100 not out for Rodgers in rout, Arsenal in agonising stalemate
Premier League joint third-favourites Liverpool (10/1) and Brendan Rodgers showed no signs of being wounded, following their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City the week before, as they saw off Tottenham on London turf.
Arsenal (also 10/1), meanwhile, were clearly missing the clinical finishing of injured Olivier Giroud, drawing 1-1 to newly-promoted Leicester City.
After week three of the new top-flight season, just two clubs have claimed maximum points, Chelsea and Swansea City. All is to play for in what could be one of the most competitive campaigns, yet again.
With all eyes currently on Transfer Deadline Day, Rodgers will still be reeling from his side’s comprehensive win over in-form Spurs (11/4 top four chances) at White Hart Lane, on what was his 100th game as Liverpool boss.
Mario Balotelli’s debut stole all the headlines before the fixture, but the Italian striker showed signs of nerves and was wasteful with a few chances. However, the fantastic Raheem Sterling, captain Steven Gerrard (penalty) and new signing Alberto Moreno got the goals.
Rodgers was understandably in good spirit after his landmark match, and was particularly praising of teenage star Sterling, who was awarded Man of the Match. “His tactical awareness is improving, and for a kid of 19,” the Northern Irishman said. “He’s been great.
“I don’t see him as a [number] 10, I think he’s flexible. You’ve seen his flexibility and it was perfect against Spurs. It’s important he has the intelligence to play these different positions and he’s developing that well.”
However, there was one moment of genius by Sterling, that unfortunately had a rather anti-climatic ending, where he weaved in and out of players in the box before producing a feeble finish.
“Raheem needs to be better on his left foot. It was a wonderful moment of skill and he was fantastic for us again,” Rodgers added, before joking: “Raheem ran into the box like Ricky Villa and finished it like Ricky Gervais.”
Despite Balotelli missing three good chances, his new manager was quick to back him up and praise his lively and encouraging debut.
“Mario was excellent,” Rodgers said. “You could see his team ethic – he was pressing, working for us as much as he could. He was very good.
“Take away the circus that surrounds him – the circus he probably invites himself sometimes – and control the background noise and get him focused on his football, and he’s a good fella.”
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be wondering how they only managed a single goal from their total of 24 shots against Leicester (odds-on at 1/5 to stay up), in their 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium.
The Gunners looked as though they’d record their second victory of the league campaign when Alexis Sanchez hit his second goal for the club, but a swift reply from fellow South American Leonardo Ulloa saw the Foxes earn a well-grafted point.
It is the second point for the East Midlands side, who have been handed the most difficult of starts this term. After now playing Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal, they next face Stoke City and then Man Utd.
Leicester boss Nigel Pearson said: “It was another illustration of how difficult the Premier League can be. We played well, but we have played better and been more assured in possession. But we still showed the ability to create things.
“To be successful you can’t go into the Premier League and just be tight and not create things. We looked dangerous on the counter-attack and with some decent moves. We have got more to come. We are disappointed not to win.”
Arsenal certainly missed Giroud, who is out with a fractured leg, for the game, and Yaya Sanogo looked uncertain throughout.
In the other Sunday match, top 10 hopefuls Aston Villa (3/1) held off Hull City (11/4). The Villans went 2-0 up in the first half, thanks to goals from Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, but Nikica Jelavic hit back late in the second half. Paul Lambert’s men even went down to 10 men in the 90th minute when Ron Vlaar went off injured.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce was critical of his side’s performance, especially in the first half. “The performance in the first half was the worst I can remember in the time I’ve been at the club,” he said. “For the travelling supporters who witnessed it, you have to apologise. There was no energy, no spirit. We never laid a glove on them.
“In the second half, we changed it round, and we were excellent. But we gave ourselves a mountain to climb after the first half.”