Pressure mounts on Houllier after another blank

Liverpool 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online

Liverpool's frustrations continued last night after being held at home to Tottenham and no doubt the fans' dissatisfaction at being winless in three games will be vocal. But there was much to be pleased about in an entertaining contest of umpteen chances where the only missing ingredient was a goal.

"What we need to do, of course, is score," Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager said. "What I'm pleased with is the offensive philosophy of our play. Apart from about 10 minutes in the first half we were in charge."

His counterpart, Glenn Hoddle, said: "We came here for three points, but defended well. In the first half we had some good chances. We deserved the point we got."

With Houllier and Hoddle already vying for favourite status in the bookies' sack race lists, the pre-match focus was as much on the managers as the players. Victory over Leeds last weekend had eased some pressure on Hoddle, who started last night with the same line-up.

Houllier, having collected one point from two games, made four changes. Igor Biscan and Milan Baros came in for the injured Stephane Henchoz and Emile Heskey in central defence and attack respectively. John Arne Riise and Danny Murphy dropped to the bench, replaced by Steve Finnan and Vladimir Smicer.

In an animated first half, Smicer had the first shot on goal, forcing Kasey Keller to save within a minute of the start. Baros was also soon making a nuisance of himself, a livewire of leggy running, speculative dribbles and shots alongside Michael Owen. Dominance ebbed and flowed, with both sides breaking freely to create chances. Harry Kewell used his pace to set up Smicer, who shot high. Baros shot low and wide. Owen then crossed to offer Kewell a header that was deflected over by Dean Richards.

Spurs had one gilt-edged chance in the 20th minute, when Anthony Gardner blazed wide from eight yards. Before that the eye-catching creativity of Rohan Ricketts - a 20-year-old Arsenal academy cast-off - had led to several opportunities, one when his shot was spilled by Jerzy Dudek but cleared, two others leading to Helder Postiga efforts which come to nothing.

Sami Hyypia was one reason Postiga found himself thwarted time and again, the powerful Finn stepping in to block shots and progress alike. Hyypia was also effective at the other end, heading the ball, via Owen, into the Spurs net 10 minutes into the second half although it was not allowed to stand because a push had been spotted.

Play switched briefly to the other end, where Mauricio Taricco embarked on a twisting solo run before unleashing a shot into the stands. El-Hadji Diouf then teased his way towards the visitors' goal and slipped a pass to the incoming Steven Gerrard, who struggled for control and fired into the side netting. Gerrard fared better latter after evading two challenges to thump another shot. Keller parried it to safety.

Liverpool (4-1-3-2): Dudek 7; Carragher 6, Biscan 5, Hyypia 7, Finnan 5; Gerrard 7; Diouf 6, Kewell 5, Smicer 7 (Murphy 5, 72); Owen 5, Baros 7. Substitutes not used: Kirkland (gk), Diao, Riise, Le Tallec.

Tottenham (3-5-2): Keller 6; King 4, Richards 5, Gardner 5; Carr 7, Davies 6, Redknapp 5, Ricketts 7, Taricco 5; Postiga 4 (Anderton, 86), Zamora 4 (Kanouté 5, 66). Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Bunjevcevic, Marney.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield) 6.

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