Liverpool 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2 match report: Luis Suarez forces Spurs to pay penalty and leaves Player of the Year rival Gareth Bale in shade at Anfield

Liverpool came from behind to win at Anfield

Anfield

One journalist was sent to Anfield with the task of writing about this game without mentioning Gareth Bale or Luis Suarez. It was like asking the Washington Post's theatre critic to review the opening night of "Our American Cousin" without referring to the fact that Abraham Lincoln had been shot while watching it.

Watch the highlights of the game here

It was more than Suarez versus Bale. The immense roar that greeted the end of the game and the way the Tottenham Hotspur players reacted on the final whistle was proof of that.

Some did turn on Suarez, although it is not quite clear why they were so angry with the Uruguayan. There was a blatant attempt to win a penalty with a dive but it was the Liverpool striker, Daniel Sturridge, rather than the usual suspect who hurled himself to earth with all the conviction of a baddie in a B-movie.

When Suarez was questioned on the penalty he did win that allowed Steven Gerrard to settle this game, he seemed untypically unsure whether Benoît Assou-Ekotto had actually fouled him. Tottenham's manager, Andre Villas-Boas, however, was more certain – it was a clear penalty.

For Brendan Rodgers, who once worked alongside Villas-Boas as part of Jose Mourinho's backroom staff at Chelsea, this was his first big win as Liverpool manager.

For Villas-Boas, it was further evidence of the single biggest barrier to Tottenham becoming a force that can win the Premier League title – their ability to self-destruct at critical moments.

Earlier in the season, it was worked out that Spurs would have been top of the league, comfortably ahead of Manchester United, were games to last 80 minutes. Here, they would not have lost their first game since December – also on Merseyside, at Everton, and also in the wake of a European tie – without two back-passes that were respectively ludicrous and careless.

Tottenham were 2-1 up and in reasonable control. Kyle Walker was on the touchline, not far from halfway, when for reasons best known to him, he tried to punt the ball back to his goalkeeper.

It was unnecessary and, worse, the pass was inaccurate. As Hugo Lloris dashed out of his area to meet it, the French international made a hash of trying to boot it clear.

The ball was at Stewart Downing's feet, there was just Jan Vertonghen to beat and he drove his shot through the centre-half's legs.

Tottenham reacted by panicking some more. As the ball bobbled on the edge of his own area, Jermain Defoe attempted to toe-poke it back to his goalkeeper and succeeded only in looping it upwards for Suarez and Assou-Ekotto to challenge for it. The result was Michael Oliver pointing to the spot.

"It is difficult to us to take because we did ever so well to get back into the game," said Villas-Boas, who rejected suggestions that tiredness in the wake of their swaggering destruction of Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday had undermined them.

"We lost control and it was down to our own mistakes when things were going our way."

He argued that had his Icelandic midfielder, Gylfi Sigurdsson, who would have been well acquainted with the bitter chill, not struck the post when he had an ocean of time to measure his response to Bale's cross, Tottenham might have cruised to three points. As it was, Spurs stumbled and then they fell.

It may not be his rivalry with Suarez for the title of Footballer of the Year that makes Anfield dislike Bale. It may be the way he poses before taking a free-kick like a Welsh Ronaldo or it may be Alan Shearer's theory that crowds instinctively jeer footballers they fear. When he sent a shot with the same trajectory as a Jonny Wilkinson drop-kick high into the Kop, there was laughter but it was laced with relief.

Bale did not score, as he had in Tottenham's five previous matches, but he contributed to both goals which were scored by the Belgian international, Vertonghen.

The free-kick that saw Spurs take the lead was questionable both because Bale flung his hands to his face, an area of his body Lucas Leiva had gone nowhere near to win it – and because it was soft. "On that reckoning, there would be 200 free-kicks a game," said Rodgers.

Liverpool did not deal with it well. Jamie Carragher headed it down, it struck Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson slipped and Vertonghen, switching feet with the kind of effortless technical ability that seems to come as standard for those who have played for Ajax, drove it home.

The first had been more of a centre-half's goal as Mousa Dembélé held the ball up by the corner flag and found Bale, who characteristically produced a superlative cross.

Once more Vertonghen intervened, rising above Johnson to leave Brad Jones, deputising for the injured Pepe Reina, stranded.

Then it seemed Liverpool's opener would be a lost jewel that would vanish in defeat. It was fabulously executed, featuring some wonderful interplay between Philippe Coutinho and Jose Enrique, whose pass was brilliantly anticipated by Suarez to beat Lloris at his near post.

On reflection, it was debatable whether Liverpool deserved to win this pulsating encounter – they had probably played better when drawing with Manchester City and at Arsenal earlier in the season.

However, Suarez's latest goal, his 22nd of another remarkable scoring campaign, deserved to count for something.

Match facts

Goals. LIVERPOOL: Suarez 21, Downing 66, Gerrard 82 pen. Spurs: Vertonghen 45, 53

Substitutions: Liverpool Allen (Coutinho, 59), Henderson (Sturridge, 88). Tottenham Holtby (Livermore, 84). Bookings: L iverpool Carragher. Tottenham Vertonghen. Man of the match Suarez. Match rating 8/10. Possession: Liverpool 47%. Tottenham 53%. Attempts on target: L iverpool 4. Tottenham 7. Referee M Oliver (Northumberland). Attendance 44,752.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss