Spurs on the critical list

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1

Calderwood 88

Liverpool 3

Barnes 8,43, Fowler 55

Attendance :31,254

THE crisis can go elsewhere, said Manchester United's manager, Alex Ferguson, after his team had beaten West Ham in midweek. White Hart Lane looks an early candidate for visitation, with a definite look of a club that could find itself in early-season turmoil if things don't turn around soon.

Yesterday Spurs were clinically dissected by a Liverpool responding admirably to having been Yeboahed last week, John Barnes scoring two of their goals. Colin Calderwood touched home Ilie Dumitrescu's corner for a late home goal but it barely concealed their deficiencies or undermined Liverpool's superiority.

Given Tottenham's start to the season, the mind inevitably went back to a year ago this weekend. Having won their first two matches, they entertained Manchester United at home and lost 1-0, United giving a performance of contain and counter that evoked Liverpool in their heyday a decade and more ago.

Ossie Ardiles declined and fell before the revival under Gerry Francis was complete when Spurs went to Anfield in the FA Cup's sixth round and thrillingly won 2-1, but since then it has been back to more familiar travails. Tottenham failed to win any of their last five league matches; this season, with Jurgen Klinsmann and Nicky Barmby also gone, they have failed to win their first three.

Yesterday's rot set in early. After only seven minutes, Ian Rush laid the ball off to Barnes and from some 28 yards he drove a shot beautifully into the top left corner of Ian Walker's net. Tottenham were simply overrun in midfield where the game frequently bypassed the inexperienced Gerry McMahon. Forced to nurse him, David Howells was often drawn too far forward and Steve McManaman enjoyed considerable freedom playing just behind Rush and Robbie Fowler, re-united in the absence of the injured Stan Collymore.

The trio looked likely to score with each attack. Fowler sent McManaman clear only for Walker to clutch his low shot and was also just wide with one of his own. Redknapp frolicked freely to join in the fun and drove a fierce shot just over the bar and another wide. Walker watched them whizz by, grateful that Liverpool's shooting was not more accurate.

At the other end, Spurs sporadically troubled Liverpool's back three in which Neil Ruddock returned to face his former club, but they could sustain no pressure with the visitors retaining the ball more often. Chris Armstrong was only fitfully involved: laid-back character that he is, he looked in need of some aggression in his game.

Twice he shot on the turn, one saved by James and the other over the bar, but more typical was his fall under challenge by Phil Babb - ruled a dive by the referee Keith Cooper. As for attempts on goal, the only real support came from Howells, who drove one shot wide and volleyed straight at David James.

Then, three minutes before the break, Liverpool deservedly doubled their lead. Barnes dummied Rush's pass neatly, allowing the ball to run to Fowler, whose instant touch set Barnes free to slide the ball past Walker for his second goal.

Barnes might have had his third just before half-time when, after Walker had turned aside Fowler's curling shot, his header from the kick was touched over the bar by the keeper.

Nine minutes into the second half however Liverpool struck again. Rob Jones carried the ball out of defence all but unchallenged and found McManaman wide on the right. His driven cross to the near post was well met by Fowler who turned it crisply into the net. Liverpool had been toying with Spurs, keeping the ball expertly as the home side ran around fruitlessly, but this was a move of stunning pace.

From another fluent attack, Rush turned Steve Harkness's low cross just past a post as the game became increasingly embarrassing for Spurs. Teddy Sheringham's header over the bar from a corner was a rare response. Two home defeats in four days is not yet a crisis, but the merchants of doom may start showing an interest soon.