Spurs vs. Liverpool is usually one of the more anticipated fixtures for me on the Premier League calendar. Me and fellow BYC'er (and Spurs fan) Andrew Sanford make a bet for each game on both the result and scorers. We each pick a player on our team and the opposition. The pick for the opposition usually isn't a good goal scoring option. For this edition, I chose the debuting Mario Balotelli and was given Dejan Lovren. Andrew chose Emmanuel Adebayor and I gave him Nabil Bentaleb. Liverpool put a 9-0 aggregate shellacking on Tottenham last year, including a 5-0 win at White Hart Lane where today's game was played.
As I said in the opening, the much maligned "Super" Mario Balotelli was making his first start for the Reds. He almost had a story book beginning in his new colors as he was able to get his head to a well played cross from Daniel Sturridge. The shot however was right at Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris and the danger was gone.
Six minutes later saw the away side get it past the French goalkeeper. Daniel Sturridge played Jordan Henderson down the right wing. Hendo could have taken a shot at the Spurs goal mouth but instead laid off a tremendous square pass across the box to Raheem Sterling. The 19 year old phenom calmly slotted it past Lloris with his left foot to make it 1-0 Liverpool.
Spurs tried to hit right back as Emmanuel Adebayor was found in space. The Spurs #10 got the shot towards the Liverpool goal but it was just over the bar and the ball landed harmlessly on the top of the net.
Liverpool almost made it 2-0 (for the first time) at the 12 minute mark as Sturridge dipped and dribbled past the Spurs defense but his effort trickled just wide. Two minutes later saw Mario Balotelli got his chance to make it 2-0 with another header from a Stevie G corner but came up empty.
It would be roughly ten minutes before Adebayor would torture the new central pairing of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho again. He seemed to be clear on his second run but Lovren scampered back to make a desperate but clean tackle and clearance.
Joe Allen was the first name into the book (27') for a "professional" foul on Erik Lamela. Lamela had been getting in some glancing elbows in a couple previous clashes with Allen before the Welshman blatantly pulled back the winger on a potential breakaway. A minute prior, Balotelli had a similar incident with Eric Dier. Dier escaped a card and no free kick was given. Balotelli's histrionics didn't particularly help the cause.
Balotelli dominated the attack for the remainder of the half. His cheeky back heel set up a chance for Sturridge that was saved. He had two more chances himself that the hulking Italian will be kicking himself for not converting. The first came on a brutal misplay by Lloris that fell straight to Balo's feet. He scuffed the shot bad and Lloris could breath. In stoppage time, Steven Gerrard's corner landed in prime striking position for the striker. He turned it into a shark with a frickin' laser on its head and deposited it into the stands.
The only Spurs chance worth noting in the second twenty minutes was a fine effort from Nacer Chadli. He was played over the top by Christian Eriksen and made Mignolet parry his shot over the bar. The subsequent corner led to nothing and the two sides went into half time at Liverpool 1, Tottenham 0.
Not two minutes elapsed after the interval and LFC had a penalty. Eric Dier foolishly impeded Joe Allen in the area and he went down for a spot kick. It was soft indeed but it was a momentary lapse in judgment for Dier, a man who had played exceptionally in Tottenham's first two matches. Steven Gerrard calmly slotted the penalty low and left to make it 2-0, even though Hugo Lloris guessed correctly. It was a master class in penalty taking for Captain Fantastic who was immediately greeted by Balotelli, the main PK taker for both AC Milan and Manchester City during his tours there.
Erik Lamela, a forgotten man and deemed by some as a bust under Tim Sherwood, did his best to get a bit of life back into the Spurs offense. There wasn't a spot on the field that the Argentine was not running to or playing the ball. He was showing the promise that chairman Daniel Levy saw when he paid £30 million for him last year.
Lamela could only sit and watch though as substitute Andros Townsend, who had been on the field all of a minute, gave the ball away to Alberto Moreno in the 60th minute. The Spanish defender made a blistering run and finished superbly to the far post on Lloris. Younes Kaboul did his keeper no favors on this sequence by constantly backpedalling and giving Moreno a clear lane instead of challenging the fullback.
It was very calm at the Lane from then on out as Liverpool's SAS 2.0 made the only noise in the last half hour. Sturridge's laser shot in the 67th minute was palmed out for a corner by Lloris and the Lovren header on the resulting corner was complete rubbish. Sterling made a Messi-like maze run in the 70th, but his final shot was more lamb than lion and an easy catch for Lloris.
Spurs did even less as they made no real charge forward and seemed content on making square passes in the middle of the pitch. Outside of a late penalty shout from the Togoan striker (which was more of a penalty than the Allen play), Spurs did little else to keep themselves competitive.
The win puts Liverpool just ahead of Tottenham in the standings. They sit at 5th and 6th respectively in the current table.
Image Credit: Spurs v. Liverpool (ilbaxnimo.com)