Battered, bruised and taught a lesson

Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool.

If only last season had never ended. Liverpool finished the 2008/09 campaing in such sinterlating form that lead many pundits and newspapers to predict the league Championship would finally be coming back to Anfield this time round.

But losing to Spurs on the first day of the season wasn’t part of the plan.

Anyone who had followed Liverpool’s pre-season campaign could have quite easily predicted defeat at White Hart Lane yesterday.

Even the Reds’ 5-0 demolition of Singapore was an extremely flattering result, with dismal performances all over the park.

Add to that the ongoing Xabi Alonso transfer saga that loomed over the team’s preparations throughout the summer. It was arguably the transfer saga of Robbie Keane that caused the mid-season problems last time round.

Duncan Castles in The Times points out these troubles as bad damage to Liverpool’s preparations for the season:

Yet there are doubts that run deeper than preparation and focus. Xabi Alonso’s departure has been a work in progress since he drew Benitez’s ire by missing a Champions League tie for the birth of his first son 15 months ago. That the manager tried and failed to replace Alonso with Gareth Barry last year did nothing to diminish the midfielder’s popularity with the Kop or hide his importance in pacing the play.

Real Madrid further unsettled Javier Mascherano by threatening to pursue him if they couldn’t have Alonso, Barry was swept off to Manchester City long before Liverpool had the cash to act and another potential successor in Felipe Melo was lost to Juventus.

It was the same fixture that Liverpool lost their first Premier League game last season ‘“ also a 2-1 defeat. Only last season it was in November and was a game we really should have won.

But yesterday’s perormance felt like we were still in pre-season mode.

Fernando Torres was out for a nice Sunday afternoon stroll in the park and the lack of communication between Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel which lead to two head injuries and later on, Skrtel’s withdrawal from the match, will be seen as comical by the rest of the Premier League.

It was just one of those days, just as we’d hoped ‘œthose days’ were no more.

David Hynter of The Guardian writes:

Unlike last season, this time, there was no robbery. In fact, there was no real performance to speak about from Liverpool.

Rafa Benitez has some sorting out to do ‘“ and quickly, with our next game at home to Stoke City on Wednesday night.

The Spaniard feels hard done by. Assou-Ekotto’s late push on Andriy Voronin in the penalty area was a clear-cut penalty at referee Phil Dowd waved on. Benitez made his feelings clear after the game.

Writes Sam Wallace in The Independent:

As for Benitez’s verdict on Dowd, it may take the FA’s finest legal minds to bring him to book. When asked to give his opinion on the referee’s performance, the Liverpool manager did not say anything but removed his spectacles from his pocket and held them up to reporters. The FA can hardly ask him to explain his comments.

Still, there were some positive things to take from an otherwise poor performance.

Debutant Glen Johnson looked strong down the right for the Reds, darting into the penalty area to win the penalty Gerrard converted for Liverpool’s qualiser. As David Hynter in The Guardian writes:

For a brief spell, it appeared that they might wriggle away with a scarcely deserved point. Glen Johnson’s major contribution on his Liverpool debut was to dart in between Tom Huddlestone and Benoît Assou-Ekotto and draw Heurelho Gomes into a rash challenge.

And Pepe Reina’s save from Robbie Keane’s point-blank header in the first half was’¦

‘¦ nevertheless outstanding. Keane felt that Benítez failed to give him a fair chance at Liverpool. When he was substituted, Benítez made a point of going over to embrace him.

There’s 37 games to go and well, at least we’ve got Spurs away behnd us now.