Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League table after a comfortable and convincing 4-0 victory over Tottenham at Anfield.
With just six games remaining in the season, the Reds’ growing hopes of a first league title in 24 years were never in any danger of being punctured on Sunday. Younes Kaboul’s second-minute own goal set Liverpool on their way, with Luis Suarez taking advantage of another defensive mistake 20 minutes later to effectively seal the points.
Philippe Coutinho sent a drive past Hugo Lloris shortly after half-time to put matters beyond any lingering doubt, while Jordan Henderson’s free-kick evaded everything but the back of the net with 15 minutes remaining as Brendan Rodgers’ side duly leapfrogged Chelsea to go two points clear at the top of the table.
29 – Luis Suarez has scored 29 goals this season; the most by any Liverpool player in a single PL season. Landmark.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 30, 2014
Manchester City may be four points behind with two games in hand, but both they and Chelsea still have to visit Anfield between now and May—as one of the best title races in years appears beautifully set up for a frantic three-way finale.
Suarez’s strike saw him surpass Robbie Fowler to become Liverpool’s record goalscorer in a Premier League season. With 29 goals, the Uruguayan needs just three more over the remainder of the campaign to break Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time record of 31 (for a 38-game season).
Afterwards, Rodgers told Sky Sports:
To perform like we did from the first whistle, in a pressure environment, it was an immense performance. A wonderful team performance.
The dream is for our supporters, they obviously want to win the title. It’s been a long time but it’s not in my thinking, if I’m honest. I’m just concentrating on each game and if we do that and we can continue to win games, we’ll see where that takes us.
It’s the most competitive league in the world. You can’t worry yourself about other teams. For us, our next job is to analyse West Ham and prepare for next week.
These two sides were tipped to fare similarly at the start of the season, but those prognostications continued to look comically inaccurate as Liverpool dominated from start to finish in front of their enthralled supporters.
It took them just two minutes to take the lead, although much of that was Spurs’ own doing. Slack marking from Christian Eriksen enabled Glen Johnson to overlap Raheem Sterling and get a low cross into the box, one Kaboul was unable to get out from under his feet as he embarrassingly sent the ball past his own goalkeeper.
A 5-0 win for Liverpool at White Hart Lane back in December famously sounded the end of Andre Villas-Boas’ reign in North London, but in the return fixture Tim Sherwood’s outfit showed no signs of improvement as they were outclassed throughout.
The home side peppered Hugo Lloris’s goal even before getting their second tally, which was again the result of some good fortune. Michael Dawson had just replaced the injured Jan Vertonghen and, perhaps still adjusting to the speed of the game, looked tentative as he mishit a pass across to Kaboul.
The Frenchman was unable to fend off Suarez and extinguish the danger, and the striker duly ran into the box before driving a low shot across Lloris and into the far corner.
Eriksen occasionally looked lively for Spurs, but they remained pegged back for the vast majority of the half, with Suarez only denied a second goal after Lloris managed to palm away his close-range header via the crossbar.
The No. 7 also went close with two free-kicks, as Rodgers’ side enjoyed themselves on a sunny afternoon on Merseyside.
The second half saw Spurs offer marginally more going forward, but it remained Liverpool producing the clearer-cut chances. Jordan Henderson really should have scored after great interplay between Sturridge and Sterling left him with an unobstructed sight of goal 12 yards out, but then moments later Coutinho showed him how it should be done.
Jon Flanagan gave the Brazilian the ball 40 yards from goal, and the midfielder broke forward before finding the bottom corner with a controlled finish from the edge of the box.
The game had not really been much of a contest even before the goal, but that seemed to put the result beyond doubt, and consequently both managers made changes. Rodgers swapped Coutinho out for Joe Allen and changed shape in midfield, yet Liverpool continued their domination uninterrupted.
Lloris made a fine save from Sturridge’s unorthodox backheeled attempt—after another individual mistake, this time from Danny Rose, had gifted an opening—before Henderson did finally get himself on the scoresheet.
His inswinging free-kick evaded both attacking and defending boots as Lloris could only watch it find his far corner.
Eight points off fourth with only six games remaining, surely Spurs’ slim hopes of Champions League qualification are finished now, along with Sherwood’s chances of continuing as manager into the new season.
A new manager will surely be sought to rectify problems of tactics, commitment and personnel that undermined the side on Sunday—although Spurs fans might rightfully wonder whether the board is capable of identifying the right man for that job after erring with the last two appointments.
Liverpool in contrast, enter the business end of the season with everything still to play for. Manchester City and Chelsea still have to come to Anfield; on this evidence, they could prove to be two of the biggest games of the season.
“We all dream of winning the league one day, and we’ve got the chance,” Henderson told Sky Sports. “Of course (it can be done).
“We need to take each game as it comes now to the end of the season and see where we are. You can’t look too far into the future.”
Liverpool visit West Ham next weekend, with Manchester City's visit to Anfield looming in a fortnight's time.
Tottenham's next game, meanwhile, is at home to lowly Sunderland on April 7.
All quotes taken from Sky Sports' live broadcast.