Football: Evans back to old ways

Liverpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1
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The Independent Online
At this time of political change the citizens of Liverpool are as eager as any to embrace new values. It is curious, then, to find its most successful football club wondering whether to turn back the clock.

Two decades of social decline is one thing, two years without any silverware in the Anfield trophy room much more serious. It is for this reason that Roy Evans and his boot-room cabinet are talking about a return to the past, a reversion to ways that seemed to have gone out of fashion.

Since wing-backs caught on, the 4-4-2 approach has been regarded as old dogma, something the new tactics of the Nineties did away with; bound up with regulation and favoured only by Eurosceptics. Flexible working has been the thing, with a back five that can transform to a midfield five, if you like, and even provide wingers.

Evans has been as progressive as anyone. However, faced with the need at least to make a respectable stab at achieving the impossible against Paris St- Germain last month, he dusted the cobwebs off the old formation and found it still worked, at least to the extent of restoring Liverpool's dignity.

So pleased was he to have regained honour in defeat he stuck with the system against Tottenham and was rewarded again, with a victory that might help secure a passport to the Champions' League qualifying round and even keeps alive the faint hope of depriving Manchester United of the Premiership title.

Indeed, there were hints from the Liverpool manager that it might return on a permanent basis.

"Five at the back has been a successful system for us but 4-4-2 has its merits as well," he said. "We need to be more organised about it. Today we got by with endeavour and effort without too much knowledge and perhaps we can combine the two after we've worked at it."

Actually, there are some who would question whether five at the back really has worked, suggesting it has bred a team inclined to over-elaborate. The exclusion of John Barnes, the principal procrastinator, for the second match running suggests Evans has run out of patience.

The Liverpool captain suddenly seems a man without a future at Anfield, whereas others who had looked decidedly at risk are playing full parts. Neil Ruddock, who had started only one match in three months before being restored to the side against Paris, was a positive inspiration against his former club. Meanwhile, Patrick Berger and Stan Collymore - not everyone's idea of a front-line pairing to stake your ambitions on - were outstanding.

Berger, who has hardly been great value for his pounds 3.25m fee, created one Liverpool goal and scored the other, ensuring that the prodigious talents of the suspended Robbie Fowler would not be missed.

Tottenham, for whom Darren Anderton snatched a somewhat streaky early advantage, were never particularly effective playing five at the back and four in midfield. Perhaps they will be tempted by old values, too.

Goals: Anderton (5) 0-1; Collymore (15) 1-1; Berger (43) 2-1.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; Kvarme, Wright, Ruddock, Bjornebye; McAteer, Redknapp, Thomas, McManaman; Berger, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Barnes, Harkness, Owen, Carragher.

Tottenham Hotspur (5-4-1): Walker (Bardsen, h-t); Calderwood, Austin, Scales, Vega, Campbell; Anderton (McVeigh 75), Dozzell, Howells (Fox, 45), Sinton; Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Fenn, Clapham.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Bookings: Liverpool Ruddock; Tottenham Anderton.

Man of the match: Berger.

Attendance: 40,003.