Tottenham 02/07/2012: The Non-Event

It was the key moment that kept replaying on the post-program highlights reel as the credits rolled on Hong Kong’s TV coverage. It was the highlight that, a few days from the match, still triggers fond memories. It was the unforgettable minute that saw a dedicated Twitter account set up and a chant devised just for it.

It was the Anfield Cat.

It is telling that, in a match billed as a huge encounter, potentially a statement of intent for the Top Four from Liverpool or for the title from Spurs, a stray cat remains the sole takeaway from the Anfield clash.

Perhaps it was because of the solid goalkeeping on display. Brad Friedel, still going strong at 40, remains reliable as ever and proved that he remains one of the best in the Premier League with a consistent, commanding performance in the Tottenham box. Pepe Reina kept yet another clean sheet, his highlight being his good stop from Gareth Bale’s one-on-one chance at the death.

Perhaps it was because of the impressive performances from both defences. Glen Johnson, filling in for the allegedly injured Jose Enrique, and Martin Kelly snuffed out Spurs’ wing threats in Niko Kranjcar and Gareth Bale. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger continued their status as one of the league’s premier defensive partnerships with yet another assured display.

In white, Kyle Walker proved that he has the defensive responsibilities of a top-quality full-back down pat, quieting the often-voracious Craig Bellamy, whereas Michael Dawson and Ledley King delivered a solid performance in the heart of defence.

Perhaps, too, it was because of the stifling and overcrowded midfield. Dirk Kuyt went about his business as usual, harassing and harassing Tottenham with his famous workrate as a defensive winger. Scott Parker did the same as a defensive shield for Tottenham, breaking up play and reclaiming possession.

With two midfield destroyers working to such good effect, it was little wonder that the rest of their colleagues in the middle of the park couldn’t find any space to work with. Charlie Adam looked for passes long and short, but was limited by the lack of space to find. Craig Bellamy was shunted out wide by the efforts of Walker and Parker, and couldn’t use his pace and direct running as he has done so effectively in recent weeks.

Jay Spearing, already boasting limited vision, creativity and passing range, broke down Liverpool’s own attacks with misplaced passes to nowhere. Steven Gerrard missed the mobility of a roaming, pacy, unpredictable striker as he was continuously suffocated and found his long shots blocked time and again. The same applied to Luka Modric and co.

And then, perhaps it was because of the toothless attacking. Emmanuel Adebayor had probably his least effective game for Spurs, starved of the kind of quality service and incisive support he has become so accustomed to. Andy Carroll worked hard, got into good positions and won headers against the considerably imposing Dawson, but his layoffs and second balls found no one present in the Spurs box.

So the search goes on for a clear win at Anfield, for someone to provide a spark when Liverpool most need it. With Carroll continuing his recent improvement and Luis Suarez returning, the Gerrard-Suarez-Carroll front three (possibly adding in Bellamy) should pose problems for many a Premier League defence – but only if Liverpool learn to play a pass-and-move style with, not despite, our #9.

90 minutes after the excellent Michael Oliver blew his whistle for kickoff, the solitary point seemed so anticlimactic, but so normal from an Anfield encounter.

The icing on the cake, of course, was that Liverpool’s official website deemed the unimpressive Jay Spearing as their man of the match, a just outcome from a forgettable clash of the titans.

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