Luis Suarez finally returned to action but was unable to inspire Liverpool to victory as they played out a dull 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
After missing the last nine games, eight for racially abusing Patrice Evra and one for a hand gesture to Fulham fans, substitute Suarez entered proceedings on 65 minutes. But, in much the same fashion as the rest of the game, Liverpool’s number seven was unable to provide the spark to lighten up a drab encounter.
After an impressive week which saw cup success over both Manchester clubs and a comfortable league win at Wolves, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish resisted the temptation to throw Suarez straight back in, instead opting to keep faith with the improving Andy Carroll. At the back, the Reds were forced into a reshuffle with Jose Enrique ruled out with a groin injury, meaning Glen Johnson started at left-back, whilst skipper Steven Gerrard replaced Jordan Henderson in midfield.
For title-chasing Spurs, a host of names were missing through injury, with Rafael Van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon amongst the players left behind in North London. But perhaps the biggest omission from the visiting party was that of manager Harry Redknapp, after a flight from London was cancelled meaning he was unable to get from his Tax Evasion court appearance to Anfield. With Redknapp missing, assistants Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan took charge for the night.
The first half saw little goalmouth action, with both defences on top as both sides cancelled each other out. Being at home, Liverpool enjoyed most of the territorial advantage, with Spurs’ fit-again defender Michael Dawson called into action as early as the fourth minute when he brilliantly made a last-ditch saving tackle when it looked as though Carroll was set to latch on to a Gerrard through ball. Jay Spearing was next to go close when he shot narrowly wide of Brad Friedel’s post, whilst Johnson cut in from the left to force veteran keeper Friedel to save on the stroke of half-time. Perhaps the most entertaining action of the first half though came when a stray cat wandered onto the Anfield turf and approached the Spurs goal before being ushered away by stewards.
After the break, the largely anonymous Gareth Bale finally got into the game, and referee Michael Oliver’s notebook, when he was caught up in clash with Daniel Agger after an apparent dive by the Welsh international.
Liverpool continued to offer the greater threat, with Martin Kelly letting fly from 20 yards which forced Friedel into a good save to his left, before Suarez entered the action to a rapturous welcome from the Kop.
Almost immediately the Uruguayan found himself caught up in controversy again as he was booked for kicking Scott Parker in the mid-drift after the whistle had already sounded.
Further substitutions saw Stewart Downing come on for the Reds, whilst ex-Everton striker Louis Saha entered to a chorus of boos as he made his debut for Spurs.
With 17 minutes left, another Kelly surge down the right resulted in a cross falling at the feet of Carroll, but his shot went high and wide. Despite this miss though, the big striker continued his return to form with a solid performance in which he held the ball up and linked well with the Liverpool midfield and when he came on, Suarez.
Bale was involved in more controversy when he went down under the challenge of Martin Skrtel, although it looked like Skrtel had made contact with the ball as much as the man. Then with only six minutes remaining, the talented winger’s night was summed up when he spurned a glorious chance to win the game.
Niko Krancjar’s through ball set Bale one-on-one with Pepe Reina, but Bale’s shot was straight at the Liverpool keeper allowing the Reds’ defence to eventually clear.
There was still time for Suarez to head straight at Friedel from six yards, but neither side could find a breakthrough. As the whistle sounded, it was clear this was a better result for Spurs, as the point kept them involved in the title race, albeit on the periphery. For Liverpool though, this was the latest in a long list of failures to win at home this season. It is now 8 draws from 12 Premier League games at Anfield and leaves the Reds in seventh, still four points of a top for finish.
Liverpool: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Kuyt (Suarez 66), Spearing, Gerrard, Adam, Bellamy (Downing 73); Carroll
Subs not used: Doni, Aurelio, Coates, Carragher, Henderson
Tottenham Hotspur: Friedel; Walker, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar (Rose 87), Modric, Parker, Livermore, Bale; Adebayor (Saha 71)
Subs not used: Cuducini, Nelsen, Khumalo, Luongo, Lancaster
Referee: Mr Michael Oliver
Yellow Cards: Skrtel, Suarez, Bale, Parker
Man of The Match: Michael Dawson (Tottenham Hotspur) – Superbly marshalled the Spurs back four. Dominant in the air, also made a superb sliding tackle to deny Carroll early on