Belfast Telegraph

The focus was on Mario Balotelli, but Liverpool were class

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers could have been the manager of Tottenham. After the latest demolition by his Liverpool team of the north London outfit, Spurs fans probably wish he was.

In the last three games between the Ulsterman's Reds and the Lilywhites, the Anfield men have won 5-0, 4-0 and 3-0!

The only consolation for current Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is that at least on his watch the scoreline wasn't as heavy as when Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood were in charge.

Nevertheless when the international break is over Pochettino will have much work to do with his players after this demoralising defeat.

Up until yesterday, Spurs supporters were loving life under the Argentine, who had inspired four wins out of four.

Having now played a team with Liverpool's quality though, reality has bitten, and perhaps even harder than the Tottenham players and supporters imagined.

Frankly Liverpool were at a different level in terms of speed, shape and style and they even managed to keep a clean sheet, their first since hammering Spurs in March.

This was everything Brendan Rodgers, in his 100th fixture as Liverpool boss, wanted and offers as a football manager.

No wonder Spurs approached him in 2012 as they started preparing for life after Harry Redknapp.

The Carnlough native said 'no'. Days later he said 'yes' to Liverpool, on the hunt for a new boss themselves following Kenny Dalglish's departure.

And so the upturn in fortunes of the Anfield club began.

The loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer and a lack-lustre defensive display at Manchester City last Monday night created fear amongst Kopites about whether Liverpool could repeat last season's impressive championship challenge, but those concerns were allayed at the Lane as the Reds rolled up and rolled over the opposition with the sort of dynamic display which has become a trademark for teams sent out feeling 10 feet tall by Rodgers.

There was the obvious hype surrounding new signing Mario Balotelli, but as the manager pointed out prior to the match, and has done throughout his career, the 'team is the star'.

That's the way it turned out yesterday. Balotelli was committed and hard-working, and with better finishing could have had a hat-trick, as he became just another cog in the slick Liverpool machine, which is exactly the way Rodgers wants it.

An early goal from the excellent Raheem Sterling, created superbly by Daniel Sturridge and the tireless Jordan Henderson, sent the visitors on their way and they rarely looked back, only troubled in the first half when their latest defensive pairing of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho needlessly gave the ball away. Tottenham weren't good enough to take advantage and paid for it after the break.

With spot-kick expert Balotelli looking on, captain Steven Gerrard scored his 43rd penalty for the club – the most ever by a Liverpool player – when Joe Allen was tugged in the box by Eric Dier. Better still new Spanish left back Alberto Moreno raced from his own half after dispossessing Spurs substitute Andros Townsend, before showing poise to match the pace with a terrific left foot drive into the net.

Some comeback from Moreno, whose mistake sent City on their way to victory a week ago, and some show from Liverpool.

Belfast Telegraph

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