‘Poisoned chalice’ passes by Liverpool
Rarely can a poisoned chalice have been so fiercely contested.
Liverpool have long aspired to the Europa League as the only coronation gift available to Kenny Dalglish; Tottenham have long scorned it as an unwelcome consolation.
Seeing their Thursday nights booked up is hardly a prize either will treasure; both fought until their last breath to earn the right to complain, long and loud, next season.
Spurs are worthy of what, should they beat Birmingham next week, will be their place in Europe, although justice was only done in the most unjust of circumstances.
They deserve it for this display and this season. They started brightly, endured a predictable dip and ended on a high -- both in this display and in this season.
But that their guests are better prepared, better equipped and better suited to an autumn of far-flung travel will not assuage Liverpool's anger.
Dalglish's side fell behind to a fortuitous opener from Rafael van der Vaart; then lost the game thanks to the sort of decision which would have Ryan Babel scrambling to Photoshop.
Even Spurs seemed taken aback to see Howard Webb point to the spot when John Flanagan and Steven Pienaar's shoulders collided outside the box. There was no intent from either party; Webb's decision, and Luka Modric's coolness, certainly spoiled one.
"It is just unhelpful to everyone that we cannot express our true thoughts and it's even more disappointing that the officials get away scot-free without having to come and explain their decisions," said Dalglish.
Yet hindsight will tell them that sixth place, after the start to their season, would be a fine achievement. It will tell them that Spurs deserved this.
The visitors started excellently, pressing high, suffocating their hosts. Van der Vaart's opener, volleyed in off Glen Johnson, was ample reward. Liverpool could not answer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)