Tottenham eager to finish fifth and avoid early start to season

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The Independent Football

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will be more than happy to finish fifth and secure Europa League football next season if it means avoiding qualifying via the Fair Play League.

Yesterday's 2-0 victory at Anfield took them a point above Liverpool and in pole position to claim the final Europa League spot.

And while that is little consolation having enjoyed a brilliant run in their maiden Champions League campaign, it is preferable to have to go through more qualifying rounds which eat into the summer break.

"We are not fighting for the Europa League, we are fighting to finish fifth," said the Spurs boss after goals from Rafael van der Vaart and a controversial penalty from Luka Modric gave the visitors their first win in 17 league visits to Anfield, a run stretching back to 1993.

"You want to win every game and finish as high as you can, that is your pride.

"It is not ideal, playing Thursday and every Sunday (in the Europa League) is not what you want but we are there [at the moment].

"That is better than [qualifying via] the Fair Play League because you start three weeks earlier.

"I scared them before the game by saying if we don't win we are top of the Fair Play League, which means we come back in two weeks' time and start playing - they thought I was joking.

"That is going to be a nightmare for someone, I just hope it isn't us."

The defeat was Kenny Dalglish's first at home since returning in January and spoiled what was supposed to be a celebratory affair after he signed a three-year contract on Thursday.

While the team failed to hit the heights of some scintillating recent performances, the Reds boss was incensed at the officiating of Howard Webb who awarded the early second-half penalty when defender John Flanagan tangled with Steven Pienaar despite the challenge appearing to be outside the area and seemingly in the teenage full-back's favour.

"I'm not here to sponsor the FA," said the Scot, referring to the punishments dished out to the likes of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in recent weeks.

"It is unhelpful to everyone that we cannot express our true thoughts and it is even more disappointing that the officials get away scot-free without having to come in and explain their decisions.

"I think it is safer for me to leave it at that.

"We cannot legislate for refereeing mistakes but we could have been a greater help to ourselves if we had started the game better.

"They started better than we did and scored a goal and we didn't start to play for 25 minutes.

"We started to look a bit better and then at the start of the second half they got the second goal and that gave them a real foothold and we didn't have enough to break them down.

"I don't think Pepe Reina was over-busy either but we never played as well as we can play.

"That is a disappointment for the players because it would have been a fitting way to finish the season at Anfield - maybe it was too much of a fairytale.

"We feel we have short-changed the fans by not getting the result."