Defoe quickly winning friends and admirers

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - Liverpool 1
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The Independent Online

It is far too early for Tottenham's supporters to start thinking that this will be yet another season when optimism dissolves into disappointment. Jacques Santini needs time to oil the wheels of a team that included six Premiership debutants and to improve his English. Command of the language may come quicker than developments in teamwork. Don't look for much in the way of innovation, either.

It is far too early for Tottenham's supporters to start thinking that this will be yet another season when optimism dissolves into disappointment. Jacques Santini needs time to oil the wheels of a team that included six Premiership debutants and to improve his English. Command of the language may come quicker than developments in teamwork. Don't look for much in the way of innovation, either.

Santini and Liverpool's new manager Rafael Benitez may have fresh ideas to deal with the frenzy of the Premiership, but from the evidence of a match played on the day Michael Owen was being shown off by his new employers in Madrid, industry, not class, dominates their thinking.

Unquestionably, Owen's departure after serving Liverpool since a boy has hit Anfield hard. "We were all shocked about Michael leaving," the club's captain Steven Gerrard said. "For a while it looked as though he would be still with us this season, then Real Madrid came in, and everyone knows how difficult it is for a player to turn down that sort of move. He's gone and we have get on without him. It's a big opportunity for Cissé [Djibril] to get the goals now Michael isn't here."

Signed for £14m from Auxerre this summer, Cissé looks as different from the clean cut Owen as it's possible to be - taller and more muscular, his hair and copious moustache bleached - but he appears to possess the England striker's instinct for scoring opportunities.

There was a clear proof of what Cissé can achieve when Tottenham's failure to clear a corner gave Steve Finnan another chance to put the ball into their penalty area. There were plenty of men around to deal with the threat caused by Jamie Carragher's flick-on but poor marking left Cissé in enough space to tuck the ball past Paul Robinson in the 38th minute.

While Benitez prowled the touchline, displaying a neat line in hand signals, Santini occupied himself with the difficulties raised by unfamiliarity - Noureddine Naybet, the 34-year-old Moroccan from Deportivo la Coruña, didn't meet up with his new teammates until Friday - and the pressure Liverpool were exerting. But the interventions of Naybet, whose partnership with Ledley King could solve the uncertainty in central defence that has long been a problem, would have been more on his mind than the quest for an equaliser.

Three times, Naybet foiled Liverpool's attack, showing surprising speed for a player of advancing years to dispossess Cissé before blocking a shot from Milan Baros and Harry Kewell's dangerous low cross.

Neatly as Tottenham moved the ball around in the first half, their midfield, with Jamie Redknapp deployed in front of the highly promising 17-year-old full-back Paul Ifil, lacked the pace to deal with the authority established by Gerrard and Dietmar Hamann, who both threatened with rasping long shots. Gerrard's eagerness to get forward brought testing moments for Ifil, who was lucky not to concede a penalty when he pulled back Liverpool's captain by his shirt.

What sort of message would Santini put across? A similar question was asked during Euro 2004, when he failed to get the best out France's superstars. Contrary to notions of sophistication, Santini adopted an approach that proved tactically sound but did little to raise the level of class. He went long.

"In the first half we just defended, no play, no risk," Santini said. "We needed to push on to Liverpool," he said. The ploy increased Benitez's agitation.

"The long balls pushed us back and we needed to press better to claim the second ball," he said. "And we paid the price for not taking our chances in the first half because in the heat it was very tiring."

Fatigue was given as the reason for Cissé's withdrawal in the 64th minute. Baros followed him, looking in this match more like last season's version than the predatory force he was in Euro 2004.

It is extremely doubtful whether Jermain Defoe needed to remind Sven Goran Eriksson of his virtues in an attempt to gain a place in England's squad for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine. If further proof of his burgeoning potential were needed it came with the goal that brought Tottenham level 19 minutes from time.

A long pass from Erik Edman was touched on by Frédéric Kanouté for Defoe to pounce. Deft touch, quick turn, neat finish. Class act. Manchester United are said to have spoken about a £12m offer for Defoe. If so, and Tottenham were tempted, what sort of message would that send out to supporters who have again been persuaded to believe in a brighter future?

Goals: Cissé (38) 0-1; Defoe (71) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Ifil, Naybet (Doherty 70), King, Edman; Redknapp (Brown 82), Pedro Mendes, Davis, Jackson (Atouba 70); Kanouté, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Keller, Sousa.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise; Finnan, Hamann (Biscan 83), Gerrard, Kewell; Cissé (Sinama-Pongolle 64), Baros (Warnock 79). Substitutes not used: Kirkland, Henchoz.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: Tottenham: Kanouté, Redknapp, Defoe.

Man of the match: Defoe.

Attendance: 35,105.

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