Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League in fine style with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Tottenham at a rocking Anfield.
Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood had suggested beforehand that Liverpool might start to feel the nerves as the title run-in kicks up a gear. But there was no evidence of any pressure on Liverpool’s shoulders as they won for the eighth time in a row in the league against a Sherwood team that made it all too easy for their opponents.
There seemed no coherent plan to Tottenham’s play and Liverpool mercilessly took advantage from the off. An own goal from Younes Kaboul put Liverpool in front inside just two minutes and from that moment on there was never any doubt about the final outcome. More cataclysmic defending allowed Luis Suarez to grab his 29th goal of the Premier League season midway through the opening period. The second-half was a mere formality, although Liverpool still added further misery to Tottenham’s season of mediocrity with Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson getting on the scoresheet to make it 9-0 in favor of Liverpool in their two games over the side from north London.
The comfort was such that Liverpool’s fans spent much of the second half singing enthusiastically about the prospects of landing a first title in 24 years. Certainly no one could have predicted that the destination of the championship would be in their hands with six games remaining. While there is still a long way to go, with Chelsea and Manchester City yet to visit Anfield, their chances look increasingly positive.
n truth, though, Tottenham provided scant challenge. There were signs of the trouble ahead for Spurs simply in glancing at the two sides’ starting lineups. Not for the first time Spurs were without a natural holding midfielder, with Nabil Bentaleb and Gylfi Sigurdsson selected. And with the vulnerable full-backs of Danny Rose and Kyle Naughton also in place, Rodgers had made a clear decision to be bold and look to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. Both Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling were selected on this occasion, with the former offering creativity from midfield and the latter terrorizing Rose from the off.
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It took less than two minutes for Liverpool’s approach to pay dividends. Coutinho swung the ball out wide to Sterling in space down the right. The winger shifted it onto the overlapping Glen Johnson, who went untracked by Christian Eriksem allowing a low cross that was missed by Jan Vertonghen at the near post before deflecting off the heel of Kaboul and past his own goalkeeper.
Tottenham failed to learn from their mistakes. Trying to play a high defensive line but with no pressure on the ball from elsewhere, it was all too easy for Liverpool to get in behind. Suarez in particular was broached Tottenham’s defense time and again with his pace and movement. Only the smallest of margins prevented the hosts from going further ahead in the opening exchanges.
As it was, Liverpool only had to wait until the 25th minute to double their lead. It was a catalogue of errors that led to it, beginning with Naughton giving the ball away upfield. Gerrard hit a searching ball and, with his first touch having just come on for the injured Vertonghen, Michael Dawson played a blind pass looking for Kaboul inside, but Suarez was as alert as ever and mercilessly pounced to take the ball into the box before firing across goal and past Lloris.
The only joy Tottenham were having was when Eriksen, who bizarrely started on the left, switched with Nacer Chadli and came inside. The Danish playmaker on a couple of occasions found space in behind Liverpool’s midfield. He also had Tottenham’s only clear opening of the half when he worked a shooting chance in the box only to see it blocked by an outstanding piece of defending from Martin Skrtel.
But the visitors were doing nothing to stem the flow of attacks at the other end. And their deficit should have been increased by the half-time interval. Kaboul continued his half to forget by caving into the impressive pressing of Liverpool and giving the ball straight to Sterling in the left-back slot. The Liverpool man intelligently picked out Suarez at the back post, whose header looked destined for the back of the net, but Lloris flung himself to his near post and made a memorable save to tip the ball onto the crossbar.
Sherwood, who spent the entire match looking on disconsolately from the stands, appeared to at least try and change things at the break. There was now more pressure higher up from his side. But Liverpool were able to counter that, too, and within 10 minutes of the restart extended their lead. Liverpool played around the pressure deep inside their own half, allowing Jon Flanagan to break forward. Coutinho was then found in the yards of space provided by a Tottenham midfield missing in action and the Brazilian took the ball forward to the edge of the box before drilling a fine low shot into the corner of the net.
Henderson had earlier missed a glorious chance to make it 3-0 when he skied over the bar from a Sterling pull-back. The midfielder was to have his goal, though, with 15 minutes remaining. Tottenham’s defensive line was incredibly deep as Henderson whipped in a free-kick low low at the near post and, with Suarez, and everyone else, missing it, the ball bounced and flew past Lloris who had no time to react. The final minutes were merely an excuse for a celebration in the stands, with Liverpool fans having more cause for optimism than in many years.