Suarez returns to a familiar outcome
The ovation was particularly loud, the atmosphere electrified at a stroke. To predictable acclaim at Anfield, Luis Suarez was back. If 2012 has been the year of the comeback, whether of the distinguished veterans or from 3-0 down, this was a return with a difference.
Some 875 minutes and nine completed games since the Boxing Day draw with Blackburn, Suarez belatedly took centre stage again. Even when he was only a substitute, others obliged by making him the centre of attention. A game that was uneventful for large swathes was the antidote to the six-goal draw at Stamford Bridge and served as the prelude to his arrival.
His winter break has been enforced, his ban served. Suarez missed one match for a raised finger at Fulham fans and eight after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra. It is a verdict that is still disputed at Anfield.
"He should never have been out in the first place," said Kenny Dalglish. Indeed, the notion Suarez is a wronged outsider renders him Liverpool's favourite cause celebre and made his reappearance all the more popular.
His approval rating would have been still higher had a late header beaten Brad Friedel or had first Ledley King and then Scott Parker not flung themselves in the path of last-minute shots. Yet his role in the narrative was as neither hero nor villain, though there was the opportunity to be either. Indeed, brushes with authority have been a constant in his career and, within five minutes of his introduction, there was another. Suarez was booked for kicking Parker in a particularly painful place. "He never saw him," said Dalglish, whose own vision appeared affected as well. "I'll take the fifth amendment," he added.
A quiet life, it is safe to say, will continue to elude the striker. This represented the soft landing before he gets a rougher reception at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The surprise was his outing was so brief. Suarez is often serenaded to the tune of Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough, words that rather sum up the Anfield public's attitude towards the striker. But not, on this occasion, the manager. There are times when Dalglish can appear a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad and, for once he frustrated his fans, a policy of delayed gratification meaning a small dose of the Uruguayan intoxicant.
"It would have been totally unfair to start him as he had been out since Boxing Day," Dalglish argued. When brought on, Suarez provided the spark Liverpool lacked. If he rendered the occasion notable, the outcome was all too familiar. This was an eighth draw at Anfield and the script is so familiar that either it is a reprint or a case of plagiarism. They are invariably games where Liverpool have been in the ascendance and chances have been spurned. Some, too, are notable for an initial caution; this was a match where the first shot came after half an hour, and that was from Tottenham's Niko Kranjcar.
Suarez apart, the unlikely suspects came closest. A ferocious long-range shot almost brought Jay Spearing a maiden Liverpool goal. Brad Friedel saved twice from Glen Johnson, even if one was a cross, and once from the quietly impressive Martin Kelly. But there was another symptom of a season where expensive underachievers have had a prominence: an Andy Carroll miss.
A wild swipe of his right foot sent the ball spiralling over the bar to mar one of his better performances. At his best, the target man is not simply a totem; he is a rangy runner and a more mobile Carroll delivered a better display. "I just cannae get away from the obsession you have with Andy," a spiky Dalglish told one unfortunate interviewer. The clue comes in the price tag, but his £35 million recruit came in for praise.
Indeed, of the gangly attackers, he was much the more effective, with Emmanuel Adebayor insipid in the visitors' forward line. Their major opportunity fell the way of Gareth Bale but, sent sprinting clear by Kranjcar, he shot straight at Pepe Reina. "Maybe we had the best chance of the game," said Kevin Bond, standing in for Harry Redknapp, who was trapped in London by a combination of a court case and an inability to get off the runway.
"The last I spoke to him he was on an aeroplane," added Bond with masterly understatement. "Obviously he didn't make it."
Tottenham hope to have their manager on the touchline again for Saturday's clash with Newcastle. The comebacks just keep on coming.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Dawson - Terrific from start to finish. Scott Parker was also terrific in the final half hour, making block after block, but Dawson's defiance began from the first whistle to ensure the injured Younes Kaboul and William Gallas weren't missed.
LIVERPOOL VERDICT: "We are in a better position than we were last year," Dalglish said. It is true, but they are in seventh place and, while their excellent record against the sides above them remains intact - it is now only two defeats in 12 - it is harder to dismiss the draws as simple misfortune. Some of the positives came from the younger players with Spearing proving efficient and Kelly excellent, but while Dalglish is an exponent of squad rotation, a consistent winning formula in midfield and attack remains elusive.
TOTTENHAM VERDICT: Their finest performers were all to be found at the back, with Ledley King and Dawson forming a solid partnership and Friedel again showing why he has been an excellent signing. Given their injuries - Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon were also absent - it was a very good point. If they have aspirations of winning the title, it may not be, but it cements their top-three status.
OLIVER'S ARMY: It has not been a great few weeks for the refereeing fraternity, so it is pleasing to report that Michael Oliver was excellent, remaining calm where far more experienced officials may not have. His first decision - allowing the game to go on, despite fog at Anfield - proved correct and set the tone for the night.