Liverpool kicked off their trilogy of difficult Christmas away games with a resounding 5-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Luis Suarez scored twice, in addition to goals from Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan. Tottenham made six changes from the team who beat Anzhi 4-1 in their midweek Europa League game, bringing Lloris, Dawson, Walker, Chadli, Paulinho, Sandro and Lennon in for Friedel, Fryers, Rose, Lamela, Sigurdsson, Townsend and Holtby. Liverpool made just one change from the team who won 4-1 against West Ham last Saturday, bringing Lucas in for the injured Gerrard.
In one of Liverpool’s most important matches of the season so far, Mignolet almost gifted Spurs an early lead through his casual ball control. Skrtel played the ball back to the Belgian, who took a poor first touch when receiving it. Soldado attempted to pounce on the error, but Mignolet’s nimble footwork prevented an early embarrassment for Rodgers’ men. The Reds accounted for most of the possession early on in the match, without really managing to carve out any real opportunities, apart from a scuffed shot from Coutinho which was easily caught by Lloris. Tottenham managed to claw their way back into proceedings through, pressing the Liverpool defence well while they attempted to pass it round the back. A poor free kick and a blocked shot from Paulinho represented the home side’s best early opportunities. Sterling, who had been under criticism recently for some disappointing performances, proved his talent that made him a key component of the Liverpool side early on in Rodgers’ reign. The 19 year old’s pace and trickery gave stand-in left back Kyle Naughton a difficult time, winning an early free kick on the right hand side of the area. Coutinho’s cross into the area was half cleared by Chadli, back to Joe Allen, whose shot was deflected straight into the hands of Lloris. Liverpool continued to attack, but Sterling failed to get a decent shot away after Allen’s pass across the goal was deflected away from Suarez, and into his path. Sterling proved a real handful early on,showing his determination to win the ball back from Paulinho, and his ability to regularly get past Naughton. Shortly after Liverpool were denied penalty appeals from Luis Suarez, Sterling drilled two crosses across the face of goal, but one was deflected for a corner, while the other fell straight to Lloris. The first goal from a predictable source, albeit one who had been slightly subdued early on. Suarez attempted to find Henderson with a through ball, however Dawson blocked it as it was about to reach the midfielder. Henderson refused to give up the chase, and capitalised on Dawson’s slip to poke the ball into the path of the stand-in captain, who took the ball past Walker and stroked it into the bottom corner of the net for his 16th goal of the season.
Part of Liverpool’s early dominance was down to the midfield trio of Allen, Henderson and Lucas, who pressed the ball back excellently, while Coutinho and Sterling offered great outlets to launch dangerous counter attacks when required. Suarez had a chance to make it 2-0 after latching onto Sterling’s through ball, but the ball came to him at a difficult angle, and his shot was saved by Lloris. The defence were dependable when required, as Flanagan kept Lennon reasonably quiet, while Sakho was confident and composed when it came to the aerial battle. Liverpool came close to scoring again half an hour in, with the Brazilian hitting the bar from just inside the penalty area after Suarez’s cutback, and Johnson’s first time left footed volley from long range flying just over the bar. Defending set pieces had been a problem for Liverpool so far this season, and they were nearly caught out again, after an unmarked Chadli’s header went just over the bar. A minute later, Suarez had a glorious opportunity to double his tally. A long ball from Skrtel was headed away poorly by Lloris, and the onrushing Suarez took too long to connect with the bouncing ball, and ended up losing possession. Admittedly, the ball fell to his weaker left side, but he certainly should have done better. With Roy Hodgson watching, it was Englishman Jordan Henderson who added the second. Sterling’s cross to Suarez was played beautifully into the path of Henderson. His initial shot was pushed away by Lloris, and after Suarez’s attempted lob was tipped into the path of Henderson, he made no mistake in hitting the volley straight into the bottom half corner. Liverpool went into half time with their lead intact, although the home side may have felt aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a goal. A poor ball from Sakho was badly dealt with by Mignolet, and Soldado out-muscled Mignolet to poke the ball into the net. However ultimately it looked the right decision, as Soldado appeared to foul the Belgian when winning the ball back.
Soldado had an early chance to salvage a goal back after the break, however his powerful shot went over the bar. It was then Liverpool’s chance to squander some opportunities. Sakho met Sterling’s cross, but his header hit the bar from close range, and Skrtel’s follow up shot failed to trouble the keeper. Mignolet’s shaky performance continued as he parried Holtby’s cross into the path of Soldado. Luckily for the former Sunderland man, Soldado’s frustration continued as he blazed the ball over from inside the box. Around the hour mark, the home team produced their first real period of pressure inside the Liverpool box. The ball was crossed into Soldado from Lennon, but Skrtel managed to deal with it. Fryers’ cross was cleared to Lennon by Sakho, but the winger’s shot was poor, and Liverpool eventually cleared the ball. Minutes later, Paulinho was dismissed for a high challenge on Luis Suarez. Suarez won the ball from Johnson’s throw-in, but was caught in the chest by the Brazilian midfielder. The sending off ended Spurs’ increasing grasp on the match, and led to a third goal, coming from an unlikely source. Jon Flanagan, who had been greatly criticised for his performance on his last visit to North London, received the ball from Suarez’s cross from the right hand side, and hit a first time volley which hit the underside of the crossbar before dropping in. It was an impressive finish from the youngster who started six of the last seven games, and had never scored in his career before.
From here on, Tottenham lost all remaining belief. Coutinho danced through the white shirts of the Spurs midfield, and should have created a fourth goal. Fortunately for Tottenham, his pass was poor and failed to find Sterling, Suarez or Alberto, all of whom were in support. Minutes later, Sterling should have scored to cap an impressive performance in front of the England manager. Suarez’s through ball was initially controlled well, but Sterling’s second touch was too heavy in front of the onrushing Lloris. Liverpool did eventually get a fourth, courtesy of an excellent chip over the keeper. Alberto played it through to the Uruguayan, who coolly lifted it over the head of Hugo Lloris. Liverpool ended the night by scoring a fifth goal for the second time in two matches, when Suarez’s through ball was controlled well by Sterling, whose finish was equally composed for his second goal of the season. Rodgers’ side almost made it six in the dying moments, but no-one managed to reach Victor Moses’ cross across goal. This win moved Liverpool up to 2nd, and two points behind leaders Arsenal, while it left high spending Tottenham in 7th place, five points away from a Champions League position. For Liverpool fans, it was a great evening, after four away games without a win. Although this is still a very difficult month for the team, a result like this could give a massive boost going into the games at the Ethiad and Stamford Bridge, where we are likely to find out how serious Liverpool’s title credentials actually are.