Liverpool maintained their recent dominance over Tottenham Hotspur and welcomed new striker Mario Balotelli to the club with an assured 3-0 win at White Hart Lane in the Premier League on Sunday.
Raheem Sterling set the Reds on their way in the eighth minute after Jordan Henderson led a quick counter down Tottenham's left flank. Steven Gerrard doubled the lead from the penalty spot early in the second half, and Alberto Moreno sealed the win with an outstanding solo goal—his first for the club—on the hour mark.
With the win, Liverpool moved onto six points from three matches this season, bouncing back after last week's 3-1 loss at defending champions Manchester City.
For the trip to Spurs, manager Brendan Rodgers—who was taking charge of the Reds for the 100th time—reverted to his 4-4-2 formation with Sterling at the tip of a midfield diamond.
The move paid dividends as Liverpool cut through Spurs' defence impressively at times. While some of the names and faces have changed on both sides, the result was eerily similar to last season, which saw the Reds win both league meetings against Tottenham by a combined 9-0 scoreline.
Luis Suarez who? Liverpool looked very, very good today, especially on the attacking side of the ball. Brendan Rodgers is a great manager.— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) August 31, 2014
One of the new faces was Balotelli, who started on his Liverpool debut following his move from AC Milan. The former Manchester City striker did not score but had multiple chances, including an early header that hit the target.
As the Reds look to mount another title challenge this season, Balotelli will likely play a starring role following the departure of leading scorer Luis Suarez in the summer.
The question for Liverpool is whether he stars as a vital scorer in a lively attack or the enigmatic troublemaker he was at City.
For Tottenham, meanwhile, it's a disappointing first loss under new manager Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs had won their opening two league fixtures to claim an early spot in the top four. Sunday's loss will put a dent in the club's top-four ambitions, but at such an early stage of the season, Tottenham will have plenty of time to recover.
Up next for Tottenham is a trip to Sunderland on Sept. 13, following the upcoming international break. Liverpool host Aston Villa on the same day.
The Reds had their first chance in the third minute as Daniel Sturridge picked out Balotelli with a fine cross from the left. Balotelli directed his header on target but Hugo Lloris saved to keep Spurs level.
Five minutes later, Liverpool went ahead.
Jordan Henderson won possession near the midfield line and started a quick counter down the right with a pass to Sturridge. Sturridge returned the ball to Henderson, who slotted across the six-yard box for Sterling at the back post. With Tottenham's defence shredded, Sterling slotted in for the opening goal.
Spurs came close to making an instant response, with Emmanuel Adebayor lifting the ball onto the roof of the net from Nabil Bentaleb's pass over the top.
At the other end, Sturridge sent a low shot wide of the post in the 12th minute and Balotelli glanced a weak header off target two minutes later.
Tottenham settled as the first half progressed, creating their best chance in the 42nd minute when Nacer Chadli volleyed straight at Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Balotelli then had another chance one minute before half-time, but the Italian blasted his strike well over the bar from a corner.
Leading 1-0 at half-time, Liverpool doubled their advantage shortly after the break via a penalty.
Eric Dier conceded the spot-kick in the 48th minute, reaching out to pull back Joe Allen as the Liverpool man cut toward the byline on the right side of Spurs' box. Allen made the most of the contact, falling to the ground and prompting referee Phil Dowd to award the penalty.
Gerrard stepped up one minute later to convert confidently low and to his left for a 2-0 lead.
Tottenham responded with a double substitution in the 59th minute. Andros Townsend and Mousa Dembele entered the match, replacing Christian Eriksen and Bentaleb.
Within moments of the switch, however, Liverpool grabbed their third goal.
With one of his first touches, Townsend lost possession to Moreno in Liverpool's half, allowing the Sevilla transfer to tear down Spurs' right flank unopposed. Just after entering the box, Moreno rocketed a low shot into the net off the inside of the far post.
With a three-goal lead, Liverpool were not ready to let up. Sturridge saw a low drive saved in the 67th minute, and Sterling shot weakly at Lloris three minutes later following an impressive dribble through Spurs' box.
Soon, though, the pace dropped and Liverpool seemed content with their three-goal cushion.
Tottenham, on the other hand, looked powerless to break down the visitors, who coasted to victory over the final 20 minutes.
|Andros Townsend (for Eriksen, 59')||N/A||5.5|
|Mousa Dembele (for Bentaleb, 59')||N/A||6.8|
|Ben Davies (for Rose, 72')||N/A||6.3|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
|Emre Can (for Allen, 61')||N/A||6.6|
|Lazar Markovic (for Balotelli, 61')||N/A||6.4|
|Jose Enrique (for Sterling, 86')||N/A||No rating|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
Steven Gerrard: "The challenge for this team is to defend better, so I'm sure the manager will be buzzing with the clean sheet." #TOTLIV— Premier League (@premierleague) August 31, 2014
Nacer: "They scored early & that made it difficult for us. We had chances to come back." Interview on Spurs TV soon. pic.twitter.com/f0gtv47VXS— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 31, 2014