Premier League - Gerrard on the spot as Liverpool sink Spurs

Premier League, Anfield - Liverpool 3 (Suarez 21, Downing 66, Gerrard 82 (pen)) Tottenham 2 (Vertonghen 45, 53)

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Steven Gerrard (Reuters)

Steven Gerrard struck a late penalty winner as Liverpool kept their hopes of claiming a Champions League berth alive with a rollercoaster 3-2 win over Tottenham at Anfield.

The Reds skipper kept his nerve to net a spot-kick eight minutes from time after Luis Suarez was upended in the area by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

The Uruguayan had given the hosts the lead with a wonderful finish for his 29th goal of the season on 21 minutes before a double from Jan Vertonghen either side of half-time put Spurs in the driving seat.

An error from Kyle Walker then allowed Stewart Downing to rob Hugo Lloris and fire into an empty net before Gerrard struck to move the Reds to within seven points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

The victory was slightly marred at the end when the inspirational Suarez was caught up in an unsavoury confrontation with Mousa Dembele following the final whistle.

Ahead of a weekend headlined by the FA Cup quarter-finals, this league contest was billed as the battle of the PFA Player of the Year contenders: the freescoring Suarez against the effervescent Gareth Bale.

Liverpool knew a victory would enhance their hopes of making a late bid to sneak into the Champions League places while Spurs' 12-match unbeaten run in the league meant they had their sights set on putting pressure on Manchester City for the runners-up spot.

There was much to play for and it was the hosts who made the brighter start with the returning Daniel Sturridge crashing a venomous drive just past the near upright inside 10 minutes after a sublime pass from Philippe Coutinho.

At the other it was inevitably Bale who had the visitors' first effort of note when Brad Jones - in for the injured Pepe Reina - could only fumble a dipping free-kick away from danger.

The hosts' game-plan appeared to be focused upon a high-tempo and Coutinho curled just over before the opening goal arrived on 21 minutes.

The diminutive Brazilian was once again at the heart of it all, combining brilliantly with Jose Enrique down the left. The Spanish full-back then played a clever ball in-behind the defence for Suarez who poked a stylish shot underneath the advancing Lloris.

It was the Uruguayan's 29th goal of the season and saw him become the 51st player in Liverpool's history to reach 50 goals in all competitions.

The Reds suddenly had the bit between their teeth and Suarez forced a smart save out of Lloris with a shot from a tight angle as Coutinho appeared to be floored in the centre.

However, the away team began to probe late in the half and a delightful Bale flick teed up Gylfi Sigurdsson who shot narrowly wide.

Brendan Rodgers's side were dropping deep in an attempt to make it to the break unscathed, but they couldn't do it as Spurs levelled when Bale crossed from the right for Vertonghen to bury a header into the bottom corner.

The visitors continued to dominate following the interval and after Bale teed up Defoe to go close with a rasping effort, they stole ahead on 53 minutes.

Bale's free-kick caused mayhem in the Liverpool box and Vertonghen was there once again to crash a hooked shot into the corner and take his tally to the season to five in all competitions.

Bale then showed just why he is vaunted as one of the game's finest players when he skinned both Gerrard and Jamie Carragher - making his 500th league appearance for the Reds - before crossing to the far post for the unmarked Sigurdsson. The Icelandic star took a touch and hit a low shot at goal that deflected off Jones and against the woodwork.

There appeared to be no way back for Liverpool until they were handed an equaliser 24 minutes from time.

A weak pass from Kyle Walker left Lloris with it all to do, allowing Downing to race in and hammer a low shot between the legs of Vertonghen on the line.

Both sides pressed late on for a winner but it was Liverpool who got it when Suarez was bundled over in the area by Assou-Ekotto, allowing Gerrard to step up and clinch what could prove to be a crucial three points for the Reds in their quest for European football.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Luis Suarez (Liverpool) - Showed just why he is amongst the frontrunners for Player of the Year with a typically impressive display. Netted his 50th goal for the Reds and won the penalty for the winner.

PLAYER RATINGS

LIVERPOOL: Jones 6, Johnson 6, Enrique 7, Agger 6, Carragher 6, Lucas 5, Gerrard 7, Downing 6, Coutinho 7, Sturridge 6, Suarez 8. Subs: Allen 5, Henderson 5.

SPURS: Lloris 5, Walker 5, Dawson 5, Vertonghen 7, Assou-Ekotto 5, Parker 5, Livermore 5, Sigurdsson 7, Dembele 6, Bale 8, Defoe 6. Subs: Carroll 5, Holtby 5.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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