Reds go top, Everton close to fourth
Liverpool overwhelmed Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at a fervent Anfield on Sunday to take over at the top of the Premier League table with six games of the season remaining.
Spurs never recovered from an early Younes Kaboul own goal, with further strikes from Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson securing an eighth successive victory for Brendan Rodgers’s in-form side.
The win took Liverpool two points above previous leaders Chelsea, beaten 1-0 by Crystal Palace on Saturday, and left the 18-time champions on course for a first English league title since 1990.
Third-place Manchester City, four points below Liverpool, have two games in hand, but both they and Chelsea must visit Anfield before the season’s end.
Tottenham had been thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool in December’s reverse fixture, precipitating the departure of coach Andre Villas-Boas, and Sunday’s defeat left Tim Sherwood’s side eight points below the top four in sixth place.
Liverpool have made a habit of scoring early in recent weeks and it took them under two minutes to take the lead against Spurs, with Kaboul inadvertently knocking Glen Johnson’s low cross into his own net.
Spurs’ cause was not helped by an injury to centre-back Jan Vertonghen and his replacement, Michael Dawson, was to play an unfortunate role in Liverpool’s second goal in the 25th minute.
His volleyed pass towards Kaboul allowed Suarez to pounce and the Uruguayan ran away from the Spurs centre-backs before driving a left-foot shot across visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The goal was Suarez’s 29th in the league this season, eclipsing the Premier League club record of 28 set by Robbie Fowler in 1996.
Roberto Soldado threatened to give Spurs a foothold in the game with a curling shot that drew a flying save from Simon Mignolet, but Liverpool ended the first half on top, with Lloris brilliantly touching a header from Suarez onto the post.
Coutinho killed the game off 10 minutes into the second period, drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner from 22 yards.
Henderson added a fourth in the 75th minute with a free-kick from wide on the left that eluded everyone on its way into the net, leaving the home fans to serenade their side with chants of “We’re gonna win the league!”
Earlier, substitutes Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith scored as Everton won 3-1 at bottom club Fulham to close to within four points of the top four.
Everton took a 50th-minute lead at Craven Cottage when Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale unwittingly diverted a deflected volley from Naismith into the net for an own goal.
Ashkan Dejagah came off the bench to score a stunning equaliser for Fulham in the 71st minute, cutting inside from the left flank and letting fly with a rising shot that flew into the top-left corner.
Mirallas restored Everton’s lead eight minutes later, though, running onto a pass from fellow substitute Aiden McGeady and coolly beating Stockdale, before Naismith stabbed home the visitors’ third in the 87th minute.
Victory took Roberto Martinez’s side to within touching distance of fourth-place Arsenal, on whom they have a game in hand, ahead of next weekend’s meeting between the sides at Goodison Park.
“The fresh legs of the subs were the reason we got the three points –they gave us the spark to score the three goals,” said Everton manager Martinez.
“We would love to win the league, but we have got our targets and it is an exciting end to the season and we are fighting to be as high in the table as we can.”
Fulham’s chances of avoiding relegation appear increasingly remote, meanwhile, as they remain five points adrift of safety with only six matches to play.
“It was a good game. If we can take this performance with us, we will make it good,” said Fulham manager Felix Magath, who handed a first start to 17-year-old French striker Mousa Dembele.
“We have six games left. I still believe we can stay up.”