Deja vu as Spurs suffer dispiriting home defeat against Liverpool
15:23 31 August 2014
History repeated itself at White Hart Lane as Tottenham suffered a dispiriting home defeat against Liverpool for the second season in a row, losing 3-0.
The Reds triumphed 5-0 in north London in December, ending Andre Villas-Boas’ reign at Spurs. And, although the Lilywhites have since appointed two new managers in Tim Sherwood and now Mauricio Pochettino, the gap between the sides seemed just as big.
Liverpool took a seventh-minute lead through Raheem Sterling and went on to dominate the first half, with debutant Mario Balotelli missing a number of chances.
Spurs could have levelled through Nacer Chadli at the end of the first half but, instead, the Reds then doubled their lead with a Steven Gerrard penalty just after the interval.
Alberto Moreno then piled on the agony with a stunning solo effort, running from inside his own half to make it 3-0.
Spurs had previously made a perfect start to life under Pochettino, winning all four of their competitive games, and there was a great sense of anticipation around the Lane before kick-off as the home fans prepared for the first big test of the season.
Pochettino named the same line-up that had started last Sunday’s Premier League game – a highly impressive 4-0 home win over QPR - with Eric Dier keeping his place at right-back despite Kyle Naughton’s availability.
Naughton was not even named on the bench, but there were places among the substitutes for Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby – with ongoing speculation about their futures ahead of tomorrow night’s transfer deadline – and Harry Kane.
The big news in the visiting ranks was that Mario Balotelli started for Liverpool, making his debut on his return to England after his previous spell with Manchester City.
The Italian could have made an immediate impact as Daniel Sturridge crossed from the left, but his header was well saved by Hugo Lloris and he then prodded wide from the rebound.
Liverpool had exploded out of the traps and they opened the scoring in the seventh minute. Sturridge got away from Chadli down Tottenahm’s left and he played in Jordan Henderson, who delivered a low cross for Sterling to finish at the back post.
Spurs could have hit back immediately as Nabil Bentaleb released Emmanuel Adebayor with a ball over the top, but the forward lobbed the ball onto the roof the net – and the visitors went on to create a flurry of opportunities.
Sturridge twisted and turned and sent a low shot just wide from 20 yards, and Gerrard’s free-kick then found Balotelli at the back post, but he headed wastefully wide.
Eric Dier gave the home fans something to cheer with a heavy but perfectly-timed sliding tackle on the Liverpool debutant, which left him in a heap on the turf – and Spurs briefly had a better spell, ending with Danny Rose firing over from the edge of the box.
However, back came Liverpool and Dier gave the ball to Joe Allen, which quickly produced a shooting chance as Sturridge tested Lloris with a curling effort from just outside the box.
Tottenham’s goalkeeper nearly endured a nightmare moment shortly after, coming out of his box to cut out a through ball but kicking the ball straight to Balotelli, who volleyed well wide of the open goal from 35 yards.
Spurs were hanging on but they went on to create their best chance of the half in the 42nd minute.
Younes Kaboul played the ball up to Adebayor, whose jump took both of Liverpool’s centre-backs out of the picture, allowing Chadli to get in behind. The Belgian hit his first-time effort well but it was too close to Simon Mignolet, who made a good save.
Balotelli had one more chance just before the break as Liverpool took a low corner to him, but his first-time effort from just inside the area soared over the bar.
Tottenham were struggling to deal with the Reds’ midfield diamond and particularly the movement of Sterling, giving Pochettino plenty to work on at the interval.
Once again, however, the half got off to the worst possible start. Dier grabbed Allen’s shoulder’s in the box, referee Phil Dowd awarded a penalty and Steven Gerrard beat Lloris from the spot.
Spurs upped their efforts and Adebayor had a shot from a narrow angle blocked, while Lamela got in behind but was unable to find a team-mate with his low cross.
Pochettino made a double change just before the hour-mark, introducing Townsend and Mousa Dembele – but it immediately backfired as Townsend lost the ball to Liverpool left-back Moreno, who ran from inside his own half before beating Lloris with a stunning low drive to make it 3-0.
Liverpool continued to pour forward and Sturridge tested Lloris at his near post while Dejan Lovren flicked a header high and wide at the near post and Sterling nearly scored a fine solo goal of his own, jinking into the box but failing to finish.
There was a further blow for Spurs as Rose limped off, just before he is due to join up with the senior England squad for the first time – and there was little to cheer the home fans at the final whistle as the squad prepare to separate for the international break.
Tottenham: Lloris, Dier, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies 72), Capoue, Bentaleb (Dembele 58), Eriksen (Townsend 58), Lamela, Chadli, Adebayor
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs