Liverpool played an unchanged team against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, although they had their captain Taylor, and Balmer on the sidelines. Spurs played their debutant in Robshaw, who deputised for Nicholson at left half. It was a glorious afternoon just right for football, with a nice nip in the air and the ground looked fairly good for this time of year, even though it was likely to churn up as the game progressed. Manager Don Welsh was not with the Liverpool party, he was away at another scouting mission in Ireland. The Spurs had a record of scoring in every match with the exception of last Saturday, when they had a blank against Portsmouth. The referee was taking no chances for he started the game with a white ball, although the light looked last lasting out until the end.
As the referee blew for the start of the game it was Liverpool who made the first attack and a Liddell cross nearly saw Ramsey out of the game. The full blooded cross by Liddell was headed over the bar by Ramsey who looked like he didn't know where he was for the next few minutes. The cross had been so ferocious I'm surprised Ramsey managed to stay on his feet. Wandering around the field in a world of his own, the referee was seen to ask him was he alright. Liverpool again went right into the attack, but had a narrow escape when Medley centred and Lambert was fortunate to get his head to the ball just before Duquemen and conceded a corner. Ramsey and Liddell came into a collision and the Scot went down with a head injury. Ramsey suffered a like blow, but he showed great sportsmanship when he deliberately kicked the ball into touch and so brought the game to a halt. While Liddell received attention, Ramsey again rubbed away the pain of his second head injury. If the game continues in this way, It'll be a surprise if it ends with eleven a side.
The only time thus far that Ditchburn had to handle was when he had to pick up a slow back pass from a colleague. But Liverpool had been awarded a second corner which was wasted when Liddell put a thunderbolt over the bar, only to knock a Spurs fan cold, was Billy trying to reduce the crowd as well as the opposition? The trouble was not cleared and Liverpool advanced again. Payne had gone flying down the wing and only Liddell had kept up with the pace of this speedy winger. As the ball came across, Liddell had switched inside to the centre forward position and his diving header crashed against the bar, only to be picked up close to the half way line by Paisley. This time Baron made a cute pass to Smith who, with outstretched leg, directed the ball against the upright. The ball came out and LIDDELL soon had it in the net at the 10th minute. I swear one day when Liddell fires the ball in from this range it will either burst the net or will seriously injure a goalkeeper. This was a blow to the Spurs, but they immediately set about retrieving matters, and Robshaw should have made fame himself after Ashcroft had pushed the ball out to his feet. The debutant tried to carry away the back of the net, Liddell style, instead of lifting it over the keeper and the ball flew high wide and handsome.
The Spurs were playing well in approach, but they seemed to want to walk the ball into the net. Liverpool were not going to allow this to happen and always had a last ditch tackle to save the day. They should have taken a pattern out of Liverpool's books, for when Paisley pushed a ball through on the inside of Clarke, LIDDELL was there at centre forward again to crack home another canon round in the 17th minute. This time the goalkeeper was not within close proximity and the net caught another flood blooded shot. This time the referee took a close inspection of the net as it appeared to be ripped off the hooks behind the bar. The Spurs fans could not believe it, they were the favourites after all. Liverpool were not supposed to come to White Hart Lane and take the game to Spurs. But soon they were heartened when Bailey tried a lob from close range and Hughes had to fall back to clear off the Liverpool goal line. Payne and Liddell nearly broke down the Spurs defence a fourth time for when Payne pushed the ball inside to Liddell, the latter tried to get the ball down into a shooting position, but on this occasion failed. A Liddell hat-trick after 20 minutes might have been the last straw or the home fans, but on this occasion they survived.
Liverpool were covering well and did not mind giving a corner or two away, rather than anything more expensive. Tottenham could and did, pull out some nice football when making their attacks, but were inclined to make a pass too many in their anxiety to make sure. Burgess came along with a week shot, which did not trouble Ashcroft whatsoever. Jackson had been well looked after by Withers and Burgess, but most of the play had been either in the centre or on the Liverpool left wing. Or put another way, wherever Billy chose to ply his trade.
The Anfielders won another corner, and when Ditchburn edged the ball away, Withers just beat Jackson for possession. Spurs had escaped again, so far this game was looking very one sided when it came to finishing. Ashcroft only nipped in just at the right moment, for a Bennett centre to Duquemen, a split second reaction save in fact.
The football all round had been excellent. Liverpool's methods were more straightforward.
Get the ball shoot.
Get the ball score.
The Spurs were being too clever, and such tactics against a Liverpool defence had little chance of succeeding. Ditchburn saved a corner by sprinting along his line and then throwing himself at the ball, and when Liddell tried another shot, he slewed the ball well wide. Duquemen had a shot saved but there was complete confidence in the Liverpool defence. Burgess was injured in trying to head a goal in another instance. Liddell deceived the Spurs defence into the belief that he would run through and shoot, instead of which he nicely slipped the ball out to Payne.
