Byline: DARREN LEWIS
SVEN Goran Eriksson swept out of White Hart Lane in his chauffeur-driven car last night wearing a Liechtenstein-sized smile.
The news that Alan Shearer was sniffing around his old England place again brought out of Liverpool's international trio Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard the kind of five-star performance that lit up Munich 18 months ago.
Shearer was last night backtracking on the story he himself had created on Saturday, but rival strikers Heskey and Owen were not to know that at kick-off yesterday, and both players responded by blowing Spurs away.
On the back of his priceless UEFA Cup away goal against Celtic on Thursday, Heskey added another impressive strike to cap a highly polished performance.
No longer does the big man fall over when breathed upon. Yesterday his pace, power and link play must have put the colour back into Eriksson's cheeks after a winter of discontent for the Swede.
With Owen back to his razor-sharp best and Gerrard creating two goals and scoring the third, the Euro 2004 qualifier with Liechtenstein later this month cannot come soon enough for the England coach.
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier must be wishing his players had hit this form three months ago.
The shock defeat to Birmingham three weeks ago seemed a world away as Liverpool built on Thursday's impressive UEFA Cup first-leg draw against Celtic.
This was a match from which both teams needed maximum points to press their claims for European football.
And by rising to the challenge, Liverpool managed to clinch their first win at White Hart Lane since December 1996. Tottenham began the match at a distinct disadvantage with Robbie Keane and Steffen Iversen injured and Teddy Sheringham their only orthodox striker alongside makeshift front-man Gary Doherty.
Yet why should that matter when Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek is prone to making the kind of errors that saw Sander Westerveld bombed out of Anfield?
There was no way Mauricio Taricco's weak shot from the edge of the Liverpool box should have finished up anywhere other than the grateful arms of the Polish international three minutes after half-time.
But real time seemed to slip suddenly into slow motion as Dudek half-slipped, sending the ball trickling over the line and gifting Taricco his first goal in Tottenham colours. Houllier, in that familiar steely style of his, simply glared at the man whose gaffes against Middlesbrough, Manchester United and Fulham had cost Liverpool the points that scuppered their title bid.
But Owen did what he does best to get Dudek out of trouble three minutes later.
It was a mistake from veteran Sheringham that conceded possession to Gerrard.
The midfielder's low cross from the right put Tottenham in all sorts of trouble and Owen was in the right place at the right time to apply the finishing touch.
Liverpool were suddenly rampant. Just after the hour-mark Owen sped onto Danny Murphy's through-ball and swept outside Ben Thatcher before his shot was saved by Kasey Keller. …