Premier League: Spurs rue slip up in race for top-four spot

Ross McLean
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Italy striker Mario Balotelli scored his first Premier League goal of the season as Liverpool beat Tottenham last night

TOTTENHAM boss Mauricio Pochettino insisted his side warranted at least a point after the much-maligned Mario Balotelli climbed off the bench to dent Spurs’ Champions League aspirations at Anfield last night.

Goal-shy Balotelli proved Liverpool’s match-winner with his first Premier League goal of the season after the Reds had twice led through Lazar Markovic and a Steven Gerrard penalty, only to be pegged back by the prolific Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele.

Victory sees seventh-placed Liverpool move to within a point of Tottenham, who slip to sixth, while Spurs failed to improve on their woeful form at Anfield which now reads six wins in 72 matches.

“I think we maybe deserved more from this game but we need to look forward,” said Pochettino. “We are disappointed with the result because I think one point would have been fair for both teams.

“The players are very disappointed, sad and tired but we have to accept football is like this. I am proud of the effort. The only thing we need to improve, in the first half we gave Liverpool some chances and made some mistakes.”

Striker Daniel Sturridge, making his first start since August, was twice thwarted in the early stages by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris, first comfortably after a misplaced Ryan Mason pass and then by an instinctive one-handed save.

Liverpool opened the scoring after quarter of an hour, Sturridge the provider following a long clearance by Simon Mignolet as Markovic – a treble winner with Benfica last season – scuffed a left-footed effort across Lloris from the edge of the penalty area.

Tottenham have salvaged 15 points from losing positions this term and drew level in the 26th minute through man of the moment Kane, who lashed past Mignolet after collecting a neat reverse pass from Erik Lamela.

Sturridge struck the post with a cheeky back-heel in first-half stoppage time but was felled in the box by Danny Rose eight minutes after the re-start, as Gerrard successfully converted his fifth spot-kick of the campaign.

Lamela was denied by a finger-tip save by Mignolet before Christian Eriksen’s free-kick was repelled by the Belgium stopper only for Kane to seize upon the rebound and provide the ammunition for Dembele to chest home from close range.

Liverpool snatched victory when Balotelli poked home a low cross from fellow substitute Adam Lallana, scoring his Premier League goal since November 2012.