Football: Graham adds to Anfield anguish

Liverpool 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3
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The Independent Online
THE CHANCES of Liverpool's joint management scheme lasting the season diminished into the realms of remote (or should that be fantasy) last night when they were comfortably removed from the Worthington Cup by Tottenham, who had never before scored three goals at Anfield. The Roy Evans-Gerard Houllier partnership looks doomed.

Liverpool needed a compelling performance to persuade their supporters that all is well at Anfield and instead produced their worst of the season. In the bottom half of the Premiership after successive defeats and now removed from a cup competition, their fans did not even bother to boo when the agony was over, so stunned have they been by a run of lacklustre showings.

And this was against a team that has not reached even the foundation stage of George Graham's rebuilding. "It's nice to win while you're still experimenting," the Tottenham manager said, delighting in a quarter-final place and the goals from Steffen Iversen, John Scales and Allan Nielsen.

"My position is the least important thing," Evans said when asked about speculation he will move upstairs. "It's Liverpool's situation that worries me and all of us. The only remedy is hard work and trying to rebuild confidence.

"We left ourselves a mountain to climb. It was the same story as against Derby on Saturday - you can't give away two goals against teams of quality and expect to win matches. Try as we might we couldn't get it back."

Only at the start did Liverpool suggest that they might prevail when Jason McAteer's header hit the bar within seconds. That proved illusory as Tottenham took the lead within a minute, Sol Campbell crossing from the left and with the members of the Liverpool defence looking for each other to deal with it, Iversen rose to send a looping header over Brad Friedel and into the far corner.

If there was a question mark about the Liverpool goalkeeper's positioning for that goal there was no doubt he was partly to blame for Spurs' second, which arrived after 19 minutes. Darren Anderton's free-kick flicked David Thompson's head as he attempted to clear and Friedel's attempt to gather went horribly wrong when Iversen just got a touch ahead of him. The ball bounced off his arm and straight to Scales, who, from a range of five yards, had the simple job of passing into the net.

Although the management attempted to repair the damage with the introduction of Karlheinz Riedle, it was not a surprise when Tottenham went further ahead after 62 minutes. Scales found Iversen, who then released Nielsen with a deft pass beyond the back four. One on one with Friedel, the Dane, commanding in midfield all night, waited for the goalkeeper to make his move and then slipped the ball past him.

With 10 minutes remaining, Michael Owen scored for Liverpool but even that stemmed from a Spurs mistake, Espen Baardsen kicking the ball at him. And that crumb had an unpleasant aftertaste as he had to leave the field immediately afterwards with a muscle injury.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Friedel; Heggem, Carragher, Staunton, Bjornebye; McAteer, Ince, Thompson, Leonhardsen (Riedle, h-t); Owen (Murphy, 82), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Kvarme, Harkness, James (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-1-1): Baardsen; Scales, Vega, Campbell; Carr, Anderton, Calderwood, Nielsen, Sinton (Wilson, 82); Ginola (Allen, h-t, Fox, 89); Iversen. Substitutes not used: Dominguez, Walker (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

More reports, results, page 29