A late Mario Balotelli goal earns Liverpool a crucial three points from a pulsating encounter with top four rivals Tottenham Hotspur…
Tuesday night’s mouthwatering clash between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield lived up to its billing as the two in-form teams went at it unabated for 90 minutes.
At times it was difficult to catch one’s breath in a dramatic, end-to-end encounter which served as the perfect illustration as to why TV companies are willing to pay over £5bn for the rights to Premier League football in the UK alone.
The headline-grabbing showdown between English strikers Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane didn’t disappoint but the rest of the players were far more than a mere supporting cast as key contributions were made from front to back on both sides.
The hosts, who were without injured duo Lucas Leiva and Raheem Sterling, struck early when summer signing Lazar Markovic scored his first goal at Anfield via a low, angled effort that Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris should have dealt with better.
Their lead was to last little more than 10 minutes though as man-of-the-moment Kane took full advantage of a Mamadou Sakho slip to equalise.
Both teams had further chances before Liverpool, who had been marginally the better side in the first half, retook the lead through a 53rd minute Steven Gerrard penalty after Sturridge had been felled by Danny Rose.
Sturridge, making his first start after five months out through injury, had earlier gone close to scoring one of the goals of the season with an improvised back-heel, only to be denied by a post.
Again Spurs responded and they nearly pegged the Reds back straight from the restart when Erik Lamela forced a simply stunning stop from the seemingly reborn Simon Mignolet.
It was to be only a temporary reprieve though as Mousa Dembele made the scores level from close-range shortly afterwards.
The Belgium international’s goal angered his compatriot Mignolet, amongst others, with the shot-stopper rightly feeling aggrieved by the lack of an offside flag against creator Kane.
Undeterred Liverpool continued to press for another and they were finally rewarded seven minutes from time when substitute Mario Balotelli tucked home at the Anfield Road end following excellent work down the right by Jordan Ibe and Adam Lallana.
It was a special moment for the almost-forgotten, maverick Italian, not that you would have known it from his characteristically subdued celebration.
This time there was to be no comeback from the visitors as Liverpool’s unbeaten run in the league stretched to seven games.
Despite remaining seventh in the standings, they are now just one point behind Spurs and three behind fourth-placed Arsenal.
A simply fantastic game which was a credit to everyone involved. Both sides managed to combine skill and guile with passion and commitment in a frantic encounter that probably could only occur in the Premier League. In some ways it was unfair that there was to be a winner but on the balance of play Liverpool did just enough to warrant nicking it. The sight of Sturridge tormenting opposing defences from the off once more will give supporters further cause for optimism. On another day, and without some understandable ring rust, the former Chelsea man could have had a hat-trick. Long-term the signs are increasingly positive with the Merseysiders proving they can cope without some key contributors, not to mention the loss of Gerrard through a hamstring strain shortly after the second equaliser. A number of the new acquisitions are now contributing on a regular basis and Ibe was again excellent and not overawed by his sudden inclusion in the Liverpool first team. With a trip to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup next on the agenda, a season which began in such negative fashion could actually have a highly successful climax.
Emre Can – The German U21 international was fantastic yet again and seamlessly advanced from defence to midfield after Gerrard’s substitution. Pace, power, technique, awareness, passing ability; Can has it all and then some.
Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Ibe, Moreno, Henderson, Gerrard (c) (Lovren 68′), Markovic (Lallana 79′), Coutinho, Sturridge (Balotelli 74′).
Unused subs: Ward, Johnson, Allen, Lambert.
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