The media wanted this to be the Mario Balotelli show so much. So much, in fact, that it hurt. It’s true that attention follows the Italian forward round like a seagull following a trawler (must check to see if someone has used that analogy in the past), but as soon as it was announced that Mario was to be in the Liverpool forward line the commentary team upped their BPM (Balotelli’s per Minute) considerably.
The irony being that while Balotelli enjoyed a decent debut it was the Liverpool attack as a whole that earned the plaudits here. Poetry in motion for much of last season, the loss of Suarez and the acquiring of Balotelli don’t seem to have made too much difference. Spurs struggled with the movement of the the Reds forward players all afternoon and would still be chasing shadows now if the whistle hadn’t gone for full-time.
For all the attacking threat and headline-making, eye-catching transfer activity it’s a much overlooked transfer that seems to have made a massive difference to this Liverpool team. Dejan Lovren was again outstanding today despite having to switch across to the more unfamiliar right-side of the defence to accommodate Mamadou Sakho on the left-hand side, and his composure in defence seems to have been translated to the rest of the back five with Mignolet only really making one dubious handling error to blot his copy book.
In fairness, Spurs didn’t offer much. Rarely were the Reds defence put under any pressure and for all the possession they managed here, Spurs failed to really create much of anything with their best chance falling to Nacer Chadli just before half time as he ran onto a flick on by Adebayor and completely ignored by Sakho it seemed harder to miss but he put his shot too close to Mignolet who produced a fine save, but the ‘keeper shouldn’t have been given the chance.
By the time this happened, Spurs were one goal down, after some great skill from Sturridge and an excellent pass to the charging Henderson who cut the ball back across the six-yard line for Sterling to finish from an acute angle.
At half-time the game was still in the balance. Liverpool looked comfortable but Chadli’s chance showed that Liverpool do have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot defensively. It wasn’t the Reds who did the shooting though, as Spurs full-back Eric Dier brought down Joe Allen in the penalty box to allow Steven Gerrard to double the lead from the spot. I say Allen was brought down, but if the Welshman isn’t being eyed up for the second series of Tumble for his theatrical fall then the BBC aren’t doing their casting well enough. There was contact as Dier put his arm across Allen’s run, but the contact was not nearly enough to impede the midfielder, let alone bring him down. Let’s just say that if you’re a Liverpool fan you probably think it was a penalty, and if you’re a Spurs fan you definitely don’t.
For the remainder of the second-half Liverpool looked comfortable and it never really looked like Spurs were going to get back into it and on the hour mark Pochettino made a couple of changes including throwing Andros Townsend on to try and cause problems for Liverpool’s left-back Alberto Moreno. It didn’t turn out quite as he planned as the Spurs winger was dispossessed midway into the Liverpool half and then the Spanish full-back set off running. No-one closed him down and so he just kept on running. And running. And running. Until he had nowhere else to go, so finished impeccably into the Lloris’ far corner. His debut against City marred by an error. Moreno looked comfortable in defence, and excellent going forwards.
At 3-0 the game fizzled out but still had time for Liverpool to spurn a number of golden opportunities, including Raheem Sterling concluding a fabulous mazy run by passing the ball straight to the ‘keeper when it seemed easier to score and Daniel Sturridge twice trying the same lobbed finish with the outside of his boot. He got both as wrong as each other and the ball ended up in crowd behind the goal.
Spurs did have a shout for a penalty at the end waved away but the game was over by that point.
If the Liverpool defence play like this every week then Suarez’s goals aren’t going to be missed as much as they may have been otherwise been and if Sterling and Sturridge keep up the hard work, goals and assists we’ve seen in two of the three Liverpool games this season, then a certain Italian will just prove to be the icing on a very tasty cake instead.
Man of the Match: Jordan Henderson – There’s very little aspects of Henderson’s game lacking at the moment. He passed, tackled, created and ran as much as anyone on the field, keeping the Liverpool midfield ticking over like a metronome. There are flashier players and there were flashier performances here, but Henderson, like a bass-player, keeps everything in time and ticking over. He even got himself a well deserved assist here too.