Liverpool's extra commitment

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The Independent Online
John Barnes yesterday said that his side's contrasting wins over Arsenal and Tottenham are proof that Liverpool are realistic title challengers.

Against Arsenal in the Coca-Cola Cup last week, Roy Evans' team were majestic, the Premiership leaders humbled by the quality of Liverpool's football. White Hart Lane on Monday saw a very different Liverpool performance; gritty and resilient, before turning on the style as Spurs, dealt a bitter body-blow by Steve McManaman's freak second goal, wilted in the final quarter.

Barnes, looking to add to the championship medals he collected in 1988 and 1990, suggested that the mixture of muscle and magic could combine for a Premiership-winning potion.

"We'd like to have played as we did against Arsenal, but you're not always going to get the chance to do that," said Barnes, whose inch-perfect pass sent Michael Thomas in for the opening goal at Tottenham as Liverpool drew level on points with the Gunners.

"Spurs made it difficult for us, but there are times when we have to battle and that's what happened at Spurs. We did it at Coventry and West Ham too, and that's the difference. Last year we were losing or drawing those type of matches. It's wonderful to play really well, but the most pleasing thing is that we are getting results from games we didn't last term.

"Now the important thing is that we've got to do it again. If we can't play, we have to battle and grind the results out. The Arsenal display was one side of it, but Spurs was the other. If teams let us play, we will. But if they don't, we know we can grind the results out."

Barnes' team-mate Mark Wright said: "Spurs ran themselves into the ground, and David James pulled off a great save from Teddy Sheringham, but that was their only real effort on goal. For us to eliminate their attacking threat to that degree shows we did a job."

Wright agreed that there was perhaps a little extra commitment in the side this season, perhaps something to do with the quality of players not in the starting line-up.

His defensive colleague Neil Ruddock was delighted to have helped beat the club he left in such controversial circumstances three seasons ago. "Coming back to your old club and beating your mates is a nice feeling," he said. "Luck was on our side with that second goal, but we'll take that every week."

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