Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Reds come from behind to post dramatic win
Luis Suarez put Liverpool ahead in the first half before Jan Vertonghen equalised on the stroke of half time, before putting his side ahead less than ten minutes after the restart.
Stewart Downing capitalised on Kyle Walker’s error to score Liverpool’s equaliser, before Benoit Assou-Ekotto conceded an 82nd minute penalty as he felled Suarez in the box, allowing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to put his side ahead.
For Spurs, this was a chance to consolidate third place in what has been an excellent season. Liverpool were looking for three points as they attempt to return to the Champions League.
With Spaniard Pepe Reina injured, Brad Jones was in goal. Experienced centre backs Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger were in front of him, with Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson patrolling wide.
The midfield trio comprised of Lucas Leiva, Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho, who played behind Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Stewart Downing.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas named Hugo Lloris in goal, and he was guarded by the back four of Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
A twin defensive midfield pairing in Scott Parker and Jake Livermore was deployed, ahead of whom played versatile Gylfi Sigurdsson and Moussa Dembele, while Gareth Bale was stationed on the left. Jermain Defoe ploughed a lone furrow up front.
It was the home side who began on the front foot. Daniel Sturridge dragged a shot wide inside five minutes. But as Hugo Lloris’ goal kicks testified, it was more quality than quantity by the Reds in the opening stages.
Spurs were taking a more direct attempt at piercing the home rearguard. Dembele was fouled by Agger in the 12th minute, and the Aussie had to be alert to parry Bale’s free kick from 30 yards out while Sigurdsson had an effort blocked by Carragher after seventeen minutes.
Liverpool’s pressure from set pieces was beginning to show. Enrique fired goalwards from Downing’s corner, and Spurs had Dawson to thank for his clearing header off the line. Coutinho’s drive from 20 yards sailed over the bar.
Suarez showed him how to finish properly barely a minute later.
Coutinho received the ball wide and roved forward, feeding Enrique, who had come forward on the overlap. Shielding the ball from both Dawson and Assou-Ekotto, he played in Suarez, who slid home the opener to send the fans into raptures.
In response, Livermore, Walker and Sigurdsson all pinged in crosses, but Jones was equal to them. Downing blaster over from 30 yards, Bale’s effort from 12 yards was wide, Sigurdsson attempted to restore parity from distance, and Sturridge’s long range effort forced a save from Lloris.
Spurs found themselves winning a sequence of free kicks. That helped them find a toehold back into this game.
Liverpool skipper Gerrard’s foul on Bale left the Welshman injured for a couple of minutes on the sidelines. His first act on returning was to help Tottenham equalise.
He whipped in a cross from the right flank that Vertonghen rose highest to meet and power home his team’s equaliser past a scrambling Jones just before the stroke of half-time.
It was honours even as the two sides went into their dressing rooms at half time. Both Suarez and Bale had made their mark on the game.
Immediately after the restart, Gerrard tried to carve open the Spurs back four as he fired two raking aerial passes forwards, but Vertonghen and Assou-Ekotto stood strong. Suarez then received the ball on the left and tried to feed in Sturridge.
Spurs countered. Kyle Walker ran into space down the right and found Defoe in the box but he was denied from a tight angle. But Vertonghen found himself in the right place at the right time to prod Spurs ahead in the 52nd minute.
Bale was clipped by Leiva and stood over a threatening free kick. Nobody was marking Vertonghen, who pounced on Dawson’s knock down to put the Lilywhites in front at Anfield.
Vertonghen was then booked for handball. Replays showed the decision from referee Michael Oliver was a bit harsh, as the ball ricocheted off the Belgium defender’s shoulder. Gerrard’s resulting free kick fell to Dembele, who released the influential Bale down the centre. He found Sigurdsson, whose vicious drive crashed off Jones’ upright.
Liverpool needed to keep possession better: Rodgers made the first substitution of the game, bringing on Joe Allen for Coutinho in the 59th minute.
It didn’t seem to help: Dembele’s powerful effort was batted away by Jones.
But Spurs would be undone by a moment of madness.
In the 66th minute, Walker made a pig’s breakfast of a lob back to Lloris, which landed in no man’s land outside the box between him and Vertonghen. The keeper was forced to come out but Downing showed presence of mind to pry the ball from the Spurs custodian.
He blasted home Liverpool’s equaliser through the legs of Vertonghen to restore parity for his side on his 300th Premier League appearance.
Thrust was now being met by counter-thrust. Bale was denied passage on goal by Glen Johnson, and Vertonghen did well to retrieve the ball from Sturridge after the striker had momentarily gotten the better of him.
Suarez, Allen, Gerrard and Downing then combined well to set up Sturridge, but he was positioned at an impossible angle and lashed his shot into the side netting.
Spurs responded in the form of Livermore and Walker. The latter sent in a right-wing cross that Bale could only head wide under pressure from Carragher in the 74th minute.
With only a quarter of an hour to go, both sets of fans were contributing to the tense atmosphere in Liverpool.
Sturridge burst into the box after collecting the ball from Downing and went down very easily under pressure from Vertonghen. The referee knew exactly what the forward was looking for and signalled for both sides to get on with the game.
Spurs now began to haul men back with the game entering its final ten minutes.
With the game getting more frenetic, Suarez got into an altercation with Dembele. Referee Oliver put a stop to the argument as both men got more involved.
He would have further involvement in the game…the right way. With just eight minutes left in the game, Suarez went down in the box under genuine contact from Assou-Ekotto. Gerrard stepped up and dispatched the spot-kick with aplomb to put Liverpool in front and draw level with Michael Owen’s record of 158 goals for the club.
Spurs mounted a response almost immediately. Bale was impeded by Carragher as he raided forward. Villas-Boas flung on Lewis Holtby with only six minutes remaining on the clock. Bale’s audacious set piece effort nearly found its way past Jones from 35 yards, but it lacked enough dip
In an attempt to slow the game down, Rodgers brought on Jordan Henderson for Sturridge.
Spurs now pumped in crosses. Tom Carroll was brought on in stoppage time as the fourth official signalled three minutes of stoppage time to set up a grandstand finish at Anfield.
Spurs remain in third and will reflect on what could have been had they not come undone at the back.
Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Suarez 21′, Downing 66′, Gerrard 82′pen; Vertonghen 45′+1 and 53′)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Liverpool: Jones, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard (c), Coutinho (Allen 59′); Suarez, Downing, Sturridge (Henderson 88′)
Subs not Used: Gulacsi, Skrtel, Wisdom, Sterling, Shelvey
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson (c), Assou-Ekotto (Carroll 90′+1); Parker, Livermore (Holtby 84′), Dembele, Sigurdsson, Bale; Defoe
Subs not Used: Friedel, Naughton, Coulthirst, Huddlestone, Caulker
Manager: Andre Villas-Boas
Liverpool: Shots (on target): 12 (4), Corners: 1, Fouls: 8, Offsides: 6, Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0, Saves: 5
Tottenham Hotspur: Shots (on target): 18 (7), Corners: 4, Fouls: 9, Offsides: 0, Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0, Saves: 1
Southampton vs Liverpool, 16/03/2013, St. Mary’ Stadium, Barclays Premier League
Internazionale Milano vs Tottenham Hotspur, 14/03/2013, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, UEFA Europa League