Liverpool Unable to Extend Their Blistering Form Against Tottenham
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Before going down 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, Liverpool had breezed through their last three games and scored 13 goals in the process. Coming into that match, Spurs hadn't won a game since the beginning of April when they beat Stoke.
All the signs were there for Kenny Dalglish's men to continue this purple patch, yet they were overwhelmed and deservedly beaten. What is it that went wrong for the Reds yet made the difference for Spurs?
But first, if you haven't seen Rafael van der Vaart's goal you should immediately direct your browser to wherever it is that you watch your highlights. It was a deserved result of a period of extended pressure at the beginning of the game where Liverpool couldn't get out of their own half.
The injury that Raul Meireles sustained against Fulham forced Dalglish to switch around his team, as Andy Carroll was drafted in after recovering from his own injury problems. With this change, the Reds played with a man less in central midfield, and it became more than apparent as time went on that Liverpool couldn't play their passing game. It wasn't a rigid 4-4-2 with Suarez looking to drop back, but it was a much different style than the previous three matches.
With Steven Gerrard out on the sidelines, the role of Meireles has become central to Dalglish's Liverpool. He hasn't replicated that run of scoring he enjoyed earlier in the season, but his ability to lead a transition from defence to attack is one of the main reasons Liverpool has been playing so well. With Lucas and Jay Spearing behind him but also given license to make forward runs of their own, opposition teams are rarely given an opportunity to isolate any one avenue of attack.
Harry Redknapp has good reason to be satisfied with many of his signings, but it was the Brazilian Sandro who was front and centre at Anfield. The injury to Wilson Palacios earlier this month has let Sandro make that Makélelé role his own for Tottenham, and he's taken the opportunity with both hands. Reminiscent of Javier Masherano's ability to choke off avenues of supply, Tottenham's No. 30 was on the heels of any Liverpool player looking to get forward.
While it's impossible to say that the inclusion of Meireles would have provided a different outcome on Sunday, it certainly would have given Sandro a lot more to think about. Carroll and Luis Suarez needed to be supplied with passes to score goals, and without true wingers at the club, most of these opportunities have come through interplay down the middle.
Rafael van der Vaart managed to drop back and hurry Lucas or Spearing when in possession, something that neither Liverpool forward managed to do.
Try as they might, Liverpool players seemed to be unable to shackle Luka Modrić. Once again the Croatian showed his ability to not only set the tempo in a game but elude tackles and hold on to the ball for 90 minutes. Many still question his physical capabilities in the Premier League, but there are few who are better on the ball than Modrić. He's one of a very small number of players who would certainly be welcomed into the starting lineup at any top club in the Premier League.
As an end note, Michael Dawson should be singled out for special praise as he insured that Carroll had to fight for every inch and was unable to win a header for most of the game. Alongside Ledley King, Dawson was able to clean up the few opportunities that Sandro allowed past him.
Dalglish will have much to think upon after this result and more-so once he has recruited in the summer and his captain has regained match fitness. It is unfortunate that Liverpool's form was halted in their tracks by Spurs who had been crap up until Sunday, but that's soccer.
The last remaining Europa League spot is now Tottenham's to lose, and Liverpool may face going into the summer seemingly worse off than last year.
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