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Liverpool 3, Tottenham 2: First Thoughts

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Mario Balotelli scored a late goal to give Liverpool all three points in a pulsating game at Anfield.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Liverpool 3 Marković 15', Gerrard (pen.) 53', Balotelli 83'
Tottenham 2 Kane 26', Dembélé 61'

  • Pre-match thoughts 1/2: Tottenham Hotspur came into the game on the back of victory in the North London derby at White Hart Lane with Harry Kane in inspired form. A win for Spurs would see them extend their four-point lead over Liverpool to seven points in the race for Champions League qualification. Raheem Sterling and Lucas Leiva missed out after succumbing to injuries in the Merseyside derby, and the Brazilian will definitely miss the rest of the month. 

  • Pre-match thoughts 2/2Steven Gerrard started alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield to cover Lucas' absence, which is dangerous against the energetic Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb. Lazar Marković took Gerrard's place in attacking midfield and Daniel Sturridge started his first game since late August in place of the nefarious, diabolical, holidaying contract rebel scamp otherwise known as Raheem Sterling. Mario Balotelli returned to the matchday squad while Jordon Ibe retained his place in the side. Spurs were unchanged from the win against Arsenal.

  • The game started with an impressive tempo but after Daniel Sturridge was played through on goal with a chance to score on 8 minutes, Liverpool started to put pressure on the away side. Philippe Coutinho and Mor Warning as Christian Eriksen played in Harry Kane, but the in-form English striker's shot was blocked by Sakho. Liverpool scored from the next attack, and it was Lazar Marković who scored the first goal of the game from a scuffed shot that Hugo Lloris should have saved.

  • Tottenham took control of the game after the goal, but Liverpool played directly to bypass midfield pressure to create a number of chances to double the lead. Daniel Sturridge, however, was not as sharp as usual on his first start in many months. 

  • Harry Kane equalised on 26 minutes after excellent work from Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, and although Liverpool should have been at least two goals up by that point, Tottenham were good value for a goal. The rest of the half was frenetic and Sturridge hit the post in added time with a backheel.

  • Half-time thoughts: Liverpool's midfield was poor, and Steven Gerrard wasn't the sole reason for the lack of control. Before the game, Bentaleb and Mason were dangerous midfield opponents with their youth, energy, and diligence. Mousa Dembélé did excellent work to support the midfielders behind him from his advanced midfield position. Jordan Henderson wasn't at his best and Coutinho didn't do much work defensively either. This problem was the reason why Liverpool should have been at least two goals ahead as a direct approach was utilised and forced the Spurs defence to make decisions as well as create chances for Sturridge in particular. Jordon Ibe was proving to be a reliable and dangerous outlet on the right.

  • The skilful Daniel Sturridge was fouled in the area by Danny Rose after the second half continued to feature pressing and excitement. Steven Gerrard stepped up to take the penalty and hammered the ball past Lloris' left corner. Tottenham nearly equalised straight after going behind but a superb save from Simon Mignolet denied a long-range shot from Lamela. Liverpool continued to play on the counter, but Tottenham looked dangerous after going behind once again. A free-kick from Eriksen was saved by Mignolet, but Harry Kane picked up the rebound and crossed it for Dembélé to chest in for the away side's second equaliser. Was Kane offside when Eriksen took the free-kick?

  • Phil Dowd was perhaps far too liberal with dispensing yellow cards but was consistent in his unwillingness to let any sort of contact go unpunished. Brendan Rodgers took off Steven Gerrard, brought on Dejan Lovren, and pushed Emre Can into midfield. Ryan Mason was disappointing and Mauricio Pochettino responded by drafting in Paulinho. Both sides made changes in midfield just before the 70 minute mark.

  • Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana were the final options used by Rodgers from the bench as Liverpool needed to find a winner to make a push in the race for the top four. Lovely combination play from Ibe and Lallana set the former Southampton captain free down the right to centre from inside the area for Mario Balotelli to score his first Premier League goal for Liverpool to give his side victory in a crucial match.

  • Full-time thoughts: Liverpool needed to win and did just that in an exciting game that was a mixture of good, bad, and average. Liverpool are still in the mix for the top four, but will need to continue winning games to remain in the race. Following up the draw away to Everton with victory over a top four rival is the right way to make a challenge. 

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.