Francis Plan Frustrates Liverpool

By Simon O'Hagan | The Independent (London, England), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Francis Plan Frustrates Liverpool


Simon O'Hagan, The Independent (London, England)


NO BUILD-UP to a new season is complete without it. This is the one, people say, when Liverpool are going to rediscover the formula that made them the game's dominant force in the Seventies and Eighties. It happened, as usual, at the start of this season, but six years after Liverpool were last the champions of England, those predictions look like being confounded again.

For Liverpool to maintain what hopes they had of catching Newcastle, they surely had to come through tests like yesterday's. But in Tottenham Hotspur they were up against a supremely well-organised side who did much more than stand firm against waves of attacks. As a result Liverpool slipped from second to third and are now looking at a gap of 11 points to the Premiership leaders, Newcastle, having played one game more.

It took a manager of Gerry Francis's acumen to see that even as Liverpool were establishing the run of seven wins and three draws they took into the match, they were far from invulnerable.

"I watched them a lot on video and teams have tended to let them have the ball," Francis said. "I was determined not to let that happen." Although Liverpool had the majority of the possession, it was never for long spells and through sheer hard work Spurs refused to allow them to indulge themselves by building from the back in the way they like to. As Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said, Spurs had settled into a rhythm before his own team had got going and were therefore all the harder to break down. Liverpool had a good last half-hour, but Spurs remained dangerous throughout and created arguably the two best chances.

With Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler having shared 34 goals between them this season, and Chris Armstrong and Teddy Sheringham weighing in with only one fewer, the prospect of the match remaining scoreless was slim.

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