In the only Premier League fixture played over the weekend that affected the top of the table, Tottenham Hotspur missed the chance to further cement their Champions League ambitions after they went down 3-2 to Liverpool at Anfield.
Pre-match, the encounter was billed as the battle between the two front-runners for Player of the Year and though Gareth Bale had a hand in both Tottenham goals, it was Luis Suarez that came out on top, claiming the man of the match award for a display that saw the Uruguayan score his 21st league goal of the season and win the penalty that resulted in Liverpool taking the points.
In an entertaining, topsy-turvy match, Suarez gave Liverpool a 21st minute lead before two strikes from defender Jan Vertonghen either side of half-time put Spurs in control and looking good to extend their 12 match unbeaten Premier League run.
But a calamitous back-pass from Kyle Walker gave Stewart Downing the chance to equalise before Suarez capitalised on another poor mistake from Jermaine Defoe, drawing a foul from Benoit Assou-Ekotto that gave Steven Gerrard the chance to score the winner from the penalty spot with eight minutes remaining.
Liverpool managed to see the game out and secure their first league win over a side in the top six this season and manager Brendan Rodgers was keen to use the result as a mark of the Merseysiders’ progress over recent months.
“It is a big win. It is a big game when you are playing against an opponent that has been challenging for the Champions League for the last three or four years. It’s a few years since Liverpool have beaten Tottenham. This is another marker in terms of our growth. They’re a team on great form and have been together for a few years. For us to get the three points was fantastic and I’m delighted for the players because they’ve worked ever so hard.”
The former Swansea boss refused to be drawn on whether his side can make up a seven point gap to Chelsea in fourth place and sneak into the Champions League positions – an 8/1 shot with bwin (1/25 not to).
“I’m not thinking of Europe. It’s not important that we’re sixth. It’s just important that we continue to move – it was always going to be difficult early on. But you could see the mentality today. This was a real test and I think we had to show different characteristics to what we have in the last few weeks. We’ve been comfortable in a lot of games and been able to control them. But against a top side we were able to come through. We had to make some changes and once we did that we were good value. We’ll recover now then focus in on Saturday. We are just collecting points and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas was philosophical after a first league loss for three months, with Spurs still seven points above Arsenal in fifth.
“A couple of mistakes cost us in the end but you can’t be too negative after what we have done so far. Hopefully this is a reminder for us and we can go on another 12-game unbeaten run.
The chance to go 3-1 from Sigurdsson [who hit a post] was a big, big chance, probably the moment of the game. We did ever so well to come back into the game and played well, managed to create good opportunities and it is a shame we could not control the game in the manner we should and win.
“Sometimes it happens. The boys did well. Apart from a couple of mistakes there were good performances from everybody. At half-time we were inspired and were pushing to get the win. We will reflect on the things we did but we are confident we can put our strengths back together and go on another run.”
The bookies at bwin still think Spurs will manage to finish in the top four, and you can get 9/25 that they do so. It is 7/4 that Tottenham are not in the Champions League group stages in 2013/14.