Slick Spurs overtake Reds
Van der Vaart and Modric strike as Tottenham reclaim fifth
Last Updated: May 15, 2011 6:33pm
Tottenham celebrate as they go back above Liverpool
The race for Europa League qualification will go down to the final day of the season after Tottenham reclaimed fifth place courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
The Reds had been hoping to celebrate Kenny Dalglish's appointment as permanent manager by picking up a win on Sunday that would have secured continental competition for another year, but Spurs defied the form book to produce an impressive performance.
Tottenham made a bright start and broke the deadlock after just nine minutes when Liverpool managed to clear a corner only as far as Rafael van der Vaart just outside the area and the Dutchman struck a magnificent volley beyond Pepe Reina.
Liverpool pressed hard for an equaliser but found an impenetrable barrier in the shape of Michael Dawson and the returning Ledley King, before a second goal in the 56th minute provided Spurs with a commanding lead.
John Flanagan was adjudged to have fouled Steven Pienaar inside the area and Luka Modric stepped up to slot a penalty straight down the middle.
Harry Redknapp's men now lead their rivals by one point and can guarantee a European berth by beating relegation-threatened Birmingham next weekend, when Liverpool travel to Aston Villa.
Dalglish's formidable home record since returning to Liverpool in January - 20 points from eight matches prior to this encounter - counted for little as the visitors took the early initiative on their way to a first Anfield victory in 19 games stretching back to 1986.
Injury robbed Dalglish of midfielder Raul Meireles, which meant he had to break up the recent successful partnership of Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt and bring in fit-again club record signing Andy Carroll.
It undoubtedly had a detrimental effect as the £35million England international lacks the mobility and energy of Kuyt in a front two and denied the Reds the high pressing game they have employed of late.
Spurs enjoyed their extra time on the ball and put it to good use in the early stages, dominating possession.
Van der Vaart fired well wide early on but the next time he did not disappoint with his ninth-minute shooting opportunity.
When Modric's right-wing corner skimmed off the head of Martin Skrtel he brought the ball under control with his first touch and with his second volleyed it over the crowd - helped by a deflection off Glen Johnson - past Reina's left hand and into the far corner of the net.
In recent weeks everything had gone right for the Reds, unbeaten in five with 17 goals scored, but the opposite was true on this occasion.
Tottenham's closing down and tight marking prevented the hosts producing the flowing pass-and-move football which has returned under Dalglish.
The only stroke of fortune they enjoyed was the leniency of referee Howard Webb, who chose to only book Suarez for his petulant kick at Dawson while he was on the floor having been angered by the defender's apparent dive to win a free-kick.
Having been brilliant in front of goal in the last month the knack appeared to have deserted Liverpool as Carroll slashed wildly at Maxi Rodriguez's pass and failed to connect properly while midfielder Jay Spearing bundled a shot wide with his weaker left foot.
The same should not have been expected of Carroll though, who wastefully headed over from six yards from Skrtel's cross.
Suarez was closer with a free-kick which flashed just wide on the stroke of half-time but the Reds needed a change as distinctive as Dalglish swapping his tracksuit for jacket and tie at the interval .
Van der Vaart lasted just five minutes into the second half before limping off to be replaced by Jermain Defoe.
Anger at Webb's officiating reached a peak in the 55th minute when he penalised Flanagan for a foul on Pienaar when the offence appeared to be both innocuous and outside the penalty area.
Modric struck home the spot-kick to give Tottenham a two-goal cushion they barely deserved.
Liverpool surged forward, enraged at the perceived injustice, and Suarez fired over from Flanagan's low cross while substitute Jonjo Shelvey was narrowly off target with a long-range effort.
Chasing the game Dalglish sent on David Ngog for Maxi, giving his side every opportunity to score with four strikers on the pitch.
Carroll's ineffectual display meant he was lucky to still be on when he managed his first shot on target in the 87th minute but Carlo Cudicini held it comfortably and the target man was immediately replaced by Joe Cole.Having missed out on the Champions League the Europa League may be of some consolation for Tottenham, if they can match or better Liverpool's result next week.
|Liverpool||Team Statistics||Tottenham Hotspur|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|9||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
|13||West Bromwich Albion||14||15|
|17||West Ham United||14||13|