Liverpool's title challenge hit an immediate stumbling block on Sunday, as goals from Benoit Essou-Akotto and Sebastien Bassong sealed a 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. After Robbie Keane had twice been denied from close-range by Reds' goalkeeper Pepe Reina, the hosts edged ahead shortly before half-time, with left-back Essou-Akotto slamming home from 25-yards after Tom Huddlestone's free-kick had cannoned into the defensive wall. Rafael Benitez's men were handed an unlikely lifeline after the break, with Tottenham glove-man Heurelho Gomes upending Glen Johnson inside the penalty-area, allowing Steven Gerrard to fire home from the spot. But the Londoners were not level for long, as central defender Bassong - on his debut - rose highest to power home Luka Modric's set-piece. Essou-Akotto was twice fortunate not to concede a penalty in the latter stages, first for body-checking Andriy Voronin, before handling the ball inside the danger-zone. However, referee Phil Dowd turned down both of Liverpool's claims, allowing Spurs to claim three points from their first game of the season - a points tally they needed nine games to match last term. "The first half was not the best for us, the second half much better," Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez told Sky Sports. "We are disappointed because we worked hard in the second half. It's still early, but we know we have to improve."
16 August 2009
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