Tottenham imposed a vice-like grip on the game by setting a fast tempo from the start which left Liverpool bewildered
Starting sluggishly, Liverpool were penned back by an excellent performance from Tottenham Hotspur. They passed the ball with speed and the visitors found the energetic and intelligent movement bewildering. Most importantly, Spurs' early pressing was vital in setting the initial tempo of the game.
Tottenham's main thrusts came down the left, where Gareth Bale's pace reduced Martin Skrtel to frantic defending from the first minute. The makeshift full-back needed close cover from either of his centre-backs as Luka Modric, Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoît Assou-Ekotto threaded balls between and beyond the Slovak and his defensive colleagues.
Stewart Downing, prior to Charlie Adam's dismissal, needed to drop deeper to limit the passes that were flowing freely and unopposed down Tottenham's left side. When he switched wings Jordan Henderson should have played wider to assist his defence but the odds were stacking up against Liverpool, who were conceding too many free-kicks and looked pedestrian as Scott Parker, Adebayor and Modric orchestrated a fine first half.
Jermain Defoe turned José Enrique before firing home crisply after the interval and Tottenham resumed their first-half rhythm. Defoe dovetailed well with Adebayor in a partnership which will produce danger signals for Premiership defenders.
Skrtel's thoughtless challenge on Bale after 62 minutes exacerbated Liverpool's problems. Losing the midfield battle comprehensively, now they had to regroup again, finishing with an unlikely back-four trying to contain Tottenham's fine, purposeful possession football.
The importance of imparting your team philosophy and gaining early ascendancy was never better illustrated. Tottenham started on the front foot. Liverpool, pressured at every opportunity, exuded negativity. They looked a team on the back foot.
When Skrtel, in possession, looked forward he saw no passing opportunities and he was pressured by Bale early. Each Tottenham player followed in type. Skrtel, forced towards his own goal, played the ball to Jamie Carragher, dropping deeper, but he was closed down by Defoe. Liverpool were prevented from playing out and the ball was repeatedly rolled back to the keeper.
This early pressing raised the crowd and Liverpool were penned in. A tempo had been set. The outcome was a game in which Spurs had all the bonuses and the visitors were truly second best.
One could not pick out an inferior performance from a Spurs player – Brad Friedel was never tested. Liverpool may point to the handicap of the sendings off but in truth the first 20 minutes set a pattern, with the vice-like grip of Harry Redknapp's energetic, hard-working side setting a platform for their dominance of the ball.