Liverpool 4 Tottenham Hotspur 0 match report: Luis Suarez fires Liverpool to top of the Premier League table and six matches from greatness
Brendan Rodgers' side move to the top for the first time since Christmas
Six games to greatness, to borrow a phrase from Gerard Houllier, a Liverpool manager from the recent past who came close to winning a league title 12 years ago but having envisaged the path that would take his team there, could not quite see them over the line. Back then, Liverpool’s success was contingent on the fortunes of their rivals but there is no such obstacle this time around.
Win all of their remaining six matches and Liverpool, top of the league today, will be the champions of England for the first time since 1990. It will end one of the most widely-chronicled and intensively scrutinised fallow periods, in terms of the league title, of any British sporting institution. At the club itself it will be an epoch to compare some of the biggest milestones in their 134-year history. And all they need to do is win the next six games.
West Ham (away), Manchester City (home), Norwich (away), Chelsea (home), Crystal Palace (away) and Newcastle at home are left in the fixture list. For a team that has won eight league games on the spin already, winning the remaining six does not seem beyond the realms of possibility, even when one takes into consideration the strength of Chelsea and City. But then it is not just any six games that Liverpool face. It is six to change the course of their history.
At City the situation is the same: win their remaining eight games and they will have their second title in the space of two years. The meeting between City and Liverpool at Anfield on 13 April is, as it stands, the game to define the season. It falls two days before the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
The weekend results went as well as Liverpool could have hoped and, into the bargain, Tottenham rolled over too. Things are not getting any better for Tim Sherwood’s team against opponents at the top of the table having conceded five to City, four to Chelsea and now four to Liverpool since the end of January, not to mention the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal this month. If there was a side that suited the role of warm-up for Liverpool’s big title run-in in then it was hapless Spurs.
The chase is well and truly on for Liverpool, starting at the Boleyn Ground next Sunday. The records are already tumbling. They have now scored 88 goals, and at a greater rate per game than the previous-best, the Spurs team that won the league in the 1960-1961 season who scored 115 over 42 games. Luis Suarez’s goal took him to 29, making him Liverpool’s highest goalscorer in a single Premier League season.
It was not an easy afternoon for Sherwood who again opted to watch from the directors’ box and was the target for an increasingly unhappy Spurs travelling support. “We’re s*** and we’re sick of it,” they sang in the closing stages and then, “Where’s our manager?” who spent the game in the directors’ box. Spurs’ dream of Champions League football has died once again, only this time on the back of that £107m summer investment.
From Spurs it was a lesson in how not to play against the Liverpool team of 2014. Part I: concede a goal in the first two minutes. Sherwood had scarcely taken his seat than Jan Vertonghen had fallen over trying to clear a ball, Kaboul had come rushing in behind and, well, it was not pretty.
Spurs struggled all first half with the pace that Liverpool had on both flanks. Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose are doing their best at full-back but these two found themselves out of their depth against the pace of the impressive Raheem Sterling and Suarez. With Roy Hodgson’s assistant Ray Lewington in the stand, Sterling once again made a striking case that he has to go to the World Cup finals.
Kaboul’s error for the first goal which he put into his own net was one of those dreadful moments for a footballer when he cannot get his feet working in sequence quick enough. A late deflection off Vertonghen did not help matters and it was Kaboul who will take the blame. But Spurs found themselves completely out-paced and strong armed by Sterling and then Glen Johnson who delivered the cross.
Badly lacking in confidence and without the injured Emmanuel Adebayor, Spurs were there to be beaten and Liverpool knew it. Any nerves about taking advantage of the points dropped by Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City dissipated with the first goal and the second was just a matter of time.
Sherwood had left out Sandro, on the substitutes’ bench. In attack he had just Roberto Soldado to rely upon and the Spanish striker’s performance made it difficult to discern whether he was playing or just observing. He was carried off at the end of the game with an ankle injury leaving Spurs with ten men for the final moments, although it made little difference by then.
On 24 minutes, Vertonghen picked up an injury and in his place came Michael Dawson who immediately sold Kaboul short with a pass allowing Suarez to set off in the direction of the Spurs goal. Dawson almost recovered but pulled out of the tackle for fear of committing a foul and potentially being sent off, in what might have turned into a very short and fruitless afternoon’s work. In the end it was longer, but equally fruitless.
There was still much to do to beat a goalkeeper of Hugo Lloris’ quality but Suarez has that finish in his repertoire. He wrapped his left foot around the ball and beat the Spurs goalkeeper into his far corner. The game was over and all that remained was the question of how many Liverpool might score.
The third came when Philippe Coutinho took Jon Flanagan’s ball in midfield and ran unchecked at the heart of the Spurs defence, ignoring the pass to his right to drive the ball past Lloris. Henderson’s free-kick on 75 minutes beat everyone in the Spurs area, including Lloris and nestled in the far corner. At the end, the Liverpool players took the applause of what Brendan Rodgers said was the most vociferous afternoon at Anfield of the whole season.
The Liverpool manager says that there are other teams who have a greater weight of expectation when it comes to winning the title this season, and he is right. But there can be no greater longing in English football than the one which will make itself felt over the last six games of his club’s season.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet 6; Johnson 7, Agger 6, Skrtel 6, Flanagan 7; Henderson 7, Gerrard 7 (Lucas, 70), Coutinho 7 (Allen 6, 63); Sterling 8 (Moses, 83), Sturridge 7, Suarez 8.
Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Aspas, Sakho, Cissokho.
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Naughton 5, Kaboul 3, Vertonghen 3 (Dawson 3, 24), Rose 4; Bentaleb 5 (Sandro 6, 59), Sigurdsson 6; Lennon 3 (Townsend 5, 59), Chadli 5, Eriksen 5; Soldado 3.
Substitutes not used: Friedel (gk), Dembele, Kane, Winks.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire)
Booked: Tottenham Kaboul, Sigurdsson
Man of the match: Sterling
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