|photo by (matt)
It's surprising, but this is the first Spurs' game in quite awhile that Columnist James has elected not to cover. Fortunately, for some reason, Columnist Scott picked up the slack:
Well, Liverpool finally did it. They beat a real team above them in the table. Yes, they previously beat Swansea but, come on, no offense to our Welsh friends, that’s not really the same thing as defeating an in-form Tottenham. With three league wins on the trot now, whispers of Champions League can be heard through the cacophony of cries for Europa at least. We’ll see. For now, perhaps owing to my previous, self-inflicted anguish, I am choosing to remain even-keeled and see how it plays out.
Of course, I was anything but even-keeled as I soaked up the game against Spurs last Sunday when the Reds hosted the Londoners at Anfield. With Daniel Sturridge back in the lineup along with that breath of fresh Brazilian air known as Philippe Coutinho, not to mention Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, an increasingly healthy Lucas Leiva and the resurgent Stuart Downing, it was not surprising that Liverpool dominated play for the first 10 minutes. Their aesthetically pleasing, high-tempo ball movement was visual candy that culminated with a tootsie roll finish of Coutinho to Jose Enrique to Suarez for the flick past Hugo Lloris at the near post. The finish was brilliant but the vision, of first the Brazilian, then the Spaniard, was sweeter still.
Coutinho has been an excellent addition and, just like Sturridge, has immediately blended into and elevated the team. Jose Enrique, especially, seems to be benefitting from the new number 10, linking up with him repeatedly on the way to a final pass into Suarez or Sturridge. Gerrard also continues his climb to his former glory – his 27th minute, perfectly-weighted, one-touch through ball for Suarez was amazing and more evidence that the captain has more years of quality in the tank.
Around about the 36th minute, the commentators said something that agrees with what I have been saying for some time – that Suarez seems to have halted, or at least lessened, his diving tendencies. I was thrilled that it was noticed and I sincerely hope it will continue. He will probably always complain about calls, which I can accept if he at least doesn’t try to manufacture them. After all, he has already been denied penalties in other games and it will continue, such as when Benoît Assou-Ekotto yanked him down in the 39th minute.
All this stands in stark contrast to the biggest diver/actor in the league – Gareth Bale. He is truly an amazing player and will no doubt become legendary but, quite simply, he is a habitual diver. When he was writhing on the ground in the 44th minute, I found myself comparing him to a certain feature of the female anatomy. All the more so when he was perfectly fine less than a minute later and able to deliver a picture-perfect cross for Jan Vertonhen to head home. His theatrics were on display again in the 52nd minute when he fooled the ref to get a BS free kick, then Jamie Carragher was pulled down (no call) and Vertonghen scored again to put the visitors ahead 2-1.
That paved the way for Tottenham to grab the reins and really start to control the game. Bale’s blazing run in the 58th minute, which easily outpaced Gerrard and Carragher, only led to Sigurdson’s shot ricocheting off the post, but set the tone for the next quarter hour, during which Tottenham was the much better team. It was only a bit of luck, which so often eludes Liverpool, that stemmed the white tide that was beginning to wash away the Reds at Anfield. Completely against the run of play, Downing beat Lloris to a horrible back pass and nutmegged Vertonhen on the goal line.
With the score level at 2-2, the game opened back up and it became more of a back and forth affair until, in the 81st minute, Assou-Ekotto barged into Suarez in the box. While the Uruguayan made sure the ref saw it, there was not doubt that it was a clumsy foul by the Cameroon international and deserved a penalty. Predictably, Gerrard stepped to the spot and cooly converted. Slapping my hands together and bouncing on my sofa like a giddy schoolgirl, if there have ever been moments when I could be described as “cool”, this was not one of them.
This is farlieonfootie for March 14.