Sunday 25 February 2018

Lennon leaves Liverpool singing the blues

Tottenham 2
Liverpool 1

Liverpool manager Jose Reina stretches to save as Aaron Lennon's first half shot before the Tottenham winger had the last laugh with a late winner. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool manager Jose Reina stretches to save as Aaron Lennon's first half shot before the Tottenham winger had the last laugh with a late winner. Photo: Getty Images

They usually love Lennon in Liverpool. Yesterday, though, it was a name to be cursed as the Tottenham winger, Aaron, struck the late, injury-time goal which denied Liverpool a point in an encounter they should, perhaps, have won. Instead it was a hard day's night back up to Merseyside.

Spurs confirmed their status as the Premier League comeback kings with an astonishing 16 points now earned from losing positions during this roller-coaster campaign, capping an exhilarating week in which Arsenal have been beaten and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League secured. The good times roll.

It was a game that had everything. To add to the goals there were injuries, the most serious of which was a dislocated shoulder suffered by Jamie Carragher, a missed penalty, yet another one by Jermain Defoe, who has incredibly failed from four of his last five, controversy over penalty appeals and chances galore.

Fernando Torres will be tormented by two clear one-on-ones which he fluffed, appearing all hesitancy when he used to be pure instinct.

Lennon's goal was his first for more than a year and how Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson will rue Carragher's absence as his defence failed to deal with a routine punt forward through its heart.


More than that there was Paul Konchesky playing statues as Lennon sped past him to meet the loose ball and steer his shot through Pepe Reina's grasp. The goalkeeper was incandescent with frustration, Hodgson also, with his hands on his head.

No wonder. At half-time his side were leading, and if they could have doubled that single-goal margin they would have actually replaced Spurs in sixth with an upward mobility that could have regenerated their season.

Instead they were defeated, their advantage over-turned and now sit back in 10th place and still a little too gingerly looking over their shoulders.

Hodgson will point to improved performances from Raul Meireles and Maxi Rodriguez and will hope that David Ngog's partnership with Torres continues to develop but the bottom line is a sixth league defeat of a trying season and an opportunity gone missing to show they could mount a coherent challenge for European football.

They still can, and probably will, and they will know that few teams will show the attacking resolve of Spurs who pushed forward, continuing to threaten.

Reinforcements are needed at Liverpool and Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is asking for them also at his club in a campaign which he senses could end in greater glory that qualifying for the Champions League.

Certainly Spurs are on the cusp of something although they were pushed back here, perhaps distracted by the early loss of Rafael van der Vaart, who will have his damaged hamstring scanned today, before being indebted to Heurelho Gomes for two smart saves, pushing away Maxi's drive and clawing out Dirk Kuyt's half-volley.

Torres was instrumental in both chances while Gomes was less convincing in dealing with a crisp shot from distance by Meireles. For Spurs, Defoe was denied by a brilliant, instinctive block from Carragher, who flung himself to divert the substitute's low shot after Reina had pushed Luka Modric's cross to him.

The shadow-boxing ended with Liverpool grasping the lead. Again it was through the heart of the defence with Spurs failing to deal with Martin Skrtel's header down, as he reached Meireles' deep free-kick, only for the Slovakian to stab his shot into the net.

It was a poor goal to concede and then came the game's pivotal passages of play. Three times Liverpool squandered clear opportunities. First Maxi exchanged passes with Torres, and stumbled as he attempted to round Gomes, then Torres was released by Maxi, suffered a poor first touch which allowed Sebastien Bassong to hurtle back and tackle.

After the restart Torres was through again but delayed, was pushed wide and then blocked by Bassong. A goal then would have sealed it. Instead Spurs rallied and soon after Gareth Bale's half-volley was headed off the line by Meireles they were awarded a free-kick. Bale took it but, inexplicably, Ngog blocked with his arms high above his head.

It was on the 18-yard line, the penalty was given and up stepped Defoe to slam it low and a good yard wide. It was the fourth penalty Spurs had missed -- from nine awarded -- this season and all the more calamitous given Defoe had been stripped of spot-kick duties in January.

But Spurs were not to be denied although it took a superb intervention from Modric to regain parity. He won the ball ahead of Lucas Leiva and drove into the area, out-stripping Carragher before flicking a centre across goal. Skrtel lunged to intercept but the ball spun off his boot and beat Reina.

But neither side settled for a point and Liverpool pleaded for a penalty after Benoit Assou-Ekotto barrelled into Kuyt -- although Spurs will point, also, to Konchesky's push on Peter Crouch for another penalty of their own.

Instead, after Meireles's fierce shot had shaved a post, it was Assou-Ekotto's long ball that allowed Lennon to pounce. He was, in fact, here, there and everywhere. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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