Monday, June 17, 2024

Liverpool 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Talking points as Reds produce another last-gasp miracle

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Liverpool probably ruined the last hope Tottenham Hotspur might’ve had of qualifying for next season’s Champions League by beating the North Londoners 4-3 at Anfield on Sunday, in a game that had it all – top football, rookie mistakes, a last-second villain and a last-second hero, and plenty of controversy to boot.

The game

The deadlock was broken less than three minutes in when Trent Alexander-Arnold produced a lovely ball for Curtis Jones and the young midfielder sent it past Spurs auxiliary ‘keeper Fraser Forster. Just two minutes later, Cody Gakpo assisted Luis Diaz for another fine finish to double Liverpool’s lead, and when Mohamed Salah dispatched a 15th-minute penalty after Cristian Romero brought Gakpo down inside the box, the contest seemed settled already and some of the visiting supporters could be seen packing up and leaving the stadium.

However, Harry Kane got on the end of a cross by Ivan Perisic to pull one back for Spurs five minutes before the break, giving Spurs a glimmer of hope for the second half. The game really went into a frenzy in the 77th minute, when Romero made up for conceding the penalty with a great pass in behind for Son Heung-min, and the South Korean charged on goal and made it 3-2.

Spurs substitute Richarlison probably felt he had hit heaven when he equalized in the 92nd, getting on the end of a Son cross to head past Alisson. As he celebrated, he put his finger on his lips, silencing the Liverpool crowd in a manner of a true Evertonian, having played for the Blues of Merseyside for four years. But the final word of the game belonged to another substitute – Liverpool’s Diogo Jota, who took advantage of a Lucas Moura blunder to score the winner in front of the Kop in the final seconds of the alotted stoppage time, and turned Richarlison’s moment of bliss into pure agony.

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The only stat in which Spurs ended on top was the number of shots on target. They had seven, compared to Liverpool’s four, but given the final scoreline, it only highlights the fact that Alisson produced three saves, while Forster conceded every shot that needed saving.

Liverpool had the ball at their feet for 68% of the time. In the opening 30 minutes, they were the only team playing, but Spurs finally fought back from that point on. Having reduced the deficit before halftime, the visitors entered the second period with notable determination, and even though it wavered a bit after the hour-mark and Liverpool started pushing them back again, they fully deserved their second goal.

From that point on, it was pure frenzy as Ryan Mason sent on Richarlison, Moura and Arnaut Danjuma late on in search of an equalizer, and though they found it eventually, Moura’s mistake undid all the hard work and the points remained on Merseyside. It should, however, be said that the mistake still left Jota with a lot to do, and the Liverpool forward showed incredible composure in such a moment to hit the bottom corner from a relatively tight angle.

Controversies

Unfortunately, Paul Tierney and his team of officials made it all about themselves again, just as they did when Arsenal came to Anfield in early April.

This time, Tierney failed to award even a four for a horror tackle by Spurs midfielder Oliver Skipp on Luis Diaz in the first half, and David Coote, the main man in the VAR room, remained silent. It was a foul worthy of a red card as Skipp obviously had no intention of playing the ball and went solely for Diaz’s ankle, and the fact that both Tierney and Coote missed it is, to put it mildly, inexplicable.

The PGMOL has apologized for such mistakes on numerous previous occasions this season, but given what happened later in this game and in its immediate aftermath, they obviously felt an urge to protect their man, regardless of the fact that most of it was his own fault.

In the 81st minute, Skipp was again involved in a controversial moment, though this time as the victim as he went for the ball with his head at the same time as Jota, who went with his foot raised high. Jota got the ball, but he also got Skipp’s forehead. There was no malice, but there certainly was recklessness in what the Portugal international did, and Tierney’s decision to book him, rather than send him straight off, was arguably the correct one, even if it did draw plenty of criticism from pundits and the press alike – much more than the incident in the first half.

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During the moments preceding Richarlison’s equalizer, Mohamed Salah was deemed by Tierney to have committed a foul on Ben Davies, even though Davies had been pulling Salah for a while before the Egyptian shrugged him off and caught his face. The decision to award a free-kick to Spurs sent Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp into an angry outburst, and when Jota scored the winning goal, the German tactician let his passion get the better of him and celebrated rather inappropriately in the face of the fourth official. Tierney was called to react, and there was a verbal exchange between him and Klopp, and as Klopp reacted angrily again at what Tierney had said, the referee whipped out a yellow card.

Speaking to the press after the match, Klopp said that what Tierney had told him was completely unacceptable, a claim dismissed later by the PGMOL who said they had reviewed the audio recording of the incident and concluded that the official had done nothing wrong.

But the audio recording has not been released to the public, and according to several journalists, the FA are monitoring the situation with a view of possible punishment for the Liverpool manager.

This was clearly another case of the Premier League referees closing ranks around Tierney and his blunders, and another situation that strengthens the belief that the officiating in the English top flight is on a shockingly low level.

Further more, this was the third time in Liverpool’s last five home league matches where Tierney was in charge, and one has to wonder why the PGMOL continue to name the man from the Greater Manchester area to officiate games at Anfield, when controversies arise on almost every occasion he’s there.

Whatever their reasons may be, the conclusion that unwanted incidents marred yet another fantastic game of football draws itself.

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Feeble top-four hopes

The victory against Spurs has left Liverpool in the top-four race, at least for while, but their chances of overtaking any team still above them in the league table remain extremely feeble. As things stand, they are fifth with 56 points to their name, seven less than Manchester United in fourth, and nine less than Newcastle in third, with five games left to play and United having a game in hand on both rivals.

As for Spurs, their chance of playing in the Champions League are even slimmer, sitting sixth with 54 points and only four games left to play. Their place even in the Europa League next season is questionable.

Both teams are still under threat from Brighton and Hove Albion, whose fantastic season has put them in eighth place with 52 points, but with two games in hand on Liverpool, three on Spurs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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