Coutinho class helps hurt Tottenham’s title hopes in Liverpool draw
Lee Gormley | April 2, 2016
Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham
- Spurs started game five points behind leaders Leicester City
- Philippe Coutinho booked for diving in first-half
- First period ends goalless at Anfield
- Coutinho bags superb opening goal after 50 minutes
- Harry Kane nets classy equaliser following an hour played
Coutinho damages Spurs’ title hopes
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham saw their Premier League title hopes take a damaging blow after a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, as Brazilian attacker Philippe Coutinho showed his class with a superb second-half opener.
Spurs striker Harry Kane made sure the Londoners escaped from Merseyside with at least a point thanks to an equally impressive leveller after the hour mark, as he tucked home his 22nd domestic goal of this current campaign.
The Reds moved narrowly ahead of Chelsea into ninth in the table with their home stalemate, while Tottenham have now given league leaders Leicester City the upper hand in this intriguing title race, as their stalemate sees them sit four points adrift of Claudio Ranieri’s front runners.
Spurs start brightest
Both managers opted to start proceedings with their sides lined out in a 4-2-3-1, as two England international strikers in Daniel Sturridge and Kane led their respective outfits, though it was the latter that arrived in better form.
Tottenham’s main marksman was the target of several early passes from deep, with fellow England starlet Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min unsuccessfully attempting to pick out their reliant forward from midfield.
It was the visitors to Merseyside that had begun brightest, with the Londoners brilliantly building from the back with Toby Alderweireld, as his composed clearance eventually led to a chance for Christian Eriksen at the other end, though his first-time shot was cleared by Simon Mignolet.
Typical high pressing from Spurs was causing problems for the hosts in the opening quarter of an hour, with the Reds unable to properly build any momentum on the ball, as the attackers along with Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele quickly closed down any threat.
A mix-up between Dejan Lovren and his goalkeeper almost led to a defensive disaster after 19 minutes, as Mignolet was forced to wander out of his area and clear, rather unconvincingly, before a lurking Kane could cause any danger.
Lloris called into action
It wasn’t until 20 minutes gone that Liverpool finally looked threatening, though it was from a Spurs player, as Alberto Moreno’s left-sided delivery almost found a way past Hugo Lloris off an attempted sliding clearance from Son.
Brazilian attacker Coutinho looked to be heading through on goal minutes later after strongly dispossessing Eriksen in the centre circle, but the Samba playmaker was soon booked for simulation, having gone down under a challenge from Alderweireld.
The game was becoming an end-to-end battle after early Spurs dominance, and it was Kane that came close for the travelling capital club on 25 minutes, as he lashed narrowly wide of the left post.
Instantly at the other end of the Anfield turf, the referee looked to have given a penalty to James Milner following a Kyle Walker tackle, though he had actually been pointing for a corner, even fooling a smirking Jurgen Klopp in the process.
With Kane having missed an earlier opportunity for Spurs, fellow England frontman Sturridge then spurned a great chance for Liverpool 10 minutes before the break, as he found himself one-on-one with Lloris but could only direct his shot straight at the outstretched French shot stopper.
Coutinho and Kane strike
Tottenham’s goalie was again called into action before the break, this time to deny Adam Lallana’s spinning half-volley, with the acrobatic number one leaping high and clawing the danger away as the sides ended an entertaining first period goalless.
Pochettino has been used to witnessing Alli set Kane up on many occasions this term, but it worked the other way in the second-half, as the latter striker curled in a promising cross to pick out his compatriot, but the midfielder headed well wide.
A moment of brilliance finally saw a breakthrough after 51 minutes gone at Anfield, with Coutinho majestically drifting towards goal and playing a swift one-two with Sturridge before clinically firing in a sublime opener past a helpless Lloris.
Son was gifted with a chance to equalise moments later, but the South Korea playmaker’s well-struck volley from the right side sailed narrowly past Mignolet’s goal to give Liverpool a reprieve and keep their valuable lead intact.
Although it didn’t last much longer with Kane grabbing the leveller just after the hour mark on Merseyside, with the England forward superbly swivelling onto his right foot in the penalty area and blasting into the far corner to make it 1-1.
Battle ends level
Coutinho was living up to his nickname of ‘Magician’ in the second period and he nearly sent the hosts ahead again as the dynamic attacker cut onto his left foot and sent a shot trickling across goal before going wide.
Both Mignolet and Lloris were called upon in the dying minutes of an enthralling second-half on the red half of Merseyside, with Coutinho again coming close with a thumping shot which drifted just wide left.
Though the Brazilian’s earlier class and Kane’s subsequent equaliser saw the sides end their evening clash level at 1-1, with Tottenham now 4/1 to rally to Premier League success this season, as Leicester look likely of claiming glory.