Wednesday 17 January 2018

Comeback kings confirm new pecking order

Sam Wallace

WITH SIX minutes left to play yesterday, Jamie Carragher cast one last plaintive glance over his shoulder as he was led down the tunnel by the physio treating his dislocated shoulder.

When he left, Liverpool were still good for a point; by the time Carragher was reunited with his team-mates in the dressing-room, they were going home with nothing.

In keeping with the way he plays the game, Carragher continued until he simply could not go on.

If only his team-mates had shown a similar resolve then Liverpool might not have left White Hart Lane last night with nothing -- but against the team with the most formidable comeback record in the Premier League you can never be certain.

Spurs came from behind to win in the kind of tradition that Liverpool fans would have recognised from their own club.

It was through the quality of players such as Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale and the cussedness of Peter Crouch to get his head to every ball into the area -- including the crucial flick to Lennon -- that saw Tottenham through.

Liverpool teams of past eras would close out games with a combination of superior talent and dogged determination to battle until the final whistle.

Now it is Spurs who, from somewhere, have acquired a backbone and a sense of purpose for the first time in years. For the home fans at White Hart Lane, who greeted the 1-0 deficit at half-time with some boos, it is still hard to believe that their team really is capable of turning around difficult situations.

But the evidence is there in the past 10 days alone which have included victories over Arsenal, Werder Bremen and now Liverpool.

It would be hard to make that leap of faith with Liverpool, who go into their next Premier League fixture against Aston Villa next week without Steven Gerrard, Carragher or Daniel Agger. It is only three players, but in these difficult times the club will sorely miss the reassuring presence of their two native Liverpudlians.

When Gerard Houllier arrives with Villa at Anfield next week he will discover his former club badly in need of a victory. Having gone through the Rafael Benitez era, it would be interesting to hear Houllier's thoughts on where the club is now as opposed to where it was when he left.

For the first half, at least, yesterday they were the better side and in Raul Meireles had the game's most impressive player.

Carragher took the battle to his old friend and team-mate Crouch with aggression and a touch of craftiness -- two qualities which the team have lacked for much of the season.

Added to that, Fernando Torres' form is a problem. While Harry Redknapp's most creative players ultimately came good for him yesterday, Torres never quite sparked for Liverpool.

Where once he would have struck a shot in the second half that could have put Liverpool back in front, here he hesitated and allowed the retreating home defence a chance that, at his sharpest, would never have arrived.

A better team would have put this game beyond Spurs' reach by half-time but Liverpool left the door open and Redknapp's side came back.

Lennon's winner, nicely finished from Crouch's flick, was late but there was always a sense it was coming once Carragher had departed.

By the end they both embodied their newfound status in English football: one pushing on ambitiously, the other trying desperately to cling on.

In the end the day belonged to the new order.

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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