Monday, 1 September 2014

Reds ease to win at White Hart Lane

Liverpool bounced back from defeat at Man City on Monday by bursting Spurs’ bubble at White Hart Lane on Sunday lunchtime.

Two wins from two had propelled Pochettino’s men up the table and won them plaudits in the London-centric media, but they were brought back to earth with a bump by Brendan Rodgers’ men, who outperformed them throughout and were good value for their three-goal victory. Classy and in control from start to finish, the Reds returned to winning ways in style following Monday night’s disappointing defeat away to City.

The main team news saw Mario Balotelli make his Liverpool debut up front alongside Daniel Sturridge, coming in for Coutinho, who dropped to what was a strong looking bench. Although clearly rough around the edges, Balotelli showed plenty of promising signs. Powerful and strong on the ball, he posed a constant threat to Tottenham’s backline and deservedly received a standing ovation from the travelling Kop when he was substituted on the hour mark.

Encouragingly, he linked up well with Sturridge and Sterling, the latter of which put in a man of the match performance. Right from the off, the tricky and talented Sterling tormented Tottenham’s defence, opening the scoring soon after Balotelli had spurned a glorious opportunity to start his Liverpool career in the perfect fashion.

Two minutes in, the Italian peeled away to the back post to meet Sturridge’s cross and head goalwards, but unfortunately his bullet header went straight at Lloris, who made a good save. Thankfully, the visitors only had to wait six more minutes for the opener, which concluded a clever move down the right hand side. Sturridge fed Henderson, who played an intelligent square pass across the box to Sterling. Great movement enabled him to evade his marker and he netted from a tight angle with aplomb.

Sterling celebrates with his teammates
Despite being second best in the possession stats, Liverpool were in control. Tottenham enjoyed nearly two-thirds of the ball during the first 20 minutes, but were struggling to create clear-cut chances, Adebayor’s elevated effort onto the roof of the net immediately after Sterling scored the best they could produce.

Liverpool, conversely, may not have seen as much of the ball, but were looking extremely dangerous on the counter attack. One such counter attack saw Sterling spin out of a tackle and set free Sturridge, whose left footed shot went just past the post.

Balotelli then fluffed his lines with another close range header, before being the victim of a reckless sliding challenge from Eric Dier, who amazingly escaped punishment, even though Joe Allen was booked moments later for a far less grievous offence on Erik Lamela.

Undeterred, the enigmatic Italian remained focussed and well-behaved, and added an extra dimension to Liverpool’s attack. His clever back heel set up Sturridge, whose curled effort forced Lloris into a save, and then on the half hour mark he demonstrated immense strength to hold off a defender before playing the ball through to Sturridge. Lloris was out quickly to clear, but it went straight to Balotelli, who shanked his effort well wide, to the great amusement of boss Brendan Rodgers.

The match pivoted on six minutes either side of half time. Before the break, Mignolet made a fantastic save to deny Chadli and bail out his centre backs after both Sakho and Lovren tried and failed to beat Adebayor in the air. That save was absolutely vital, as the outcome of the match could have been very different had the teams entered the interval at 1-1.

As it turned out, Liverpool scored a second soon after the restart to put them firmly in the driving seat, although they benefitted from some generous refereeing from Phil Dowd. Admittedly Dier did pull back Allen in the box, but the Welshman certainly won the penalty by going to ground when he clearly could have stayed on his feet. Not that Steven Gerrard cared; he stepped up to convert his 43rd successful spot kick for Liverpool, surpassing Jan Molby’s total to set a new club record.

The Reds' next terrific trio
When Alberto Moreno then scored a superb solo goal on the hour mark, it truly was game, set and match Liverpool. Exploiting an error from Spurs sub Andros Townsend, Moreno embarked on a brilliant run down the left wing and then blasted beautifully into the far corner in a manner reminiscent of former Reds’ left back John Arne Riise.

If Moreno can continue to score goals similar to the ones the ginger Norwegian bagged in his prime, the memory of his mistake for Man City’s first goal on his debut will soon be banished. 

With the game over as a contest, Rodgers immediately introduced two new faces, Markovic and Can replacing Balotelli and Allen respectively. The former was neat and tidy, while the latter also showed signs of promise. They may not make the same instant impact as Balotelli, but they both appear to be valuable additions to the Reds’ squad.

Intent on replicating last season’s 5-0 win at White Hart Lane, Sturridge tested Lloris, the French stopper producing a solid save to turn his strong shot behind for a corner, from which Lovren headed over.

Liverpool’s last real chance fell to Sterling after Can had surged forward and fed him the ball. The England international danced past the entire Tottenham defence in remarkable fashion to engineer space in the box, but produced a pitiably weak effort with the goal at his mercy.

Rodgers summed the moment up comically when he said, “Raheem ran into the box like Ricky Villa and finished it like Ricky Gervais!” When you’re 3-0 up you can afford to miss golden chances like that and have a good laugh about it afterwards.

Liverpool now enter the international break on a much brighter note. Three points, three goals and a clean sheet at Spurs are all achievements to be proud of and provide a platform on which the team can build once they return from international duty.


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