Luis Suarez's return from an eight-match suspension failed to inspire Liverpool as they were held to a goalless draw by Tottenham at Anfield today.
Suarez received a rapturous reception from Liverpool fans when he came on in the 66th minute - his first action for six weeks - after serving a ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra. But the Uruguay striker was left frustrated as third-placed Tottenham secured a point in the absence of their manager Harry Redknapp in a scrappy contest.
All the hype surrounding the game had been about the return of Suarez following his lengthy ban after an FA board found him guilty of making a racist comment towards Evra.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said he had never planned to start him. "I'm delighted that the wee man is back," said the Scot. "It would have been unfair to start him, he's not played since Boxing Day."
In the end, Suarez's return was third billing on a night that saw Redknapp forced to abandon his flight to Anfield due to technical problems having earlier appeared at Southwark Crown Court in the closing stage of his trial on tax evasion charges.
Redknapp might have failed to make it, but England manager Fabio Capello, fresh from publicly criticising the Football Association's decision to oust John Terry as captain, did make it to Anfield. With Terry having been stripped of the armband pending his trial in July over alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand, Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has been tipped to lead England at UEFA EURO 2012. Tottenham's Scott Parker has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.
But in a game briefly stopped when a cat ran across the pitch, the fur was really flying after Parker's wild 39th minute challenge floored Gerrard just outside the visitors' penalty area. Liverpool made the stronger start, but it spoke volumes about the scrappy nature of the game that home fans were chanting Suarez's name after just half an hour.
The hosts came flying out of the blocks with Gerrard slipping a delightful through ball to Andy Carroll only for Michael Dawson to make a goal-saving fifth-minute challenge. Parker's reckless lunge on Glen Johnson a minute later presented Gerrard with a scoring opportunity from a free-kick, but it came to nothing and set the tone for a frustrating opening 45 minutes.
In a game punctured with misplaced passes by both sets of players, Niko Kranjcar forced the first save in the 32nd minute when his 25-yard effort was comfortably gobbled up by Pepe Reina. With Craig Bellamy and Carroll struggling to trouble the Tottenham defence, it was left to midfielder Jay Spearing to go closest for Liverpool with a curling 25-yard effort which whistled narrowly wide of Brad Friedel's post in the 34th minute.
The second half started with Gareth Bale booked for pushing Daniel Agger before Friedel denied Martin Kelly with a full-length dive to keep out the Liverpool defender's angled drive. With the game drifting towards a stalemate, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish introduced Suarez. It did not take long for the 25-year-old to get booked after leaving Parker in a heap while challenging inside the visitors area.
Liverpool looked the more likely to score in the closing stages. Carroll spurned a fine chance in the 74th minute when, unmarked, he blazed over the bar from a good position. And a scrappy contest ended with Reina standing his ground to deny Bale, who was victim of a hefty challenge by Martin Skrtel, after the Tottenham player found himself clean through in the 85th minute.
Tottenham assistant manager Kevin Bond, in charge in the absence of Redknapp, said that taking a point was a satisfactory outcome. "We had to work really hard and defend for our lives at the end. We didn't create many chances but we had the best chance of the match five minutes before the end, and it just was not meant to be," said Bond. "A point was a good result for us."