How much Liverpool have really progressed as a football team was the question in everyone’s mind heading into this encounter at Anfield. So far this season, Liverpool had failed to defeat any of the top four teams, and Spurs arrived occupying 4th place in the table, determined to secure a place in next years’ CL. The general perception is that Liverpool have improved, certainly since the arrival of Sturridge and Coutinho in January. Both players featured in the starting line-up, having already shown signs of acclimation to the rest of the squad and to Rodger’s game plan, and both players had good games. In the early stages, Coutinho contributed creativity, skill with the ball, incisive passing, and intelligent movement across the front line. It was Coutinho, the “proper Brazilian,” who initiated the first goal by trapping the ball released by Liverpool’s midfield, having a one-two with Enrique that led to the Spaniard threading a wicked pass to Suarez, which Suarez finished impeccably. The play gathered speed from the moment Coutinho made the first pass to Enrique, and by the time Suarez flicked the ball under Lloris, the ball was but a blur.
The early goal bode well for The Reds. Spurs however, gradually gained control through the efforts of a strong midfield in which Moussa Dembele’s tackling and skillful passing dictated play. Dembele has a fine touch, and he glides gracefully on the field in a manner reminiscent of Fernando Redondo. Although Bale is Tottenham’s star player, it is Dembele who works tirelessly to keep the Welshman supplied with passes. Soon Spurs leveled the score and then went ahead thanks to goals by Verthongen, excellent as a fullback and as a threat on free kicks and corners. During the early stages of the second half, Spurs continued to dictate play and were so dominant that Glen Johnson was seen, in the 60th minute, shaking his head in disbelief after a long period of possession by Spurs in which they narrowly missed adding to their score.
To Liverpool’s credit, they fought hard in the second half just to stay close to Spurs. Their fortitude paid off when Spurs committed defensive errors, first in the 56th minute, allowing Liverpool to tie the score, and later in the 81st, effectively presenting the game to Liverpool in a platter thanks to a penalty which Gerrard converted. They were silly errors: Kyle Walker attempting an ill-conceived pass to Lloris from 45 yards away; Defoe, in the course of defending a corner, lobbing the ball back into his penalty area rather than clearing the danger away from his goal.
The game turned out to be gripping, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Liverpool deserved the victory and the accompanying euphoria. So much frustration had been pent up after all previous losing efforts against other teams in the top four. In the days that followed, Gerrard demanded a perfect finish, while others were heard mentioning finishing high enough to qualify for European play. Alas, last Sunday, the final score at St Mary’s read Southampton 3:1 Liverpool. Once again, Liverpool’s inconsistency has cost them valuable points, and has revealed no real progress has been made.