Suarez fails to ignite on Kop return
Published 07/02/2012 | 05:00
Luis Suarez came in from the cold last night, arriving after the hour mark, lifting Liverpool spirits but failing to break down Spurs' exceptional defence in which Ledley King and Michael Dawson reminded the watching Fabio Capello that England boast other central-defensive options to John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.
As well as the pair's excellence, along with that of Scott Parker in Spurs' midfield, this was also a reminder of the refereeing quality of Michael Oliver, who controlled this game brilliantly, calming tempers when required.
As Spurs stood firm, Liverpool will rue some missed opportunities and another home draw hardly helps their ambitions of a Champions League spot. At least with Suarez back they should have a sharper cutting edge in the future.
Suarez eventually got on after 66 minutes. Harry Redknapp had failed even to reach Anfield, his plane grounded with technical problems at London City airport. A local tabby did make the game, embarking on a promising run towards the Anfield Road End as the Kop, reprising an old favourite, chanted "a cat, a cat, a cat, a cat, a cat".
In this fast-moving social-media world, the Anfield cat had four twitter sites claiming to be the real feline deal by the end of the first half.
Attack was certainly on the minds of Liverpool, who stormed into Spurs. As Suarez watched from the bench, Andy Carroll was looking far more like his old Newcastle self. Only a marvellous sliding tackle by the excellent Dawson nicked the ball away from the feet of Carroll as the tall striker sped into the box.
Kenny Dalglish leapt into the air, appealing for a penalty but Oliver had rightly decreed not a foul. It was the second major decision the young referee had to make, having earlier decided that the fog would lift. It did. Still Liverpool pressed, Parker fouling Glen Johnson on the edge of the Spurs area. Steven Gerrard drilled the free-kick into the wall.
Spurs broke out with increasing conviction. Kyle Walker was racing down the right, enjoying a real high-speed duel with Johnson, Capello's first-choice right-back playing at left-back.
The watching Capello also had an opportunity to check on Martin Kelly, who was working hard down the Liverpool right. Niko Kranjcar was drifting in from the Spurs right, moving the ball adroitly around Anfield, trying to find Emmanuel Adebayor or send Bale on the march. The Welshman made one superb run but was dispossessed by Martin Skrtel, who enjoyed an impressive half, although he caught Bale with a raised boot in the second period.
Liverpool continued to push on, Gerrard setting up Jay Spearing, who shot just wide. Then Gerrard, enjoying his role behind Carroll, charged through, leaving Jake Livermore behind before being caught late by Parker. Craig Bellamy took charge of this free-kick but the result was the same as Gerrard's, ending in the wall.
Back came Spurs, Walker smashing in a cross from the right that Bale managed to turn into an attempt on goal, meeting the speeding ball with a back-heel straight at Pepe Reina. Walker was flying, racing past Bellamy, then Johnson before Daniel Agger slid in to clear.
The half finished with a Liverpool flurry of activity, most notably a Johnson drive that Brad Friedel saved. The second opened up with Liverpool still pressing, including a Gerrard shot that thudded into Ledley King. Anfield then howled in derision at a dive from Bale, who reacted theatrically to Agger being in the same postcode. Bale shoved an angry Agger before Johnson joined in, pushing Bale. The Player of the Year was fortunate to escape with only a yellow.
Suarez's arrival for Kuyt lifted Anfield. Carroll also responded, testing Friedel with a header. Then Suarez sprinted in, briefly worrying Dawson, before soon finding himself in Oliver's book for kicking Parker in the midriff when the ball which he may have anticipated volleying was long gone. Wayne Rooney promptly tweeted that it should have been red.
Dalglish twisted again, sending on Stewart Downing. Liverpool should have taken the lead but Carroll miscued badly. Controversy then entered proceedings. With 15 minutes remaining, Skrtel went in hard on Bale, opening up the skin on Bale's left shin. Skrtel was cautioned.
Spurs were angered by the challenge, although Bale was able to carry on. Johnson did manage to find space down the left, sweeping in a cross that the stooping Carroll, under pressure from King, headed wide.
Then Bale, brilliantly released by Kranjcar, should have scored on the breakaway with seven minutes remaining.
Through one-on-one with Reina, Bale seemed intimidated by the on-rushing Spanish 'keeper. Bale shot straight at Reina, who saved well. Skrtel and Agger then covered to clear as the Welsh flyer lay on the ground with the smash-and-grab raid having passed.
As Spurs fans sighed, Liverpool went through the gears and now it was Friedel's turn to save, denying Suarez, who had been brilliantly set up by Gerrard. The Uruguayan's header was straight at Friedel, with the nine matches he has missed since he last played on St Stephen's Day understandably producing a lack of sharpness. (© Daily Telegraph, London)