Goals from Lazar Markovic, Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli won it for the Reds, with Harry Kane and Moussa Dembele both equalising along the way in a frenetic tete-a-tete.
Liverpool’s form is glistening at this stage, and momentum can only build with this victory.
With many positives to take from this Liverpool win, in which Rodgers’ side established their top-four credentials and seriously damaged the challenge of Mauricio Pochettino’s side, Markovic and Jordon Ibe shone as two of the Reds’ key men.
The Wing-Back Role and Spurs’ Weakness
As Spurs’ teamsheet rolled out an hour before kick-off, a noticeable weak spot emerged immediately after Hugo Lloris’ name—Pochettino’s defence looked makeshift and susceptible to Liverpool’s direct play even on paper.
Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose—hardly Cafu, Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini, are they?
As Walker made an embarrassing foul throw and Rose gave away Liverpool’s penalty with a trip on Daniel Sturridge, the sheer weakness of Spurs’ defensive flanks became clear to see.
If Rodgers was to exploit any area, it should be Spurs’ full-backs.
This is where the wing-back role comes into its own in Rodgers’ system, and Ibe was the chosen one at Anfield on Tuesday night.
In Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1, the wing-back is tasked primarily with supporting any Liverpool attacks, with their average position much higher up the pitch than a traditional full-back or even a traditional wide midfielder—although, of course, a large portion of defensive work is required too.
Ibe was tasked with this role and terrorised Rose throughout, with much help from Markovic.
Markovic and Ibe
After Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, much of the debate was on Ibe’s exemplary performance in the right wing-back role, with Markovic looking on from the substitutes’ bench after taking a knock in the Reds’ previous game.
Before Tuesday’s clash, whether Ibe or Markovic would take up this role on the right flank was a considerable talking point, but the pair ended up both playing due to injury to Raheem Sterling.
If they were to be considered positional rivals before this win, Markovic and Ibe now look to be an exceptional partnership in the making.
Targeting Spurs’ weak left side with Rose and the often absent Vertonghen, Ibe and Markovic dovetailed to near perfection.
As mentioned, Ibe’s role is typically to provide width and cover on the flank, and the 19-year-old drove towards the Spurs byline with regularity.
Lone striker Sturridge thrives on this level of support, with his intelligent movement often seeing him head to the near post or the edge of the six-yard box, as with his strong attempt on 13 minutes, after Ibe’s cutback sat up nicely on the deflection.
The newcomer mixed up his play throughout however, as he did against Everton, and much of his best work came when drifting inside to run at the Spurs defence.
This is where Markovic’s understanding came into play.
When Ibe came inside, Markovic would switch to a wide role; when Ibe cut down the byline, Markovic duly supported Sturridge, serving as what was effectively a shadow striker.
In their first outing together Markovic and Ibe looked to be a devastating partnership and much of this was due to the returning presence of Sturridge.
On his first start for the side in five months, Sturridge was understandably rusty in areas, but the little-by-little approach from Rodgers and the Liverpool medical team in managing the striker’s return seems to have aided his confidence and overall sharpness.
Operating in what will likely be his long-term role for Liverpool as a lone striker, Sturridge performed with intelligence and finesse.
With Markovic and Ibe troubling Vertonghen and, in particular, Rose on Liverpool’s right flank, Sturridge was able exercise his natural movement in plenty of space.
Sturridge served as a moving target for the pair: as a sounding board for Markovic’s intricate attacking play, as the aim of Ibe’s cutbacks or as the finisher of moves.
What was most impressive with Sturridge’s play, and is an area that Liverpool have been missing on the whole during his absence—although Sterling did produce some of this in his time at centre-forward—was the way in which the striker dropped deep to instigate attacks.
Sturridge, a comfortable creative player, found space for the restricted Philippe Coutinho to pass into, and built moves from there.
Markovic in particular benefited from this, with his steamrolling runs overlapping the deep-lying Sturridge—the 20-year-old’s opening goal is the perfect example of this style, as Markovic offered an outlet on the charge.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 10, 2015
Lazar Markovic and Jordon Ibe started the season as peripheral figures under Brendan Rodgers but, after Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday night, are threatening to form a devastating long-term partnership on the Reds’ right flank.
Can Lazar Markovic and Jordon Ibe continue their promising partnership for Liverpool? Let us know in the comments below.