Liverpool: 3 - Tottenham Hotspur: 2
“Rodgers has settled for the draw then.”
Call it cynicism, call it gallows humour, call it having been let down by Mario Balotelli’s lack of…well, pretty much anything in a red shirt if we’re honest…but that was the reaction that met his introduction for a shattered looking Daniel Sturridge in the last quarter of one hell of a game of football.
Within ten minutes? ‘Mario Fantastico, Mario Magnifico’. There was a weird mix of elation, relief, disbelief, shock and awe. Mario. First league goal for Liverpool and, as is his wont, not celebrating. The centre of a pack of wildly celebrating red shirts but Mario? Nothing. Placid, unexcited. Job done. About bloody time if we’re honest but what the hell, it was a lovely finish. More impressive than the finish though was the provision. Adam Lallana comes on for Lazar Markovic - scorer of a lovely first goal, leading after eleven minutes in at half time on level terms due to the lethal Harry Kane and the wonders of Hugo Lloris - Lallana’s on the pitch for four minutes, does nothing. Then he touches it once. Into the path of the utterly immaculate Jordon Ibe, Ibe rolls it back, pin point, inch perfect, beautiful, Lallana sends it in, Mario converts. Job done. Three goals, three points. Good night’s work.
Good job he did too, otherwise we’d be talking about the inability and ineptitude of the overweight Phil Dowd (sorry Phil, you’re carrying timber, can’t deny it) and his equally inept, equally overweight, linesman. Worst officiating of the season to date. Which is a hell of a claim. But to book Gerrard for a perfectly executed tackle, give a free kick, watch Mignolet palm Eriksen’s shot into the path of a blatantly offside Harry Kane to cross for Dembele to equalise? These are the decisions that can cost teams points, places, European qualifications. Should the FA ever decide to get a grip of the ongoing uselessness of their officials we’ll all have a hell of a lot more fun.
Which is to take nothing away from Spurs. They’re a hell of a side. Best football team to come to Anfield this season. Far more enjoyable to watch than Jose’s charmless anti-football brigade. Two teams that want to put the ball on the floor and run at people. Joyous. Hell of a game of football. I may have mentioned that idea.
Luckily we’re just that little bit better. We have better options from the bench. The squad, the much derided squad, is showing it’s true shape, purpose and virtue now. We can take Steven Gerrard - having his best game this season - off and replace him with Dejan Lovren - the much derided Dejan Lovren - push Emre Can into midfield and watch him be as beautiful there as he is in defence. We can pull Markovic and put on £20m of Adam Lallana. Pull Sturridge, put on what we thought was a big useless lump and find that he does have a purpose after all.
We don’t move any higher for this. We’re still seventh in the table but we’re only a point behind Spurs now. Only three points off fourth. We’re moving up. It’d be nice if fate would let a few things go our way in Wednesday night’s fixtures but you have to make your own luck don’t you?
We’re making our luck at the moment. Tonight was a must win game. We won it. Let’s think about the next one now. That’s what we did last year and that worked out pretty decent overall.