He lifted it over to Jackson, who was not quick enough to take advantage. Liddell was himself the only one who could keep pace with Payne. Payne was flying on the right wing today, but when there was a colleague immediately behind him waiting for the pass, he decided to go alone. He eventually got the ball over, but Ditchburn saved easily on the approach of half time. Liverpool really need a player of Liddell's pace to play at centre forward when Payne is in these moods, but then we would have to find someone of Liddell's pace to play wide left.
Liverpool went into the dressing room two goals to the good. The half time team talk will probably be done by Taylor Liverpool's captain today. Perhaps he should have a few words with Liddell, if he hadn't missed a couple of chances, Liverpool would be FOUR UP and this game would be over. Liverpool's football was just as good as that of the Spurs, but there was more bite to their finish and Ditchburn early in the second half had to take a back pass from Clarke to relieve a dangerous situation.
half time - Spurs 0 L'pool 2
Robshaw with a forty yard lob, forced Ashcroft to tip the ball over the bar, as Hughes fouled Duquemen just outside the box. From the free kick Jones managed to kick off the goal line and it looked to have gone safe. The danger was still there however, for BENNETT to scoop the ball into the net at the 50th minute. Liverpool hotly disputed the goal for Jones seemed to appeal that the ball had gone out for a corner, before Bennett made his shot. The referee went to his linesman, but the goal stood.
For the next few minutes Liverpool seemed to be affected by the goal and the Spurs were hot on the attack, being fired on by their goal. Jackson should have gone through after he had beaten his man, but his indecision in front of goal cost him dearly.
The excitement at this stage was intense, and when the Anfielders were urged on by a neat Baron pass, Liddell should have reaped the benefits of his hat-trick only to be robbed by the upright.
It was cut and thrust and when Medley sent a long centre soaring across the Liverpool goal, there was great danger to Ashcroft's goal but the ball went dead. Spurs are noted for their recovery power, and they brought it off again when WALTERS scored the equaliser in the 60th minute. Medley provided the centre which enabled the outside right to get in close.
The Spurs were rampant now and the Liverpool defence were right on the rack. Ashcroft had a lucky escape when Duquemen and he got mixed up on the ground and the Liverpool keeper was fortunate to find the ball coming back to him.
Liverpool hit back through their left wing and Liddell pulled out a long shot which went sizzling only inches over the bar. Liverpool had got over the shock and were now sounding out the strength of the Spurs defence.
Liddell was here there and everywhere, but he was in the right spot for Baron's push through and the Scot was just about to unleash the full power of his left foot, when he was brought down from behind by Ramsey in the 70th minute. The travelling fans were unison in their screams "Penalty" and the ref had to agree.
This was no time for a home town decision, it was a clear penalty as was testified by Ramsey's reaction.
LIDDELL took the kick himself and recorded his hat-trick with a shot that Ditchburn could only watch go speeding into the net, at the pace of a bullet. He could have dived and tried to save the shot, but chose to stand still and avoid any injury. At this point you must ask yourself the question, would you get in the way of a Liddell penalty? No, I thought not, therefore you cannot blame the Spurs keeper for his actions or lack of them.
Liverpool were on the pounce again, but there was a tense minute when Hughes whipped the ball from under Ashcroft's nose and went on to complete the clearance. The referee gave a corner to Liverpool and from Liddell's in swinging corner, it was only Ditchburn's diving effort that stopped Payne from scoring Liverpool next.
This was certainly the most exciting game of this season so far, it had everything. Meaty tackles, speed and flare down all wings, five goals and still both teams were trying for victory.
Liverpool had got the measure of the opposition in this game and it wasn't long before Payne had another chance.
Smith had an even better chance when Ditchburn was out of his goal, but headed wide.
Liverpool were playing Spurs off the park at this stage of the game with cute and clever football, but Spurs defended stubbornly. A final shot from Liddell just before the end saw Ditchburn diving the wrong way and still managing to save a goal, when it came off his foot. The tricky Reds were now in full flow, lead by the maestro Liddell, and not only had Ramsey given up trying to stop him so had Spurs. The referee finally put Spurs out of their misery and blew up for full time.
A grand Victory, well and truly won against a side that went into the game as red hot favourites.
Liverpool not only proved to be their equals in the craft of football, but proved much more deadly in front of goal. Liddell had had another brilliant game, but it was the whole team that had grafted for this victory.
Ok, Liddell scored a Hat-trick, but there's nothing new about that, this victory was won as much in the defence as it was up front. And this writer has no doubts that Liddell will win his fair share of Man of the Match awards this season without adding this one.
Final Score - Spurs 2, L'pool 3
Man of the Match: Ashcroft
Copyright - Liverpool Echo (Thanks to Wooltonian for the article)
"I saw him play many times. And I met him. I was there the day we were relegated to the second division. We lost to Cardiff City. We won a penalty which Billy took and it was saved by their substitute goalie, their full back. In those days there were no official substitutes allowed on the bench, so if the goalie was injured one of the original 11 had to take over. Not only was it a very expensive save for us but Billy rarely missed penalties. He must have been one of the most successful penalty takers of all time for LFC and Scotland. And that was when the ball was heavy leather with big stitches weighing a lot more than it does now."
Seamus on the great Billy Liddell