High hopes for Liverpool comeback
Liverpool has fuelled the growing belief that the English championship is on its way back to Anfield after 24 years by thrashing Tottenham 4-0, lifting the team to the top of the Premier League above Chelsea.
On a successful Sunday (local time) for the Merseyside clubs, Everton won 3-1 at last-place Fulham to close to within four points of fourth-place Arsenal ahead of their meeting at Goodison Park next weekend.
Liverpool - the league's top scorers - produced another masterful attacking display against a porous Spurs defence, with Younes Kaboul's second-minute own-goal added to by strikes from Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson to seal an eighth straight win for the Reds.
They made the most of Chelsea's 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace on Saturday and are two points clear of Jose Mourinho's side with six games left. Manchester City, which drew 1-1 at fourth-place Arsenal, is two points further back in third and crucially has two games in hand.
The destiny of the Premier League is in Liverpool's hands, though, and the momentum is with them. You'll Never Walk Alone - the club's anthem - is being sung with renewed gusto before every game while scarves and flags are out in force in the stands, recalling the period in the late-1970s and early 1980s when Liverpool was the dominant team not just in England but in Europe.
"Outstanding team performance and I thought the supporters were brilliant - that's as good as I've heard at Anfield since I've been manager here," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "It's been a tough period over 20-odd years, and they can see something building here."
Chelsea and City must come to Anfield next month and they will not relish the task one bit. Certainly Spurs didn't look up for the fight - they conceded after 97 seconds and were all over the place in defence on another dire performance against a leading club.
Kaboul, who endured a miserable match, turned a deflected cross into his own net to set Liverpool on its way and substitute center back Michael Dawson inadvertently set Suarez clear in the 25th for the Uruguayan to put away his 29th league goal of the season - a Liverpool record in the Premier League era, surpassing Robbie Fowler (from 1995-96).
"The game was pretty much finished after two mistakes early on. They took a lot of belief from that and went from strength to strength," said Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, whose team is sixth and now eight points off fourth-place Arsenal in the race for the final Champions League qualification spot.
The second half was just as one-sided, with Coutinho finishing off a wonderful team goal in the 55th with a low drive from 25 metres before Henderson's inswinging free kick missed everyone in the area and landed in the bottom corner.
"For us, the mantra has always been to focus on the next game, we never get too carried away," said Rodgers, again downplaying Liverpool's title hopes. "It is very difficult, there's lots of people dreaming about Liverpool winning the title."
The way Everton is playing, there could yet be two Merseyside clubs in the Champions League next season.
Roberto Martinez's side secured a fifth consecutive league win thanks to an improved second-half performance at Craven Cottage, where it took the lead in the 50th when Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale turned a deflected shot by Steven Naismith into his own net.
Ashjan Dejagah drew Fulham level in the 71st with a stunning 25-meter drive that beat Tim Howard at his near post, but well-taken goals by Kevin Mirallas and Naismith in the final 11 minutes saw Everton home.
Everton is now four points above Spurs and has a game in hand over them and Arsenal, whose trip to Goodison Park next Sunday could have a massive bearing in the race for fourth.
"I'm not saying we're going to get that because we admire Arsenal because they get in the Champions League consistently," Martinez said. "They have developed a real understanding (of) what to do in these games, so that makes Sunday a phenomenal challenge.
"It will probably go down to the last game of the season."
Fulham stayed bottom and is five points adrift of safety.