Liverpool’s game against Tottenham was a huge match not just in name, with the three points on offer potentially vital in the battle for a top-four place. Before the match the two sides were separated by just two points with a win able to see the Reds go five clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, while Spurs could have leapfrogged both Chelsea and their opponents with a win and move into third-place.
The match started in the worst possible way for Tottenham as they were hustled and harried by their hungry opponents and it resulted in Eric Dier playing a soft pass into the path of Mohamed Salah who made no mistake after he burst into the box. Following that, Liverpool dominated the first half as Tottenham’s system was all wrong for the sort of game their opponents were playing.
The second-half did see Spurs come out and play far more positively as they dominated large swathes of the contest as Liverpool struggled to maintain their pressing game. Victor Wanyama was brought on and smashed the equaliser home in what was an incredible strike before Harry Kane saw his penalty saved. Salah then jinked into the box to give Liverpool the lead again, but the drama did not end there as Kane was given a second chance to score from the spot and he did that, sending Loris Karius the wrong way.
The game ended 2-2 and the pulsating encounter was the perfect advert for the Premier League as Anfield played host to yet another enthralling tie at the top of the table.
Eric Dier gifts Liverpool a dream start
Tottenham’s rise towards the top of the Premier League table has been characterised by the fact that as strong as their attack has been, it has been matched by their defensive ability. Harry Kane’s scoring prowess has been backed up by the sublime ability of Hugo Lloris in goal, while the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have been ably assisted by a glut of fantastic wing-backs.
One player that has improved massively is Eric Dier. The centre-half come midfielder was deployed in a defensive-midfield role against Liverpool to try and relieve the pressure that their hosts would apply. However, he was the man that gave his side all kinds of problems very early on and his lapse in concentration led to the first goal.
The ball was bouncing between Tottenham’s defenders before it fell to Dier who chose to pass the ball back to Lloris. However, the pass was not struck with any conviction as it dribbled towards the box. Mohammed Salah, the one man Liverpool would want in a one-on-one opportunity, was in the right place at the right time and he latched onto the ball before sending Lloris the wrong way to give the Reds the lead. While it was Dier’s poor pass that gave Salah the chance, both Davinson Sanchez and Kieran Trippier should have cleared the ball rather than taking little touches that heaped the pressure on themselves.
Liverpool are so good going forward that they rarely need a helping hand in attack. However, they would not ever refuse such a gift as Dier was left cursing his attempted pass. To go behind against any team inside three minutes is a bad start, but to trail free-scoring Liverpool so quickly is about as dangerous as it gets.
Neither side is able to keep the ball as Dier tries to make amends
Liverpool’s early goal gave the side a chance to put even more pressure on their opponents. The trifecta of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were running riot against Tottenham’s backline as they were continually played in down the channels. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies were doing more running towards their own goal than going forward in the first-half as their teammates were consistently guilty of conceding possession in dangerous areas of the pitch.
However, as good as they were with their interplay, their final ball constantly let them down as it gave Tottenham the chance to reorganise and get bodies behind the ball. This penchant to giving the ball away seemed to be something that was contagious though as the Reds started to misplace their passes.
An area of particularly poor play resulted in Tottenham getting the ball into the box which ended in Dier supposedly being bundled to the ground. While he clearly thought it was a penalty, the referee waved play on to the fury of the player as he looked to atone for his awful error earlier in the game.
Liverpool ramp up the pressure as Tottenham’s system falters
Despite seeing a lot of their passes misplaced in a five minute period, Liverpool quickly rediscovered their stride as they put the visitors under a massive amount of pressure as wave after wave of attacks crashed against Spurs’ defence. Virgil van Dijk twice got above his marker from a set-piece but could not make the most of his chances, while Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold were able to get down the right-flank but their crosses came to nothing.
Interestingly, it seemed as though Tottenham’s system was what was inviting so much pressure onto themselves. Mauricio Pochettino set up with two very defensive minded players in midfield in Moussa Dembele and Dier. Son Heung-Min partnered Kane up front which allowed Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to drift into the pockets of space, however, the two were incredibly ineffective as Liverpool stopped anything getting into them, while they closed down the creative-midfielders before they could get their heads up, which meant Kane and Son saw very little of the ball.
When the likes of Trippier and Ben Davies were able to get the ball on the wing, they were given almost no support at all. The space for Spurs was on the flanks as Liverpool were defending in the middle, but when the wide-men were able to get their heads up they were not met by any runners in the channels, meaning they had to go backwards.
Of course, credit must go to Liverpool’s pressing game as the Reds were onto every single first-touch and they did not let their opponents turn. Indeed, this almost resulted in a goal as Eriksen was caught in possession outside of his own box which allowed Salah to pick the ball up, but his weight of pass to Mane was poor resulting in a missed chance right at the end of the half.
Wanyama’s thunderbolt restores parity
Tottenham’s domination in the second-half meant that they deserved something from the game and they got it in the most explosive of ways. Loris Karius came out to punch a cross away that Emre Can could not clear as the ball rolled out to Victor Wanyama, and the midfielder lashed a sublime strike from the edge of the box that flew into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance at all.
It was Wanyama’s first touch of the game as Mauricio Pochettino had brought Dembele off after the Belgian had struggled. The midfielder was not tracked by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which gave the Kenyan the chance to smash home the equaliser which stunned the stadium into silence.
Salah strikes again, but Kane scores with his second spot-kick
As the match wore on, Dele Alli played a lovely pass towards Harry Kane who seemed to be offside, but the ball came to the striker as he took a touch around Karius who did get some contact on the striker with Jonathan Moss then pointing to the spot. Kane stepped up to take the penalty but, with the Tottenham forward stuck on 99 goals, it seemed to play on his mind as he struck his penalty straight down the middle allowing Karius to save it.
The save saw the fans brought back into the game after they had been silenced by Tottenham’s dominance, and then their Egyptian forward really gave them something to cheer. Salah, who seemed offside, gave the ball away in the box but it was not cleared allowing the forward to pick the ball up again as he rode the challenge of Davies before going around Vertonghen and poking the ball over Lloris. Salah’s second goal sent the home fans into ecstasy, but it was short-lived.
With Tottenham pressing for an equaliser, Trippier threw the ball into the box and, after it had bounced, Virgil van Dijk went to clear it but kicked Erik Lamela instead, giving Kane another chance to score from the spot, and at the second time of asking he dispatched his effort into the bottom corner to give Tottenham a well-deserved point.
While Liverpool will have been hugely disappointed to drop two points whilst being aggrieved by the awarding of two penalties, it was a game the home fans will not forget, with an incredible climax to the contest.
Liverpool: Karius 5 – Alexander-Arnold 6, van Dijk 6, Lovren 6.5, Robertson 6 – Can 7, Henderson 6 (Wijnaldum 5), Milner 7 (Matip 5) – Salah 8, Firmino 6.5, Mane 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 5).
Unused subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Ings, Solanke.
Tottenham: Lloris 6 – Trippier 6, Sanchez 6 (Lamela 6), Vertonghen 7, Davies 6 – Dier 5, Dembele 6 (Wanyama 7) – Eriksen 6, Alli 6, Son 7 – Kane 7.
Unused subs: Vorm, Sissoko, Llorente, Aurier, Winks.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
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