknapp allayed everybody's worst fears as he confirmed that Gomes was okay, and should be available for selection against Fulham on Saturday.

The disruption ended any hope Liverpool had of getting back into the match as the stoppage broke any momentum they had and handed the impetus back to Spurs.

Unlike their North London rivals they played the game down at 4-2 and were never going to be caught on this memorable night at the Lane.

Redknapp said: "It was a good win and a good performance, even though we could do better on corners. That's 18 goals we've scored since I've been in charge—we're bringing in Les Ferdinand to help with the strikers and I've told him if we stop scoring—it'll be his fault!

"In all seriousness though, I've been so pleased with the players. They have tremendous quality and want to win every game—the desire is brilliant" said a jubilant Redknapp after the match.

Redknapp judged the match perfectly and fielded a strong side as he strove to keep Spurs momentum going. A loss at this point could have had a negative effect on the team as they are still in trouble at the wrong end of the table. And with the next four games being very winnable Redknapp needed to keep confidence high.

Redknapp will be delighted by the good form of Tom Huddlestone. Since Harry recalled him to the side he has been pivotal in Spurs revival and a watching Fabio Capello could not have been anything but impressed with another super performance by the Spurs youngster.

The same can't be said about Rafa. After guiding Liverpool to the summit of the league with the clubs best start to a campaign in years, Rafa would have wanted a good performance ahead of a good result. He got neither here as Spurs brushed his team aside.

"We did not play well, we did not defend well, and we did not deserve anything from the game" said a seething Benitez.

With so many first choice players out of the team, many pundits will be quick to point out that team morale will not be affected. But sometimes defeats of this nature, even though it was against a second string team can have a catastrophic effect on morale, as first team players realise that the reserves cannot be counted upon when the chips are down.

Benitez was justifiably angry with his teams performance tonight. And he will have to pick these players up if Liverpool are to challenge this season as most would agree that a strong squad is of utmost importance.

With his strongest side out Liverpool are a match for anybody on current form and Rafa will have to make sure that tonight's dip doesn't effect the teams league momentum.

twitter / WillieGannon