Our 12-game unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an end in a 3-2 reverse at Anfield as we suffered more Merseyside misery in an enthralling game.
Having not tasted defeat since a 2-1 defeat to Everton on our last visit to these parts, we were undone by a Steven Gerrard penalty eight minutes from time.
Liverpool had taken the lead through Luis Suarez, before an unlikely brace from Jan Vertonghen put us ahead. Stewart Downing was then gifted an equaliser for 2-2 before Gerrard’s winner.
Andre Villas-Boas made three changes to the side which comfortably eased past Inter Milan on Thursday, with Hugo Lloris taking over the goalkeeping gloves from Brad Friedel, Michael Dawson replacing William Gallas in defence and Jake Livermore coming in for the injured Aaron Lennon.
The home side began the match at a high tempo and their pressing game created two early chances. Just five minutes in, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was robbed in possession by Stewart Downing, who released Daniel Sturridge into the area down the right side but he blasted high and wide. And a minute later it was Scott Parker who was dispossessed by Coutinho, the Brazilian found Sturridge again through on goal but the onrushing Hugo Lloris forced him wide and the move came to nothing.
Our first sight of goal came from the boot of Bale on 12 minutes, his typical 30-yard dipping free-kick palmed away by Brad Jones for a corner, before Parker and Bale combined for Gylfi Sigurdsson but his deflected shot trickled through to Jones.
Liverpool’s opener came on 21 minutes with a well-worked goal. Coutinho found Jose Enrique in an advanced position, he slid a pass down the left side of the defence inside the box to Suarez who slipped the ball under Lloris six yards out.
But we responded really well to the setback, with Bale firing wide on 35 minutes before a wonderful move saw Mousa Dembele feed Bale whose delightful backheel found Sigurdsson on the edge of the box with a clear sight of goal, but with only Jones to beat he fired inches wide.
And when the equaliser came on the stroke of half-time it was no more than we deserved.
Livermore fizzed a pass into Dembele down the right flank, the Belgian popped it back to Bale who moved the ball onto his left-foot and sent over a delicious cross which Vertonghen glanced past Jones into the far corner and it was all square at the break.
While it was the Reds who started the first half brightly, we absolutely flew out of the traps at the start of the second and dominated the early possession and chances.
On 52 minutes Bale threaded a pass to Jermain Defoe down the right channel but his fierce shot was straight at Jones.
A minute later though and we were in front, Vertonghen again the man on target. A free-kick 10 yards inside Liverpool’s half was lofted into the box by Bale, Dawson and Glen Johnson rose for the ball, neither made contact and it bounced off Daniel Agger into the path of Vertonghen, whose right-footed half volley beat Jones and nestled in the back of the net.
Another great chance followed minutes later when Bale streaked away from Jamie Carragher and Gerrard to the byline, and delivered a deep cross to Sigurdsson. He had time to control and shoot but his effort was deflected onto the post by Jones.
And on the hour mark, Dembele produced some magical play to beat three men and fire in a shot which was beaten away by Jones.
The next goal was crucial but unfortunately it fell the way of Liverpool on 66 minutes and it was all of our own making. Kyle Walker’s wayward back pass was collected by Downing, Lloris came rushing out of the area to clear but didn’t make clean contact leaving the Reds winger a clear run on goal and he fired in through the legs of Vertonghen on the line.
It was end to end stuff after that as both sides searched for the winner without creating clear cut chances, until the home side regained the lead eight minutes from time.
Defoe controlled a clearance and then played the ball back into danger, Suarez collected it and went past Assou-Ekotto who upended him for a penalty. Gerrard stepped up and sent Lloris the wrong way for 3-2.
Although we saw plenty of the ball in the closing minutes, we just couldn’t carve out another chance and the final whistle sounded to bring an end to our fine recent run.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Jones; Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Enrique; Gerrard, Lucas; Coutinho (Allen 59), Suarez, Downing; Sturridge (Henderson 88). Substitutes (not used): Gulacsi, Skrtel, Wisdom, Shelvey, Sterling.
Spurs(4-4-2): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto (Carroll 90); Dembele, Livermore (Holtby 84), Parker, Sigurdsson; Bale, Defoe. Substitutes (not used): Friedel, Caulker, Naughton, Huddlestone, Coulthirst.
Yellows: Liverpool – Carragher. Spurs - Vertonghen
Goals: Liverpool – Suarez (21), Downing (66) Gerrard (82p). Spurs – Vertonghen (45, 53)
Referee: Michael Oliver