BALTIMORE — Played before 42,723 at M&T Bank Stadium, Saturday’s friendly between English stalwarts Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur was high on enthusiasm among the supporters — but not so much on the field.
Between the energy-sapping heat, absent attacking talent and general lack of urgency, there were few quality chances to be had as the clubs continued preseason preparations with a scoreless draw.
While the fans might have walked away wanting more out of the contest, both managers were pleased with the effort.
“I’m sure where the fans sat they were absolutely piping hot just watching,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “Both teams put on a very, very good spectacle. It’s not basketball. It’s not going to be high-scoring. You had two teams that were tactically organized.”
Although there were splashes of Tottenham white throughout those in attendance, the vast majority were dressed in the iconic red of Liverpool. As Rodgers noted, “It amazes me to see so many supporters worldwide.”
It was the third European friendly at the Baltimore Ravens’ home venue in recent years. In July 2009, a sellout crowd of 71,203 saw Chelsea FC take on AC Milan. A year later, 36,569 turned out for a friendly between Manchester City and Inter Milan.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas unveiled a starting 11 featuring the star power of American goalkeeper Brad Friedel, French center back William Gallas, English midfielders Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas, and Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Rodgers, meanwhile, brought striker Andy Carroll — the target of much transfer speculation — and midfielders Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson off the bench after not using the England internationals in the Reds’ first two U.S. tour matches. His lineup also included the name recognition of defenders Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher and midfielders Stewart Downing and Joe Cole.
With temperatures in the mid-90s and the creative likes of Gerrard and Luka Modric (who skipped Tottenham’s tour amid rumors he is going to Real Madrid) absent, the first half was largely devoid of offensive vigor.
The best chance of the half came three minutes before the break, when Lennon smashed Bale’s bending far-post ball off the woodwork from point-blank range. While Liverpool’s forays forward flowed through Cole on the left flank, the Reds failed to seriously test Friedel.
“We played extremely well under these conditions,” Villas-Boas said. “I understand for American sports this may not be something new. But for us, we come from different conditions and it is very, very hard for the body to adapt to play at this level and intensity.”
Bale, Tottenham’s top player in the first half, suffered an ankle injury when he was clipped by Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam — the same player who caused a season-ending injury for the 23-year-old with a similar challenge in May 2011. After exiting at halftime, Bale was wearing a walking boot postgame.
The top opportunities following intermission came courtesy of two defenders: Liverpool’s Skrtel and Tottenham’s Gallas. But Friedel snared Skrtel’s rising shot in the 55th minute, and Gallas‘ chip went wide 11 minutes later.
Both teams open English Premier League play Aug. 18, though Liverpool kicks off competitive action Thursday with a Europa League preliminary match against Belarusian side FC Gomel.
“We won’t be at our optimal level of fitness, but you can’t complain,” Rodgers said. “That’s the cards we’ve been dealt. You just have to get on with it.”