Liverpool-Tottenham Verdict: Reds Outlast Spurs With Depth, Quality

Liverpool lost its way after beating Tottenham in August but confirmed its return to the ranks of Premier League powers with a win over the same team Tuesday.

Liverpool defeated Tottenham 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League game at Anfield. The teams traded goals in each half before Mario Balotelli put the Reds ahead for good with his first league goal for Liverpool. The three points the Reds claimed didn’t move them up from seventh place in the standings, but they closed the gap between them, Tottenham and the other four contenders for third- and fourth-place finishes this season.

Liverpool has traveled a long and winding road in between victories over Tottenham. The dark days of fall gave way to a winter revival, in which the Reds now have gone unbeaten in their last nine Premier League games. There was plenty of excitement surrounding the contest between two of the league’s in-form teams, and it didn’t disappoint.

Both teams played positively and full of confidence. Tottenham had slightly more possession than Liverpool, but the teams were equally tough in the tackle and created almost as many chances as the other. The story of the goals matched that of the game: Liverpool scored early in the first half (through Lazar Markovic). Tottenham responded 11 minutes later. Harry Kane did the honors.

Daniel Sturridge won a penalty kick in the 53rd minute, and Steven Gerrard dispatched it in the 54th. Tottenham scored the game-tying goal within eight minutes, as Moussa Dembele tempered the Anfield roar.

The tight and tense game always was going to have a late twist. Who better to provide it than Mario Balotelli — he of “Why Always Me?” fame. The much-maligned striker converted his best chance, stabbing home Adam Lallana’s cross in the 83rd minute. The symmetry of Balotelli’s story — his first Liverpool appearance was against Tottenham in August — resembled his team’s. He had come in from the cold and now is back in the fold.

Liverpool and Tottenham both are led by bright young managers who know how to use their deep and talented squads. The tactical duel between Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino produced a literal and figurative stalemate for around 65 minutes. However, the Reds edged forward in the latter stages through impact substitutions and tactical versatility. Rodgers’ changes kept the Reds on the front foot and forced Pochettino to react. It’s fitting that Lallana and Balotelli, two second-half substitutes, combined on the game-winning sequence. Tottenham simply couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s late bursts of power and invention.

The red-hot Kane ended Liverpool’s four-game shutout streak in the first half. Lucas Leiva’s absence through injury left the Reds more vulnerable in the middle and had negative effects on their shape and defensive pressure. Gerrard performed capably in a deep-lying midfield role but he remains better suited to play further upfield.

The pregame buildup centered around Kane and Sturridge. Kane scored after Mamadou Sakho’s slip gifted him an opening. The 21-year-old remained dangerous and effective throughout the game. Sturridge, had a few chances to score. Hugo Lloris and his post denied the best of them in the first half. Rodgers replaced Sturridge with Balotelli after 73 minutes. Sturridge was upset when he was removed but later celebrated Balotelli’s goal.

Liverpool now is firmly in the hunt for a top-four finish and likely will chase the goal through the end of the season. An FA Cup fifth-round game against Crystal Palace is up next for Rodgers’ hot Reds.

Mario Balotelli scores first league goal for LFC (Video) >>

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