We’ve gone from being nine points off the Champions League places during the festive period to being a mere two at the end of February. There’s no games in hand to pad those numbers and no creative number crunching either — that’s cold, hard mathematics.
It was contentious at the worst of times and nerve racking at the best, but a first half wonder-goal from Philippe Coutinho and a predatory strike from Raheem Sterling were enough to give Liverpool victory over Southampton earlier today in a match that was marred by controversy. The hosts had no less than three penalty shouts waved away in the first half by referee Kevin Friend, and though they may feel aggrieved not to see at least one go their way, in the end they failed to create too much in the way of real danger from open play despite enjoying the majority of the ball on a rain soaked evening on the South coast.
They had to find the lead on three separate occasions, but Liverpool overcame a battling Tottenham Hotspur team who had twice pulled themselves back to level terms to push this one to the end.
The Reds are now within a point of the North London side in the race for Champions League football and have stretched their unbeaten streak at Anfield to an impressive seven matches. Lazar Markovic got the ball rolling a quarter of an hour in with his second league goal of the season only to see man of the moment Harry Kane equalize ten minutes later. Steven Gerrard provided the go ahead from the spot after Danny Rose clattered Daniel Sturridge, but the visitors pulled level when Mousa Dembele bundled in Kane’s cross from a seemingly offside position to set up both a dramatic finale and an unlikely hero.
It was hardly the blood and thunder spectacle one has come to expect from the Merseyside Derby; scoreless at the final whistle, the rather tame effort at Goodison Park stands in sharp contrast to this very fixture last year that brought more heart-stopping moments than I care to recount.
This latest incarnation, despite being Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s last, quite often failed to register a pulse. Surprise inclusion Jordon Ibe’s woodwork rattling effort from distance and Simon Mignolet’s fine save from a Seamus Coleman shot — Everton’s first and only on target as stoppage time loomed — were two of the only items of any real note as the Reds kept their good run of form alive, but failed to show too much in the way of attacking incisiveness heading into an important meeting with Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
By the time the final whistle was blown, there were nothing but smiles around Anfield — well, that is, if you weren’t part of the contingent of travelling West Ham United supporters.
Three league wins on the hop, another clean sheet and a pair of goals for the Kop to celebrate all topped off with Daniel Sturridge making his first appearance for the better part of five months. After a blustery opening period where Liverpool created but failed to deliver, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling combined well to send the youngster free for his eighth goal of the campaign. If that didn’t quite amount to sweet relief after a frustrating week, than seeing Sturridge find the net with what looked to be a routine finish a mere twelve minutes after replacing Lazar Markovic was more than enough to get those endorphins rushing along.
Liverpool were once again plagued by an inability to truly kill the match off, but rare goals from Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert on either side of the half were more than enough to put their hosts to the sword as the Reds ran out winners in the Midlands.
Much Like last weekend’s trip to Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers side started brightly and were enjoying dictating proceedings when Borini put the visitors ahead with a cool finish from Jordan Henderson’s cross. Villa found thier feet after the break though and when Rickie Lambert put the match out of their reach with a composed finish from the edge of the area, it was only through sheer luck that he was giving them a two goal cushion.