Cause for optimism
Tottenham fans will be disappointed to see their side throw away a lead against Liverpool. But both sides should be able to pick the positives after a 3-2 thriller at Anfield
Last Updated: 10/03/13 9:59pm
Steven Gerrard's late penalty gave Liverpool a thrilling 3-2 win in a topsy-turvy Premier League game at Anfield. Jan Vertonghen's quick-fire brace either side of the interval looked to have won the game for Spurs despite Luis Suarez's early goal. But Stewart Downing capitalised on defensive errors from Kyle Walker and Hugo Lloris to equalise. And then Suarez was brought down by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, giving Gerrard the chance to win it from the spot.
Brendan Rodgers went with Daniel Sturridge alongside Suarez in an attacking 4-4-2 formation. Philippe Coutinho and Downing played as inverted wingers, cutting in from the flanks, while Lucas Leiva and Gerrard started in the centre. Jamie Carragher made his 500th Premier League appearance at the heart of the defence.
Andre Villas-Boas was forced to rejig things with Aaron Lennon unavailable and opted to strengthen the midfield by bringing in Jake Livermore. Mousa Dembele moved out to the right flank with both him and Gylfi Sigurdsson playing a little deeper in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Gareth Bale played in the hole behind Defoe.
The contest was billed as the battle of the one-man teams given that nobody in the country had scored as many goals as Suarez and Bale in 2013. Both men had their moments here but it was the Uruguayan who had the last laugh in front of his own fans. Suarez had opened the scoring in fine style with Bale struggling to find space in a crowded midfield. But the Welsh wizard put in two quality crosses to help turn the game around for the visitors.
That Suarez had the final say by earning the penalty for the winner was only possible due to a catalogue of defensive errors. The horror of Walker's inexplicable back pass for the Liverpool equaliser was compounded when Lloris dashed off his line only to feebly kick the ball to Downing and Vertonghen was then nutmegged on the line. For the winner, Defoe was to blame for not clearing his lines and Assou-Ekotto was impetuous in conceding the foul.
Michael Oliver had little choice but to point to the spot for the decisive penalty call and got most of the decisions right. Liverpool players clearly felt the free-kick decisions leading to both Spurs goals were soft but Oliver did well to handle a keenly-fought contest that threatened to spill over at times with Scott Parker, Dembele and Suarez to the fore.
The most significant change was the introduction of Joe Allen for Coutinho. The little Brazilian had been impressive but Rodgers explained the decision after the game. "There was a period at the beginning of the second half," said the Reds boss. "We normally control the games better than we did today. That was the reason we made the change early in the second half - to get our control back and get three in midfield. That helped us as well as obviously the players working very hard."
This was an even game and could have gone the other way but Liverpool fans must be encouraged by what they are seeing from their side. The Reds are up above rivals Everton in the table and following three straight wins are just two points adrift of Arsenal in fifth. Coutinho has real quality and with Suarez in this form, there is plenty to be optimistic about.
As for Tottenham, this defeat ends a run of 12 unbeaten in the top flight and what will frustrate Villas-Boas is that it was so unavoidable with individual errors to blame. Even so, it seems unlikely that this will dent confidence too much and it speaks volumes for the team's progress that it would now be considered something of a shock if they finish outside the top four.