Liverpool go top for the first time since Christmas after a surprisingly easy afternoon against Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield.
Selection wise, 19-year-old England international winger Raheem Sterling started for the first time in three matches, at the expense of Joe Allen, in the only change from the side which defeated Sunderland 2-1 in midweek
The Reds’ task was seemingly helped by a number of notable absentees in the visitors’ line-up including top-scorer Emmanuel Adebayor.
Yet again Liverpool made a dominating start to the encounter and found themselves in front inside two minutes.
Sterling and Glen Johnson combined down the right and the full-back’s cross was inadvertently turned home by Tottenham skipper Younes Kaboul.
There was a real nervousness about the visitors, who had suffered a 5-0 defeat when the two met at White Hart Lane in November, and they were lucky not to fall further behind inside the opening 15 minutes.
It was all Liverpool and the men in red had so much time and space to dictate play; Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson both inches away from getting on the end of dangerous crosses.
A second goal duly arrived in the 25th minute, just moments after Michael Dawson had replaced the injured Jan Vertonghen at the heart of Spurs’ defence.
The centre-back was instantly involved and his ill-judged pass to Kaboul allowed Luis Suarez to nip in, accelerate away and tuck the ball past Hugo Lloris.
It was an astute finish by the Uruguayan who is now the club’s highest ever scorer in a single Premier League season with 29.
Christian Eriksen had an opportunity to pull a goal back almost directly from the restart but by the time he had shifted the ball to his left Martin Skrtel was across to block the shot.
It was a rare attack from the Londoners and Liverpool again went close soon afterwards via a Sturridge free-kick.
Spurs did finally improve as the half drew to a close with both Nabil Bentaleb and Roberto Soldado working Simon Mignolet.
They were indebted to Lloris not to go in 3-0 behind though when the French international managed to tip a powerful Suarez header onto the underside of the bar after 43 minutes.
A third could also have arrived within nine minutes of the restart when Sturridge and Sterling combined to send the winger away.
It was a surprise to see the 19-year-old elect to pass from such a position but, once he had done so, Jordan Henderson should have at least worked the goalkeeper rather than balloon his effort way over.
Thankfully any prospect of the men in red dwelling on the miss was erased two minutes later when Philippe Coutinho ran at the Tottenham back-line before unleashing a low drive which angled into the far corner of Lloris’ net.
A double substitution by Tim Sherwood, introducing Andros Townsend and Mousa Dembele, did little to alter the tide.
An improvised back heel from Sturridge almost punished Danny Rose’s complacency for number four but Lloris was in the right place to block from close range.
Such was Liverpool’s dominance, Rodgers could even withdraw skipper Steven Gerrard with 20 minutes remaining, no doubt mindful of the fact that the midfielder is one yellow card away from a ban.
His absence didn’t alter the hosts’ dominance though and Henderson soon made it 4-0 with a free-kick which both Suarez and Daniel Agger made unsuccessful attempts at diverting home, helping to wrong-foot Lloris in the process.
Dawson went close to a consolation for the visitors late on with a header but the final 10 minutes were a largely uneventful affair with the result long since determined.
A surprisingly easy afternoon’s work against a completely out of sorts Tottenham Hotspur. Once again a fast start proved pivotal in the final outcome and when the opposition captain puts through his own net inside two minutes you get the sense that it might just be your afternoon.
The performance was much better than against Sunderland on Wednesday night with the team pinning Spurs back and closing them down instantly whenever possession was lost. Jon Flanagan encapsulated the team’s desire with a couple of firm, but perfectly-timed, tackles.
This could prove to be a key weekend in the title race with both Chelsea and Manchester City dropping points. Top spot is ours and if we win our final six games 24 years of hurt will finally be ended.
No doubt there will be plenty more twists and turns before the final reckoning but after eight straight victories the outcome is deservedly in our hands.
Raheem Sterling – Made the most of his recall after two games on the bench. Sterling was a constant menace going forward but also worked hard for the team and showed great awareness of what was around him. On this showing the winger is not only pushing for a place in England’s World Cup squad but a position in the starting eleven.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Gerrard (Lucas 70′), Henderson, Coutinho (Allen 64′), Sterling (Moses 83′), Suarez, Sturridge.
Unused subs: Jones, Sakho, Cissokho, Aspas.
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