Liverpool took full advantage of late error from Tottenham to come back and claim a 3-2 victory after a thrilling Premier League encounter at Anfield.
The loss was Tottenham’s first in the Premier League since early December and came after they appeared in control following two goals from Jan Vertonghen either side of half time to bounce back from Luis Suarez’s opener.
But perhaps Spurs’ frenetic schedule caught up to them in the final 25 minutes as a series of sloppy mistakes allowed Liverpool to claim the win through a Stewart Downing strike and a late penalty from captain Steven Gerrard.
The three points takes Liverpool above Everton into sixth spot, albeit having played a game more than their Merseyside neighbors. Tottenham remain in third, but will be worryingly looking over their shoulder at Chelsea and Arsenal in the battle for a Champions League place.
In a match between two in-form sides, Liverpool started brightly and Daniel Sturridge should have done better when played through but took far too heavy a touch when trying to go around the out rushing Hugo Lloris.
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With Moussa Dembele playing in an unfamiliar position on the right and frequently coming inside, Tottenham were able to get a grip on midfield and push Spurs back. Dembele’s movement, though, in place of the injured Aaron Lennon, also limited Spurs’ attacking threat and the best they could muster in the early stages was a Gareth Bale free-kick that was unconvincingly flailed away by Brad Jones.
In an intriguing first half, Liverpool picked up their game with Philippe Coutinho looking to cause problems whenever he got on the ball. Fittingly it was the Brazilian, coming in from the left, who played a significant part in the game’s opening goal. Coutinho linked up well with Jose Enrique and found the full back in the area where he passed the ball on for Suarez, who met it with a clever first time low shot past Lloris at his near post.
Tottenham have shown great resilience in recent times, though, and they weren’t about to bow down here. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s recent scoring touch deserted him, though, as he fired wide from 20 yards with the goal at his mercy.
The visitors would not have to wait much longer for an equalizer. In first-half injury time, Bale, so often the scorer for Tottenham in recent weeks, this time played provider with a pinpoint in-swinging cross from the right that was met by a firm header down into the corner by Vertonghen from six yards.
Within eight minutes of the second half, the same combination had put Tottenham in front. This time, Bale produced an in-swinging ball from a free-kick that Liverpool failed to deal with and Vertonghen showed the finishing instincts of a striker to drive the ball inside the near post.
Just minutes later, Tottenham crucially missed the opportunity to go two goals in front. After a stirring run down the right, Bale found Sigurdsson at the back post, but the Icelander’s shot deflected off Jones and onto the post.
Worse was to come from Tottenham as they contributed greatly to their downfall. A catalogue of errors in the latter stages started with Kyle Walker bizarrely trying a wild back pass from just inside his own half. Lloris raced out of his box to try and meet it, but could only help it on for Downing who steadied himself and then got lucky that his low right-footed strike went through the legs of Vertonghen on the line.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Spurs helped Liverpool to a welcome three points. This time is was Jermain Defoe that strangely knocked the ball back toward his own goal and, with Suarez looking to take advantage, Benoit Assou-Ekotto bundled the forward down with a clumsy challenge.
The referee duly awarded the penalty and, unlike against West Brom recently, this time Gerrard made no mistake with the late spot-kick, sliding it to Lloris’s left.
Despite pushing men forward in search of an equalizer, the closest they came was a Bale free-kick from all of 40 yards that dipped just over the bar.