Suarez 18' 84'
That was unexpected. And it's one way to avenge all the woe at White Hart Lane over the last five years.
Considering the opposition, that's almost certainly the best Liverpool performance I've seen since Rodgers became manager, but I also might be a little biased at the moment. Because Liverpool deserved every inch of that.
Liverpool's formation and tactics wholly blunted Tottenham's threat on Tottenham's ground. Liverpool's midfield blunted the best part of Tottenham's team. Henderson, Allen, and Sterling each played their best match for the club. Suarez was Suarez, in all his bomb-throwing, mustache twirling glory. That was Liverpool's first clean sheet in five weeks and just the second away clean sheet this season, since beating Villa 1-0 in the second match of the season. Spurs registered zero shots on target today. Zero.
0 - This was the first time since Opta started full collection in 2006/07 that Spurs have failed to have a shot on target at home. Bleak.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 15, 2013
What Liverpool lost on set plays with Gerrard absent was more than made up by the vastly improved work rate in the center of the park. Sure, Liverpool didn't create a single chance from a set piece, but Henderson, Allen, and Lucas' open play ability was fair compensation. The inverted triangle worked to perfection, with Henderson and Allen pressing Spurs into mistakes, keeping Sandro and Dembele from setting the tone, constantly testing Tottenham's unfathomably high back line. Spurs simply could not get a foothold in the match. At all. Those three will have to do it more than once before it's confirmation that Liverpool are a better team without Gerrard, but that was a hell of a start.
Liverpool took the game to Tottenham from the opening whistle, given a platform for dominance by the incredibly impressive midfield. Once again, an early goal set the tone. Once again, it came from Suarez, well-supported by Henderson and Sterling. But it was a back-to-front team goal. Skrtel won Spurs' hoofed ball from their own half in the air; Johnson, Allen, Sterling, and Suarez – especially Sterling – kept possession down Liverpool's right, continuing the constant torment of Tottenham's left-back Naughton before Suarez's attempted throughball for Henderson. Dawson intercepted, but Henderson kept up the pressure, winning the ball back before a clever lay-off to Suarez, charging into the box, stepping around Walker's rash diving tackle, coolly placing a left-footed shot past Lloris.
Tottenham then had a couple of chances when getting play out wide and crossing into the box, but Liverpool defended its area admirably; the only truly threatening moment was when Holtby – on in place of Sandro through injury – placed a shot wide just before Liverpool's second goal. Again, Henderson, Sterling, and Suarez were central to it: Suarez holding up play, Sterling's wonderful pass over the top destroying Spurs' high back line, laid off to Henderson by Coutinho. Lloris made two immaculate saves, denying Henderson and Suarez, but couldn't prevent the second rebound, well-placed just inside the post after Henderson refused to give up. Liverpool more than merited its 2-0 halftime lead, which could have been more had Coutinho's 28th minute strike not rebounded off the crossbar.
And Liverpool started the second half the same way they finished the first, denied another goal by the goal frame as Sakho headed a point blank shot onto the post from Sterling's cross. But from there, Tottenham grew into the game. Grew into the game without threat, but grew into the game nonetheless. And one of Villas-Boas' remedies did work to an extent, as bringing on Zeke Fryers for Naughton limited Liverpool down the dominant flank. Tottenham still failed to test Mignolet, Liverpool continued to do well to deny shots from dangerous positions, but the home side did boss possession for the first 18 minutes of the half.
But frustration continued to mount, in the stands and on the pitch. And it boiled over through Paulinho, karate kicking Suarez in the chest after the Uruguayan nipped the ball out of his reach. Jon Moss was perfectly placed and Jon Moss is not Howard Webb, so Paulinho walked, rightfully shown an immediate red card.
And that was the end of the game as a contest. Villas-Boas couldn't even shift into damage control having already made three substitutions. The next 30 minutes were sheer exhilarating enjoyment, highlighted by Flanagan's first goal for the club, a wonderful first time shot from Suarez's cross, again released by Henderson, with the woodwork making some amends by directing the blast down and over the line. But Suarez and Sterling also added further gloss: Suarez with a sumptuous chip over Lloris set up by Luis Alberto, Sterling breaking through Tottenham's offside trap yet again thanks to Suarez's throughball.
A 5-0 win seems fitting vengeance for the 0-4 shellacking Liverpool suffered on this ground in September 2011, an exhaustive exorcism of all White Hart Lane's demons. It's going to be incredibly hard for Liverpool to improve on today's performance, but I'd certainly settle for replicating it. That was the absolute best possible way that Liverpool could have started the festive period.