Premier League – Liverpool slump to Tottenham defeat
Assou-Ekotto put Spurs head with a wonderful first-half strike before Bassong – controversially included after a technicality overruled a suspension – won the game with a powerful header after Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had equalised from the penalty spot.
Liverpool had a late appeal for a penalty waved away by referee Phil Dowd after Assou-Ekotto appeared to bring down substitute Andriy Voronin. The decision so incensed the visitors that assistant boss Sammy Lee was sent to the stands.
The Reds will also be annoyed that match-winner Bassong was allowed to play after the FA ruled that the final match of a suspension was sat out during former club Newcastle’s 0-0 Championship draw with West Brom last week – even though the Frenchman had already joined Spurs.
The match started tepidly, as both sides struggled to keep possession and play was interrupted by fouls and mis-kicks.
As it progressed, Spurs hit their rhythm while Liverpool continued to labour.
The Reds could only muster one meaningful chance, when the otherwise anonymous Gerrard drilled a low shot wide of the far post on the half hour.
Tottenham, meanwhile, looked by far the better side and could have been three or four ahead had Robbie Keane not missed a hat-trick of chances.
One minute after Gerrard’s effort, the former Liverpool striker Keane somehow placed a diving header from six yards straight at the body of the admittedly well-spread Pepe Reina after an excellent first-time cross from Luka Modric.
The same duo combined again three minutes later when the Croatia playmaker Modric slid the Ireland man clean through only for his chipped finish to be parried by Reina, who made the right decision to stand up.
The 44th-minute free-kick was terrible, fired low into the wall by Huddlestone, but the loose ball landed at the feet of Assou-Ekotto, who set himself up with his right before smashing an unstoppable drive with his left that sped into the top left past the helpless Reina.
Spurs took a deserved lead into the break and continued where they left off in the second half – although Liverpool showed more endeavour.
Aaron Lennon went on a thrilling run soon after the restart but he delayed the final ball with Keane free and Liverpool survived.
Gerrard fired inches wide after a neat lay-off from the quiet Fernando Torres while Wilson Palacios forced another good stop from Reina after a typical surging run and shot.
Gomes over-committed when Johnson raced into the area and clattered the England full-back to hand Liverpool a penalty.
Reds skipper Gerrard duly converted with an emphatic central finish into the roof of the net and it seemed Liverpool would get something from a game in which they were mostly second-best.
But within five minutes Spurs regained their lead. Jamie Carragher was undone by the pace of Lennon, who knocked the ball past him and drew a foul that gave the hosts a free-kick on the right wing.
Modric’s delivery was decent enough but Liverpool’s defending poor, as Carragher and Martin Skrtel allowed debutant Bassong to rise and power a superb header past the flailing Reina and under the crossbar.
Liverpool pressed for an equaliser but the last 25 minutes saw them create few clear-cut chances.
They arguably should have had a penalty when Yossi Benayoun fed fellow sub Voronin, who tumbled to the ground as Assou-Ekotto clipped his heels with no apparent intent to play the ball.
Gerrard also should have done better when he fired straight at Gomes after a superb through ball from Yossi Benayoun but Spurs held on for their first opening-day win in four seasons.
Reda Maher / Eurosport