Tottenham will enter their Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday in confident mood after leaving the Bernabeu with a precious point gained from reigning European champions Real Madrid, but recent history is not on their side.
In fact, rather surprisingly considering both clubs have been in close proximity in the Premier League table, the Lilywhites haven’t actually beaten the Reds in their last ten attempts, losing seven and drawing three with an aggregate scoreline of 24-7. So, when was the the last time Tottenham actually beat the Merseysiders, and how did they go about it? Football FanCast takes a look.
November 2012 was a very different time for both clubs. Tellingly, neither manager and just four players remain from the matchday squads that day – Jordan Henderson, now Liverpool captain, alongside Spurs trio Mousa Dembele, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen.
Indeed, the shining stars back then were Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez respectively, who were both on the very cusp of the peaks that would eventually take them to either side of the El Clasico rivalry.
The 2012/13 season is perhaps best famed for being Bale’s coming of age campaign, the year that saw him transform from a promising young winger into a beastly single-handed match-winner, something that was already evident in November even if those terms weren’t widely used until much closer to the summer – specifically from January onwards, when the Welshman enjoyed a run of 15 goals.
In fact, it took just seven minutes for the now-Real Madrid star to have a devastating impact on the match; picking up the ball on the halfway line, skipping past Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson in one fell swoop and driving uncontested into the penalty area before rolling the ball between Pepe Reina and Liverpool’s gap-ridden backline.
Aaron Lennon, very much the unsung hero in Tottenham’s attack as the man to counterweight Bale’s largely free role on the other side, galloped onto the cross for a simple tap-in.
And Bale wasn’t done there. Less than ten minutes later, Clint Dempsey bought a foul as Henderson naively made contact with the American almost exactly between the centre circle and the penalty area. Still far out, but not far enough to stop a young Gareth Bale rising to prominence.
Stood over the ball in a manner not too dissimilar to his future team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, his powerful curler sneaked between two leaping heads in the Liverpool wall and took a nick off one to leave Pepe Reina dumbfounded, sprawling in the wrong direction, as the ball sprayed into the net.
2-0 up, but the match was far from over – Tottenham had 74 minutes to see it out, and Liverpool had that time to respond. Brendan Rodgers’ side weren’t quite the buccaneering Liverpool of the following season that scored over 100 goals and narrowly missed out on the title, but they still had something about them through Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, who linked up fantastically to break into Tottenham’s box – forcing a phenomenal last-ditch tackle from Dembele to stop the latter, and then a goal-line clearance from Kyle Walker to prevent the former’s follow-up from creeping in.
That was the closest Liverpool came to scoring themselves, barring a fluid exchange between full-backs Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, but Bale’s status as the undisputed hero of the ninety minutes soon took a dent, him and Lennon combining once again but far less productively than in the first half. As Jonjo Shelvey looped in a corner and a Liverpool head nodded it towards goal, the duty to clear on the line fell to the England winger.
Lennon put his foot through it, only to realise Bale was standing a mere yard in front of him. The ball boomed straight into Bale’s face before bouncing into the net. Not so much hero to villain, more hero to court jester.
That left Liverpool with twenty minutes to find an equaliser, and chances did come their way. In fact, Rodgers would later insist on Match of the Day that his side deserved to come away with a well-earned point. Perhaps the best fell to a man you’d expect to finish it, not least because he’d converted the same kind of chance from the same kind of pass against Newcastle just a matter of weeks earlier.
Shelvey lofted a ball over the backline and into the path of Suarez. But whereas he danced his way through the Magpies by controlling the ball with his chest and shimmying past Tim Krul earlier in November, William Gallas prevented a repeat with a robust challenge that left the Uruguayan protesting on the floor.
It was the last significant act in a flowing, action-packed ninety minutes between two attacking sides boasting the Premier League’s two emerging talents, and two ambitious managers looking to prove themselves after undertaking new roles at major clubs. Neither, though, would go onto enjoy the kind of seasons they envisaged.
A painful draw to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge late in the season saw the Lilywhites miss out on Champions League qualification by a single point, while Liverpool would end the campaign in seventh place as Rodgers’ philosophy initially produced mixed results.
Both clubs will expect to fare much better this season, and in many ways they’ve both evolved considerably since then. Rather than relying on one talismanic talent apiece, both have become sides famed for their systems, defining philosophies and cohesiveness as a unit.
For Tottenham to triumph this Sunday though, they’ll have to learn lessons from the last ten games without victory.