Liverpool returns to top of Premier League with 4-0 win over Tottenham
Tottenham's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, centre right in green, watches the ball enter the net as Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, out of frame, scores from a free kick during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday March 30, 2014. (AP / Jon Super)
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, March 30, 2014 4:21PM EDT
LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool took advantage of an inept defensive display by Tottenham to cruise to a 4-0 win at Anfield on Sunday and return to the top of the Premier League for the first time since December.
An eighth straight win for Liverpool was never seriously in doubt from the moment Luis Suarez scored his 29th goal of the campaign in the 25th minute, adding to an own-goal by Younes Kaboul inside two minutes.
Philippe Coutinho's low drive in the 55th and Jordan Henderson's free kick, which crept in past a mass of legs in the 75th, finished off Spurs and fuelled the growing belief that Liverpool can win a first English league title in 24 years.
Liverpool is two points above Chelsea and Manchester City is a further two points back in third, but with two matches in hand.
Six straight wins, therefore, separate Liverpool from its first English league title in 24 years -- and two of its remaining three home games come against Chelsea and City in April. One way or the other, the destiny of the trophy is likely to be settled on Merseyside.
The Reds are unlikely to find a defence as compliant as Tottenham's, however. Sitting up in the stands, Spurs coach Tim Sherwood put his hands to his face as one mistake after another by his backline gave Liverpool a flying start in the first half, reviving memories of its 5-0 win at White Hart Lane in Dec. 15. That led to Andre Villas-Boas' firing two days later.
This defeat left Tottenham eight points behind fourth-place Arsenal in the race for the final Champions League qualification spot and again exposed its shortcomings in the big matches this season. Spurs has already shipped 11 goals in two matches against City and lost 4-0 at Chelsea this month.
The desperate Kaboul was the biggest culprit at the back and his own-goal after 97 seconds summed up the comical defending. Glen Johnson was set free down the right and his cross was deflected off the heel of Jan Vertonghen onto Kaboul, who unwittingly turned the ball into the net.
Vertonghen lasted 23 minutes before coming off injured and his replacement, Michael Dawson, made a howler with his first touch in the game, attempting to sidefoot a pass across to Kaboul but instead diverting the ball into the path of Suarez.
The Uruguay international bore down on goal and dragged a left-foot shot across goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and into the bottom corner, making him Liverpool's highest scorer in a single Premier League season.
There was still time before the break for Suarez to have a header tipped onto the post by Lloris, after Kaboul had been robbed in possession by Raheem Sterling.
Spurs were giving Liverpool time and space to pick out its passes and the third goal had its origins in Liverpool's own area, as the home defence followed Rodgers' mantra of playing it out from the back. Fullback Jon Flanagan ran clear down the left and slipped the ball inside to Coutinho, who ignored Johnson's overlapping run down the right and instead drove a fierce shot into the bottom corner from 25 metres.
That ensured there would be none of the late anxiety that characterized Liverpool's nervy 2-1 win over Sunderland on Wednesday and Henderson's goal added gloss to the score line, his inswinging free kick somehow missing everyone and curling into the far corner.