Cause for optimism

Supporters of both sides should be able to pick the positives after 3-2 thriller at Anfield.

Last Updated: 10/03/13 at 21:59

Gareth Bale had top billing but Steven Gerrard scored the winner at Anfield

Gareth Bale had top billing but Steven Gerrard scored the winner at Anfield

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.

Selection
I thought Liverpool did a good job on Bale, probably the best any team has done for a while, and Lucas and Gerrard rattled him at times
Jamie Redknapp

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.

Key Men

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.

Referee

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.

Substitutions

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."

Looking ahead

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.

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Readers' Comments

S

terling needs to be told though that upon entering the Arsenal squad he will re-enact the final scene from Highlander where he will be thrown around a warehouse by cartoon dragons and then be a mere mortal that will only ever spend three to four weeks a season playing football and the rest on the physio's bed. There can be only one.....player available at The Emirates.

rodger's gusset
Arsenal interest in Sterling

T

he game changed in our favour when Carrick came on. We were able to play further up the pitch due to having a player who can give and go with the ball and keep possession. Yet barkley made some runs and Townsend scored a good goal but carrick's inclusion and chiellini's withdrawal made the biggest difference to the flow of the game

ricky villa
Hodgson: Barkley was brilliant

N

o, you've not silenced anyone Andros, i'm afraid. We know you can score a great goal, and it's really handy to have your direct running and willingness to shoot on the bench. But until you can do the other things expected of a winger (beat the man, put a decent cross in, stay wide etc) then you can't expect more than a regular cameo. Wonderful goal though, what a hit! No wonder Buffon wanted the shirt.

badwolf
Townsend: I've silenced critics

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