Hyypia stops fall after the night of pride

Liverpool 2 - Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Online

The way things are going for Liverpool, their best chance of getting into the Champions' League next season could be by winning it next month. Certainly the chances of these lords of inconsistency finishing fourth in the Premiership are diminishing by the week. The heroes of Turin, who knocked Juventus out of Europe's premier club competition on Wednesday, crashed back to earth domestically for the second time in eight days when they were held by Tottenham, and rather than stepping up their challenge in the League, they slipped to sixth.

The way things are going for Liverpool, their best chance of getting into the Champions' League next season could be by winning it next month. Certainly the chances of these lords of inconsistency finishing fourth in the Premiership are diminishing by the week. The heroes of Turin, who knocked Juventus out of Europe's premier club competition on Wednesday, crashed back to earth domestically for the second time in eight days when they were held by Tottenham, and rather than stepping up their challenge in the League, they slipped to sixth.

With the defeat by Manchester City last week, that is five points dropped in two highly winnable matches and rather than make progress on Everton, who occupy the last of the Champions' League places, they had to endure Bolton slipping past them yesterday.

They had to come back twice, too, even to get a point because Erik Edman and Robbie Keane twice put Spurs ahead and it required spectacular efforts from Luis Garcia and Sami Hyypia to end level. Add a missed penalty from Steven Gerrard and for Liverpool this was a frustrating afternoon.

Liverpool began this match having transformed a mediocre season by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions' League. "I am incredibly proud," Rafael Benitez, their manager, wrote in the match programme, but he also addressed the flip side to their character. "We are not consistent. In away League games we don't keep the ball, we don't always have the intensity that we do at home." Which team will turn up in a Liverpool shirt is a question their supporters have been asking all season, but physically, at least, it was different from Wednesday, with John Arne Riise, Djimi Traoré and Igor Biscan given a rest on the substitutes bench.

Tottenham started without their top scorer, Jermain Defoe, restoring Keane, but, rather than the strikers, it was a full-back who opened the scoring with a shot that was as surprising as it was accurate. Keane and Andy Reid made a mess of a short corner on the right in the 12th minute and Gerrard was able to block the latter's attempt at a cross. The ball looped to Edman 35 yards out and the Swede cracked a shot with his left that deceived Jerzy Dudek, who barely moved and looked as if he thought the shot was heading high or wide, and then had the embarrassment of watching it fly into the top corner. If that raised a few Anfield eyebrows, they would have shot over the Kop roof three minutes later had Simon Davies made the most of a pass from Keane.

Liverpool's response was a mixture of highs and lows. They dominated possession, forced Tottenham back into their trenches and Xabi Alonso's passing was its usual delight. But a lack of ideas further forward hampered them and their first shot on target did not arrive until Gerrard mishit a volley that thumped into the ground and nearly flummoxed Paul Robinson with its bounce.

But with Anfield becoming distinctly testy, the home side equalised after 44 minutes with a goal that was almost as spectacular as Edman's effort. Alonso's pass to Steve Finnan was immediately played to Luis Garcia, who turned his marker and curled a volley past Robinson.

As the first half finished with Robinson making a good save to deny Fernando Morientes' header, Liverpool arrived at the interval in a much better state than they had been for most of the afternoon. But that changed radically in the space of two minutes.

A changed formation had moved Mauricio Pellegrino to left-back and the wisdom of that came into question when Frédéric Kanouté beat him and crossed after 55 minutes. Keane had slipped his marker and had a free header from 10 yards, but to give Dudek absolutely no chance, the ball also hit Jamie Carragher en route to the net.

In times of stress, Liverpool look to Gerrard and Captain Commitment appeared to have answered the call when he burst into the area and was brought down by Sean Davis. When it came to the penalty Gerrard flopped, however, because his kick flew wide.

Little appeared to be going right for Liverpool but they equalised after 63 minutes. Gerrard took a corner from the right and although the Tottenham defence cleared initially, the ball fell to Hyypia who hit the ball on the volley and on the turn, low into the bottom corner.

Liverpool pinned Spurs into their area in the closing stages and came close to scoring a winner in injury time when first Gerrard's shot was tipped on to the post by Robinson and then Morientes skied a ripe opportunity from Finnan's pass.

"Champions' League, you're having a laugh," the Tottenham supporters chanted, and you could see their point. Unless Liverpool win it, of course.

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