Liverpool 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Sunday 4 February 2018
Ground no.69 for John, and due to the number of tickets that find their way onto the Scandinavian tourist market, plus our arlarse reluctance to pay the price of a small house for one, it had become something of a holy grail.
My previous visits to Anfield (with the exception of a poorly-subscribed Europa League game during Roy Hodgson’s tenure) had all been as a visiting supporter, and today was no exception. Thanks to our friend Pete we were Spurs fans for the day.
Since the introduction of residents-only parking schemes a year or two back, the days of “mind yer car mister” are long gone around Anfield and Goodison. The scams aren’t, though. On my previous visit I’d dodged scalls with high-vis jackets and official looking signs, luring unsuspecting punters to park on vacant driveways and stopped up streets. Today we met up in Maghull, drove across Kirkdale via Stanley Road and parked up in the grounds of North Liverpool College, a futuristic building that looks like a fish. Because it was early, the only people on the prowl were taxi drivers. Matchday at Anfield is bonanza time for Liverpool cabbies.
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? It’s big nowadays: if a 13,000 seat Kop wasn’t impressive enough, try a new Main Stand seating 20,000 and very possibly visible from space. But for me Anfield was always about shady inner-city ambience: hemmed in by the V-streets, the Kop looming moodily over Walton Breck Road, and yes, even the notoriously edgy nature of a visit back in the day. Much has been written about Liverpool FC’s role in the “redevelopment” of the area around the ground, and to be fair the dinky new houses are (for now) clean and appealing. But something has been lost, and still more vanishes with every tinned-up terraced street that falls to the wrecking ball.
Flesh and wine
For all that, there are still one or two proper pre-match boozers about if you know where to look. One such is the admirable Grove Hotel. The community it once served has largely gone, but it hangs on in there. From the outside it doesn’t even look open, but step through the doors (no bouncers here) and you are straight into a fug of warmth and welcome. Good times.
A word about pies. The Homebaked co-operative community bakery (for many years Mitchells), opposite the Kop on the corner of Oakfield Road and (inevitably tinned-up) Donaldson Street, has gained a massive reputation both for its produce and the sound people who set up and run it. Like the Grove, this place is a survivor of the “old” Liverpool and all the nicer for it.
The away fans’ corner in the lower Anfield Road stand is not a great vantage point. Stood near the back (the whole Spurs support stood, for the whole match), beneath the overhang of the upper tier – and therefore showered with cement dust when Liverpool scored and their fans above our heads jumped up and down – it was hard to see everything that went on. People watching at home on TV had a far better idea of whether Spurs should have had the two penalties they were awarded in the final ten minutes, and apparently they shouldn’t. In the event Kane hit the first straight at Karius, and scored the other in the dying seconds: in between there was a goal of sublime individuality by Mo Salah, who pirouetted through the Spurs defence like a ballet dancer before firing into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Salah and Kane are the scoring sensations of this season, and Salah had pounced onto a gift to give Liverpool the lead before Spurs properly settled. From then on it was pretty even till half time, after which Spurs took proper control of the game and deservedly equalised when Wanyama smacked home a corker in front of the Kop (where three of the afternoon’s four goals were scored). And so to that crazy last ten minutes, and a draw that was probably the right result.
Teams and goals
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Henderson (Wijnaldum 65), Milner (Matip 78), Salah, Firmino, Mane (Oxlade-Chamberlain 65). Unused subs: Moreno, Mignolet, Ings, Solanke.
Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Sanchez (Lamela 71), Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 79), Son (Llorente 92), Eriksen, Alli, Kane. Unused subs: Vorm, Sissoko, Aurier, Winks.
Goals: Liverpool, Salah 3, 91; Tottenham, Wanyama 80, Kane 95.