European feats drain Liverpool of energy on the home front

Liverpool 2 - Tottenham Hotspur 2
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If you are an Everton supporter you had better look away now because the next few sentences are going to alarm you. There is a scenario in which your club could finish fourth in the Premiership and still not qualify for the Champions' League. And the reason will be Liverpool.

If you are an Everton supporter you had better look away now because the next few sentences are going to alarm you. There is a scenario in which your club could finish fourth in the Premiership and still not qualify for the Champions' League. And the reason will be Liverpool.

Only four Premiership clubs will be allowed in Europe's premier competition and if Liverpool continue to confound the sceptics by prevailing in Istanbul on 25 May an invitation to them would be obligatory. The fourth-placed team would then be relegated to the Uefa Cup.

It is an unsavoury prospect for Everton, who were denied a place in the European Cup when English clubs were banned after Heysel, but the chance of a new Goodison grievance is growing by the week as the chance of Liverpool reaching fourth diminishes. Rafael Benitez was billed as "The Miracle Man" in the Liverpool Echo on Saturday for guiding Liverpool into the Champions' League semi-finals, but the water is refusing to turn into wine in the League.

This draw means they have dropped five points in eight days and they are three behind Everton, who have a game in hand, and even Bolton Wanderers have overtaken them. Benitez was bullish, saying his side are capable of winning all five remaining domestic matches, but three are away, and Liverpool are notoriously fragile when they travel.

"I have to be positive," the Liverpool manager said before reflecting on the demands on his players, who face the first of six games in 19 days at Portsmouth on Wednesday. "We know it's difficult to play at the same level before and after Champions' League games. It's hard to get fresh legs to keep the quality, both mental and physical. A lot of teams have this problem."

The paradox is that this match would have been won if two players who are relatively fresh had taken their chances. Luis Garcia and Sami Hyypia dragged Liverpool to parity after Erik Edman and Robbie Keane had twice put Tottenham Hotspur ahead but Steven Gerrard, who was injured when Liverpool overcame Juventus on Wednesday, hit a penalty wide and Fernando Morientes, who is ineligible for the Champions' League, skied a ripe chance in stoppage time.

"That's it for me and penalties," Gerrard said. "I decided to go for power and kept my head down as I ran to the ball. The lads told me their goalkeeper went early so if I'd looked at him I could have passed the ball in. I should have scored and I'm so sorry I missed and I'd like to apologise to the fans, my team-mates and the club. I blame myself for us not winning. I hope to get the chance to make amends over the remaining games."

Benitez, meanwhile, was defending Morientes. "He needs to score," he said. "He did not play for Real Madrid for a long time and his physical condition is not the best. We know he is a skilful player, with good movement and technique, but sometimes you need to be quick. I am certain next year will be different after a full pre-season."

Spurs could reflect on a step forward in their development. "We have one of the youngest teams in the Premiership - not a lot of people realise that," Martin Jol, their head coach, said. "We don't win enough away games and don't get enough goals from midfield, but if we had won today we would have been a point behind Liverpool."

Tottenham could qualify for the Uefa Cup if they maintain their seventh place - but that, too, could be confounded if Liverpool continue to mix miracles with the mundane. But if Spurs end up frustrated, Everton would be seething.

Goals: Edman (12) 0-1; Luis Garcia (44) 1-1; Keane (56) 1-2; Hyypia (62) 2-2.

Liverpool (3-4-2-1): Dudek; Carragher, Hyypia, Pellegrino; Finnan, Alonso (Biscan, 84), Gerrard, Warnock (Riise, 34); Nuñez (Cissé, 78), Luis Garcia; Morientes. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Traoré.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, Dawson, King, Edman; Davies, Davis, Carrick, Reid (Ziegler, 74); Kanouté, Keane (Defoe, 87). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Bunjevcevic, Marney.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Man of the match: Luis Garcia.

Attendance: 44,029.

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