Football: Ginola holds secret of Spurs' survival

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Liverpool 3
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The Independent Online
By Mike Rowbottom

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Liverpool 3

SIX MINUTES remained, Spurs were hanging on desperately to a precious lead and David Ginola made one of his gloriously mad executive decisions. Accelerating suddenly towards the Liverpool goal, he entered a thicket of seven visiting players and all but emerged on the other side with a shot on goal.

Magnifique. Mais ce n'est pas la guerre. The face of Tottenham's beleaguered coach, Christian Gross, grew even more darkly intense as he gestured brusquely for Ginola to get back to his defensive duties.

Within a minute, Ginola - who had made two of Spurs' goals and claimed one sublime effort from 25 yards for himself - was substituted. "He was tired," said Gross, whose curt acknowledgement of Ginola's contribution as he walked off was in marked contrast to that of the spectators, who gave the Frenchman a standing ovation.

Hardly had Ginola's backside touched the bench than he was leaping up in anguish and hurling away his water bottle as his team-mates surrendered a lead for the third and final time.

With Bolton, Everton and Barnsley all winning, the odds on Tottenham avoiding relegation are beginning to look similar to those which faced Ginola as he made his mad final dash.

This was a truly exhilarating match to which Tottenham - and Ginola in particular - contributed hugely. But when it was suggested to Gross that he must be satisfied with the performance, he reacted with horror. "No, no," he said. "Today we lost two points. We made too many mistakes in defence."

Slow wits, as much as legs, were the problem for the home side's defensive line. It proved a perfect environment for Steve McManaman, who had one of his amazing days, scoring Liverpool's first following an exchange of passes with Michael Owen, and equalising in the final minute as he beat Sol Campbell to the loose ball after Owen's pace had confounded the converging Ramon Vega and Espen Baardsen.

For all Tottenham's manifest desperation at that moment, the draw was a fair result - although one point was no more useful for Liverpool's Champions' League ambitions than for Tottenham's hopes of survival.

Gross, however, was forced to admit that he had drawn some comfort from a performance in which Jurgen Klinsmann, whose row with him over team policy had been rumbling all week, emphasised his commitment to the cause. "Jurgen had his best game since I took over," Gross said. "And David gave an outstanding performance. I need these two players as leaders in the team. They have to perform like this in the last eight games."

Insiders at the club suggest that it is not only Klinsmann who has been disaffected by Tottenham's Swiss coach. But if the German can regain his appetite for goals - he headed home Ginola's 12th-minute cross with all the old inevitability - then Spurs may yet scramble clear.

Goals: Klinsmann (12) 1-0; McManaman (21) 1-1; Ginola (49) 2-1; Ince (64) 2-2; Vega (80) 3-2; McManaman (89) 3-3.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Baardsen; Carr, Vega, Campbell; Fox, Ginola (Brady, 85), Berti, Nielsen, Wilson; Klinsmann, Armstrong (Howells, 59). Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Mabbutt, Grodas (gk).

Liverpool (4-5-1): Friedel; Jones, Matteo, Harkness, Bjornebye; Carragher (Thompson, 80), Ince, Redknapp, McManaman, Leonhardsen (Babb, 67); Owen. Substitutes not used: Kvarme, Murphy, James (gk).

Referee: U Rennie (S Yorks).

Bookings: Tottenham Ginola, Berti. Liverpool Harkness.

Man of the match: Ginola.

Attendance: 30,245.