Luis Suarez’s return from an eight-match suspension failed to inspire Liverpool as they were held to a goalless draw by Tottenham Hotsput at Anfield on Monday.
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.
However, 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 Football Association (FA) board found him guilty of making a racist comment toward 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, who along with the club was heavily criticized for defending Suarez even after he was found guilty. “He should never have been away, but we’ve taken the punishment and we’ve moved on. 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 because of 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 criticizing the FA’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 Ferndinand, Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has been tipped to lead England at Euro 2012.
Tottenham’s Scott Parker has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.
However, 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.
In a game punctured with misplaced passes by both sets of players, Niko Kranjcar forced the first save in the 32nd minute when his 25m effort was comfortably saved by Pepe Reina.
With Craig Bellamy and Carroll struggling to trouble the Tottenham defense, it was left to midfielder Jay Spearing to go closest for Liverpool with a curling 25m 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 after the Tottenham player’s blatant dive, before Friedel denied Martin Kelly with a full length dive, to keep out the Liverpool’s defender’s angled drive.
With the game drifting toward a stalemate, 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.
Carroll spurned a fine chance in the 74th minute when, unmarked, he blazed over the bar from a good position.