Spurs won their opening fixture of the new season in convincing style, outplaying a Liverpool side that has aspirations of winning the Premier League title. In the aftermath of the 2-1 victory, a lot of the attention has focused on Liverpool’s failings, and the loss of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. This does scant justice to a Spurs display that was full of creativity and commitment.
The opening half hour highlighted that latter quality, with Spurs closing down their Liverpool counterparts and denying them time to settle on the ball.
As might have been expected following his unhappy time at Anfield, Robbie Keane buzzed around energetically, but also managed to waste three very good goalscoring opportunities. His inclusion ahead of Peter Crouch was a surprise and it was unfortunate that his strike partner, Jermain Defoe, was also slightly subdued following his heroics for England in midweek. Nevertheless Spurs were on target twice, from two unlikely sources. Assou-Ekotto scored his first ever goal in spectacular style, while Sebastien Bassong - who had never scored for Newcastle - capped an impressive debut with the winner.
The undoubted stars of the show, however, were Palacios and Modric. Each has proved to be an astute signing, both on the field and off it. (Harry Redknapp took time earlier in the week to compare David Bentley unfavourably to Modric, following Bentley’s arrest on suspicion of drink driving.) Modric looks like he is gradually adding physical strength to the panoply of skills he already possesses and clearly he is going to be a key - perhaps the key - player for Tottenham this season. Palacios was all purpose and industry, and even managed to sting Pepe Reina’s hands with a powerful shot from distance. His dominance of the midfield was such that the fans could easily forgive his occasional and comical attempts at showboating. Corluka, King, and even Huddlestone also impressed in what was a very satisfying team performance.
What a pity, then, that the graceless Rafa Benitez chose to focus on criticism of the referee. While this had a certain predictability, it is still tiresome - so there was some satisfaction to be had in seeing his number two, Hammy the Hamster, sent to the stands for berating the fourth official. The Liverpool players also worked hard to make themselves unpopular, with Torres moaning constantly and Gerrard celebrating his penalty conversion as if it were the last minute winner in a World Cup final.
Again, predictably, the worst offender was the thoroughly dislikeable Mascherano, who first feigned injury to try to avoid a yellow card, and followed that by throwing himself to the ground in an attempt to get Huddlestone booked. To the referee’s credit, neither ruse was successful.
But enough of a team still trading on league titles won before some of their current squad were born. Spurs will travel to Hull on Wednesday full of confidence following a great start to what - hopefully - will be a great season. The early indications are very good indeed.