Tottenham Hotspur. . .2
TERRY VENABLES'S contention that the Tottenham team he loved and lost had genuine championship potential was given impressive substance at Anfield last night when two goals from Teddy Sheringham brought an abrupt halt to Liverpool's barnstorming start to the season.
Looking for a fourth successive win to maintain their 100 per cent record and displace Manchester United at the top of the table, the resurgent Reds foundered on the twin pillars of Spurs' defensive discipline and enterprise on the break.
Nigel Clough scored his fourth goal in as many games to give Liverpool a 17th-minute lead, but had to give second best to his old striking partner from their Nottingham Forest days. Sheringham, a bargain at pounds 2m, has started the new season in the same prolific form which took him to the top of the scoring lists, and into the England team in May.
The previews had focused on Neil Ruddock, the man who left White Hart Lane. Post-match it was all about steady Teddy, the one who stayed.
It was not the best of nights for Ruddock. The man they call 'Razor' was not at his sharpest, in contrast with his Tottenham replacement, Colin Calderwood, who was reliability personified. Liverpool made good progress throughout down the flanks, where Steve McManaman, Rob Jones and Steve Nicol combined to give the Spurs full-backs a chasing, but Calderwood and Gary Mabbutt stood firm in the middle.
Tottenham began brightly, Gordon Durie twice demanding evidence of Bruce Grobbelaar's enduring athleticism before the game was a quarter of an hour old, but the brightness dimmed when McManaman's cut-back from the byline on the left set up Clough at the near post.
Last season, struggling in a relegation team, he would have dithered or snatched at the chance and missed. Now, confidence brimming, the finish was both instantaneous and deadly accurate. The shot was across Erik Thorstvedt and into the far corner before even the Norwegian could react.
For a time the new Liverpool strutted their stuff like the proud peacocks of old, Ian Rush threatening to put them out of sight. Spurs wobbled, but kept their shape and composure, and were back on terra firma after half an hour when one of those rushes of blood to which David Burrows is susceptible presented them with an obvious penalty.
To the glee of the north London hordes, a high ball from Durie carried over Ruddock, and when Sheringham moved on to it, Burrows panicked and nudged him over from behind. The man of the hour dusted himself down and made short work of beating Grobbelaar.
Liverpool treated the equaliser as a minor irritant, but were soon afflicted by a major one, Spurs breaking away to take a lead which was either flattering or a tribute to their economy, depending on your persuasion.
Jason Dozzell, another promising acquisition by Ossie Ardiles, supplied an inviting centre from the right, and Sheringham did the rest sidestepping a couple of challenges with the aplomb of an international striker before forcing the ball in from six yards.
Nicol and Burrows both had half-chances, but Spurs defended with spirit and resolution, and by the end Liverpool's early swagger had gone - their best ideas with it.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Grobbelaar; Jones, Wright, Ruddock, Burrows (Walters, 57); Nicol, Molby, Whelan, McManaman; Clough, Rush. Substitutes not used: Hooper (gk), Marsh.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-2-1-2): Thorstvedt; Austin, Mabbutt, Calderwood, Campbell; Samways; Sedgley, Howells (Caskey, 84); Dozzell; Sheringham, Durie. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Anderton.
Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).
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