Sport Soccer

Friday 22 September 2017

Sublime Suarez leads rout to put AVB in firing line

Woeful Spurs booed off after Liverpool run riot to expose folly of Londoners' £110m summer spree

Tottenham Hotspur's Paulinho (right) challenges Liverpool's Luis Suarez to earn a red card during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.
Tottenham Hotspur's Paulinho (right) challenges Liverpool's Luis Suarez to earn a red card during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Matt Law

AS Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy glumly watched from the White Hart Lane stands, he must have wondered what could have been.

Tottenham 0 Liverpool 5

In front of Levy was a manager he wanted to appoint, a striker he nearly signed and a team playing the kind of football he dreams about Spurs playing. Unfortunately for him, they were all in red.

Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas and his players were booed off the pitch by the White Hart Lane crowd at the final whistle. Paulinho had headed down the tunnel almost half an hour earlier after being sent off for a wild challenge. Villas-Boas may not last much longer and Levy must already be wondering whether he blew £110m in the summer.

Roberto Soldado continues to struggle as a lone striker, Nacer Chadli looked out of his depth on the left, Paulinho lost his head and Etienne Capoue was badly exposed as a makeshift central defender.

Less than a month after conceding six goals at Manchester City, Spurs were hit for another five. Managers rarely survive such regular maulings.

In Levy's perfect world, Luis Suarez would be a Spurs player and Brendan Rodgers would have replaced Harry Redknapp.

Spurs had practically signed Suarez before he joined Liverpool, until Redknapp decided the Uruguayan was too similar to Rafael van der Vaart and pulled the plug on the deal.

When Levy started to think about life without Redknapp, Rodgers was the man he initially planned to approach.

But Liverpool made their move and Levy was left to look at the alternatives. He thought Villas-Boas would bring similar qualities to White Hart Lane. On recent evidence, he made the wrong choice. This was one of the most comprehensive victories of the season. And to think that Liverpool had not won away since September and were missing their captain.

It is difficult to measure whether the result owed more to Liverpool's excellence or Spurs' poverty but Rodgers could only have been delighted with his players' skill, intensity and application.

Although three of the goals came in the final 15 minutes, against 10 men, the scoreline was a fair reflection of the whole game. Liverpool tore into Spurs throughout, making chance after chance, while Simon Mignolet did not have a save to make.

In Gerrard's absence, Suarez was given the armband and led by example, while Jordan Henderson produced a superb performance in midfield.

The pair combined to give Liverpool an 18th-minute lead and they never looked back. Michael Dawson cut out a Joe Allen pass, but Henderson picked up the loose ball and played in Suarez, who skipped over a Capoue challenge before scoring.

Four minutes later, Suarez should have doubled his and Liverpool's tally. Raheem Sterling, who gave Kyle Naughton and substitute Zeki Fryers nightmares, split the Tottenham defence and Suarez tried to put the ball through the legs of Hugo Lloris. But the French goalkeeper managed to make enough contact with it to divert it out for a corner.

Lloris breathed a huge sigh of relief, when Suarez squandered his best chance of the opening period.

RECOVERED

A long punt out of defence from Martin Skrtel was misjudged by the onrushing Lloris, who succeeded only in back-heading the ball into his own area for Suarez.

It looked to be a certain goal, but Suarez opted not to shoot first time with his left foot and by the time he had pulled the ball back on to his right, Lloris had recovered to save.

Roy Hodgson was in the White Hart Lane stands. The performance of Suarez may have struck fear into the heart of the England boss, but he will have been greatly encouraged by the displays of Henderson and Sterling.

Philippe Coutinho hit the crossbar and Glen Johnson shot just over the bar, before Liverpool finally secured a two-goal cushion.

Sterling played a pass over the Tottenham defence and Coutinho helped the ball into the path of Henderson. His shot was saved and Suarez's follow-up was also saved. But Henderson managed to steer the second rebound into the net.

Tottenham had barely managed to threaten before the break. Chadli headed the ball wide and substitute Lewis Holtby missed the target from a Soldado cross.

Soldado was presented with an early second-half chance to fire Spurs back into the game, but shot wastefully over the bar. That was to be as good as it got for the home side, who did not manage a single effort on target.

Moments later, Liverpool went within inches of killing the contest as Mamadou Sakho headed a Sterling cross against the post and Skrtel skied the rebound into the crowd.

Any hopes of a Spurs comeback went up in smoke with just over 25 minutes remaining, when Paulinho kicked Suarez in the chest and was shown a red card by referee John Moss.

Rather than sitting back, Liverpool went for the kill and Jon Flanagan put the icing on the cake for the visitors by applying the finish to a wonderful move involving Coutinho, Henderson and Suarez.

Rodgers celebrated by charging down the touchline in front of fed-up Levy, who may well have joined the hundreds of Tottenham fans who decided they had seen enough when Suarez chipped in a fourth.

Sterling grabbed a fifth from close range to rub salt into the Spurs wounds.

Villas-Boas headed down the tunnel arm-in-arm with Suarez, and afterwards Rodgers heaped praised his star striker, hinting that captaincy can bring the best out of the prolific Uruguay forward.

Suarez's brace took his Premier League goals tally to 17 for the season, but Rodgers was most concerned with his leadership skills.

"This is a guy who has captained one of the most iconic clubs in European football in Ajax, so it's nothing new to him. I wanted to have someone who could represent me and the club in that tunnel, before even stepping on the pitch," he said.

"When Luis Suarez has the armband on ready to go out, everyone knows this is a team ready to fight. He was great in the changing-room."

Hailing his side's dominance in every area, Rodgers added: "I loved their arrogance with the ball today. They were a real threat with the ball all day." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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