Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Liverpool 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Rarely can a poisoned chalice have been so fiercely contested.

Liverpool have long aspired to the Europa League as the only coronation gift available to Kenny Dalglish; Tottenham Hotspur have long scorned it as an unwelcome consolation. Neither, it is safe to say, especially want their Thursday nights booked up this autumn; both fought until their last breath to ensure that they are.

Harry Redknapp’s team, though they did it only in the most controversial fashion, are worthy of what – should they beat Birmingham next week – will be their place, both for this afternoon and for this season. They started brightly, surged ahead, suffered a predictable dip and eventually ended on a high. Both this afternoon and this season.

That will not assuage Liverpool’s anger. If Rafael van der Vaart’s opener was slightly fortuitous – his long range effort deflecting off Glen Johnson and past Pepe Reina – then the Luka Modric penalty which settled the game was just plain baffling: John Flanagan and Steven Pienaar collided on the edge of the area, a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge lacking any intent or malevolence on either part.

Howard Webb pointed to the spot, and the Croatian, coolly, converted.

The Yorkshire policeman is hardly Anfield’s favourite official – a supposed predilection for Old Trafford and Ryan Babel’s internet artwork saw to that – but he may need to seek the protection some of his old colleagues on the force the next time he visits Merseyside after this.

Anger on the Kop, anger on the field. If Liverpool’s fans were frustrated at a perceived injustice, their players were clearly raging at seeing the momentum come to a shuddering halt at the last.

On today of all days, too, when Dalglish was unveiled to a deafening roar as the club’s permanent manager, when Fenway Sports Group, the owners who have done so much to steer Anfield back on course were present. Little wonder Reina, Lucas and Martin Skrtel were so quick and ruthless in dealing with a streaker in the dying minutes. This was no laughing matter.

But when that rage dies down, they will observe that sixth place is a fine achievement, given how low the club sank at one point this season, and that fifth may have been pushing their luck. Certainly on this evidence, Spurs are rather better prepared for Europe.

The visitors started excellently, pressing high, suffocating their hosts. Van der Vaart’s opener was ample, deserved reward. Liverpool could not muster an answer.

It took 35 minutes for Dalglish’s side, in such rampant form in recent weeks, to threaten at all, Jay Spearing skewing wide before Andy Carroll, restored to the side, ballooned a header over after Skrtel had produced an uncharacteristically delicate cross.

Liverpool, then, seemed to be growing in confidence, Luis Suárez – booked early on for a kick out at Michael Dawson – beginning to work his fleet-footed, impish magic, nutmegging opponents, his electricity jolting the Kop awake. The Uruguayan whipped a free kick wide before the break, seemingly a warning. It served more as watermark.

First Webb intervened, Modric slamming his spot-kick home, and then the hosts faded. Suárez blasted high and wide from close range, Jonjo Shelvey went close from distance.

Perhaps it is for the best: there can be no question as to how much work there is to be done at Anfield this summer. Spurs, with Ledley King fit, are a cut above, a different class. John Henry and Tom Werner, watching on, cannot doubt that.

But that will prove scant solace if Anfield is not blessed with Europe next season. Spurs, now that they are there, may not appreciate it, but Liverpool will tell them that, even with poisoned chalices, you do not know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

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