Liverpool take advantage of Spurs’ slip-ups
Unbeaten run ends on Merseyside
Luis Suarez (R) is challenged by Benoit Assou-Ekotto to concede a penalty at Anfield. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Date: 10 March, 2013
Merseyside proved home to another tale of late, self-inflicted defeat for André Villas-Boas and Tottenham Hotspur. Unbeaten in the Premier League since conceding two injury-time goals at Everton in early December, Spurs slipped to defeat at Liverpool courtesy of two dreadful errors that destroyed their hopes of closing the gap on second-placed Manchester City.
For Brendan Rodgers, it was the first significant scalp of his Anfield reign and earned a place above free-falling Everton in the table. Luis Suárez scored his 22nd league goal to outshine Gareth Bale and also won the 82nd-minute penalty that enabled Steven Gerrard to seal a victory that maintains Liverpool's commanding form at a crucial stage. They had to come from behind after two goals from another former Ajax captain, Jan Vertonghen, gave Spurs sight of a victory they carelessly allowed to slip through their grasp.
José Reina was unable to build on his impressive display at Wigan last Saturday due to a calf injury but with Philippe Coutinho again a bundle of energy and invention on the left, Suarez lethal in front of goal and the defence compact, Liverpool started and finished in the same impressive fashion that delivered the 4-0 win at the DW Stadium. They saw less of the ball against Tottenham, however, as the visitors' midfield pinned Liverpool deep inside their own half for sustained spells. Jan Vertonghen's equaliser on the stroke of half-time was richly deserved.
Liverpool began brightly, with Kyle Walker covering well to thwart Suárez in the box inside the opening minute, Daniel Sturridge firing wide and also taking a heavy touch when almost put through by a piercing pass from Coutinho. Spurs' opening chance came from a 25-yard free-kick by Bale. Reina's replacement, Brad Jones, fumbled a shot that snaked through the air but the ball bounced to safety.
Spurs appeared to have weathered the early pressure and gained control when they were undone by a flowing Liverpool attack with Latin flair. Coutinho released José Enrique once with a impudent flick, then for a second time with a deft pass into the area. The Spanish left back read Suárez's angled run across the penalty area superbly, threading the ball behind Michael Dawson for the Uruguayan to finish inside Hugo Lloris's near post with the outside of his right foot. It was the confident strike of a forward with 29 goals to his name this season.
Liverpool contained Spurs' danger-man, Bale, for the opening 35 minutes and restricted the Wales international to one run on the right that ended with a sliced shot into the Kop. But his influence increased as the interval approached and Gylfi Sigurdsson was put clear when Bale flicked a pass from the commanding Mousa Dembélé into his path. The Iceland midfielder who rejected a move to Liverpool last summer shot wide from the edge of the area.
Bale really came to life after taking a blow to the back of the head from Gerrard, who won an aerial challenge but received a warning from the referee, Michael Oliver, for leading with his arm. Seconds later, with the Kop jeering Bale for allegedly feigning injury, he silenced Anfield with an inviting cross from the right and Vertonghen stole in ahead of Glen Johnson to steer a textbook header into the bottom corner.
Liverpool, denied a penalty when Walker hauled Coutinho inside the area, were undone by another Bale-Vertonghen combination shortly after the restart. Spurs were awarded a free-kick for a high challenge on Bale, who dusted himself down to whip the set-piece into the heart of the Liverpool area. Jamie Carragher, making his 500th Premier League appearance, won the initial header but a deflection off Daniel Agger and a slip by Johnson teed up Vertonghen's second of the game. The Belgian defender steadied himself well before sending a half-volley beyond Jones.
Spurs should have added a third in the dominant spell that followed. Johnson deflected a Sigurdsson shot on to a post after Bale had sprinted over half the length of the pitch and floated a cross over to the unmarked midfielder. Dembélé also forced Jones into a desperate save having glided past two Liverpool defenders. Then, with the visitors in the ascendancy, they promptly shot themselves in the foot.
For reasons known only to himself Walker sent an aimless pass towards his own goal from the half-way line. Lloris had no choice but to rush outside his area in an attempt to clear but a weak touch fell straight to Stewart Downing, who advanced on goal and drilled the ball between Vertonghen's legs on the goal-line. With eight minutes remaining Lloris punched clear a Gerrard free-kick only for it to return into his area from a dreadful touch by Jermain Defoe. The ball fell to Suárez who was bundled over by Benoït Assou-Ekotto and Gerrard made no mistake from 12 yards.