Spurs leave Liverpool red-faced

LONDON: Liverpool's title challenge was dealt a blow in the opening match on Sunday as Tottenham inflicted a 2-1 defeat on last season's League runner-up.

The Spurs goals came from the unlikeliest of sources with center back Sebastien Bassong heading in the 59th-minute winner on his debut after fellow defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto had put them ahead with his first ever goal in club football. The Reds had been given a way back into the match three minutes before Bassong's goal when captain Steven Gerrard equalised from the penalty spot.

Despite Reds lacking cutting edge in front of goal, manager Rafa Benitez was angered by referee Phil Dowd's failure to award a second penalty in the closing minutes. "With this referee I knew (awarding another) wasn't possible," Benitez said. The anger boiled over on the touchline with Liverpool's assistant manager Sammy Lee sent off for continued protests toward fourth official Stuart Attwell.

The importance of opening with a win was heightened by defending champion Manchester United, along with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City all winning over the weekend.

There were few excuses for Benitez. Both striker Fernando Torres and Gerrard were available to form their usually devastating partnership. The visitors relied heavily on Pepe Reina for the score remaining at 0-0, with the Spain goalkeeper pulling off a great save to repel Robbie Keane's header and then blocking his former teammate's attempt to chip him from a difficult angle.

Assou-Ekotto showed Keane how to find the net as the Spurs left back scored his first goal in the 152nd game of his club career a minute before the break. When Tom Huddlestone's free kick was deflected out by Emiliano Insua, Cameroon international Assou-Ekotto pounced on the edge of the area, drilling the ball into the top corner, beyond Reina's reach.

Liverpool rarely threatened until Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes came off his line to stop debutant Glen Johnson's run into the penalty area and tripped the England right back to concede a penalty in the 56th minute.

Gerrard scored from the spot, but Liverpool was behind again after Carragher barged Jermain Defoe off the ball. Bassong, who joined from Newcastle to bolster

the defense, proved adept at poaching goals by heading in Luka Modric's free kick.