After the initial run of games where Liverpool achieved brilliant results, topping the table after four rounds, the international break dampened the spirits of club-football lovers somewhat. But now that’s over, the Premier League is back and the Reds traveled to London to face Spurs at Wembley on Saturday, September 15.
There’s practically nothing we didn’t know in terms of squad availability for Jurgen Klopp for this game. Dejan Lovren and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the long-term absentees while Adam Lallana pulled out of international duty due to injury and is not expected back until the week after next.
The team chosen to try and get revenge for last season’s defeat in this fixture was this:
On other hand, Mauricio Pochettino was unable to count on Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko, while Son Heung-min had only come back from international duty and started on the bench.
The First Half
After less than a minute Firmino and Mane found a way to put the ball in the net but the goal by the Senegalese was rightly disallowed for offside.
Liverpool seemed to have caught their hosts on the hop as they dominated the proceedings for a while. The first time Spurs had a moment of note came in the 9th minute when Trippier whipped in a cross from a free-kick which caught Alderweireld offside.
Spurs really took a while to get into their stride, and not until they switched to a more direct approach, launching long passes for Kane to chase did they get far upfield. There were a few moments when the Reds’ defence seemed like it lacked a bit of communication but they dealt with anything that came their way nonetheless.
Upfront, Klopp’s men still looked quite capable of troubling Spurs’ defensive system but passing was once again a bit off-beat.
As the game progressed, some expectedly tough battles were developing on the pitch. Dier vs Keita, Wijnaldum vs Dembele, Roberton vs Trippier, Kane vs van Dijk, Mane vs Alderweireld.
In the 22nd minute, a howling mistake from Dier gave Salah a fantastic chance to put the Reds upfront as his back-pass missed its target and the Egyptian intercepted it. He ran past Alderweireld and blasted a shot on target, but Vorm read his mind and saved it. Two minutes later Salah found Firmino in the box but Alderweireld dispossessed the Brazilian with a great piece of defending.
Then Spurs went forward, and with some nice work by Dier, Eriksen and Moura, Kane found himself in a good chance but it was now Trent’s turn to display some great defending, and in the aftermath Keita blocked a potentially dangerous cross from Eriksen.
Minute 27 was passing when referee Michael Oliver gave a free-kick to Spurs for Mane’s push on the back of Eriksen some 20 yards out. The Dane took it himself but Alisson was up for it.
But Spurs were now getting better. Employing quick passing they got past Liverpool’s press several times and created dangerous moments. Also, their movement in the middle of the park was notably better as they constantly had a shirt more near the ball.
On the other hand, Mane had a good chance to run at Trippier inside the box in the 35th minute, but the England wing-back obstructed him enough for his shot to be quite tame for Vorm. Another burst by Mane made the Spurs players a bit nervous and their control wavered for a moment.
They gave away a nervy corner in the 39th minute and after van Dijk and Vertonghen tussled for the ball, Vorm and Dier embarrassed themselves a bit before Wijnaldum headed goalwards. Vorm pushed it out, but Oliver stopped the play and pointed to the centre. It had crossed the line, and Wijnaldum got his first away goal since moving to the Premier League in 2015.
The home team shook themselves awake straight away and tried to regain control, but Liverpool were now calm and composed. There was no hurry for the Reds, some pressure seemed to have been taken off their shoulders. They sat a little deeper and looked to hit on a counterattack, which they almost did a couple of times. But there were no real excitements between the opening goal and the halftime break.
The Second Half
Spurs got into the second period decisively, pushing forward right from the start. Gomez almost made it easy for them to put the score level less than two minutes in as he lost the ball to Moura in his own half. Luckily, van Dijk was there to help and save the day.
The game continued to look lively as Spurs returned the favor and Salah enabled Mane to turn and shoot from the penalty spot, but Vorm saved it. Two minutes later Moura hit the post at the other end.
But it was Liverpool who would win this quick fire-exchange. After 53 minutes, Robertson sent a fabulous parallel down the left flank for Mane who cut into the box with unexpected ease, right to the edge of six yards from where he squared it for the incoming Firmino. Vertonghen and Vorm made a mess of their respective attempts to intercept and Firmino eventually slammed it in from the very line.
Spurs almost pulled one back as Trippier beat the back-tracking Firmino on the flank and whipped in a sharp cross to the near post for Kane, but Alisson was alert.
With an hour gone, Pochettino tried to spice things up by replacing Dembele with Erik Lamela.
Two minutes later the Reds broke on the counter attack and found themselves in a three-on-two situation. Mane was pulling it through the middle with Keita on his left and Salah on his right, and he eventually opted for the Guinean who shot straight at Vorm. It was a moment when the game really should have been put to bed.
Instead, Spurs came close again a minute later when Trippier lobbed a pass for Dembele down the right, the Belgian nicely avoided offside and squared it for Eriksen. Eriksen’s shot was going wide and Kane tried to flick it goalwards, but failed to redirect it on target.
As the game entered its final quarter, the tension was rising. Lamela was up to his old tricks again, trying to provoke a reaction and he almost got one from Mane, but the referee applied no action. It was followed by Vertonghen hitting Firmino across the face and the Liverpool striker needing medical attention, but there were still no bookings.
With 18 minutes remaining, Son came on for Winks.
Sixty seconds later, Wijnaldum handled the ball some 30 yards from the goal, the referee gave it and Jordan Henderson came on for Firmino. Lamela took the free-kick and hit the wall.
In the 80th minute Milner took advantage of a poor pass by Spurs and pulled a counterattack forward. He employed Salah who cut inside and tried to find the far corner, Vorm parried it and Keita couldn’t hit the target from the rebound. Straight after Wijnaldum set up Mane for a shot from the edge of the box but it went straight at Vorm.
Three minutes later, Daniel Sturridge came on for Keita, and Victor Wanyama replaced Dier.
Spurs were now constantly going forward in numbers and Liverpool were finding it rather easy to cut through them and threaten. Salah wasted a few good moments before Lamela almost punished him at the other end five minutes from time.
In the final minute of the 90, Klopp made his usual move to increase aerial power in his team and replaced Trent with Joel Matip.
Liverpool were still looking the more dangerous team and Mane ruined a wonderfully devised move by Salah, who turned around Eriksen and went past Rose before squaring it for the incoming Wijnaldum. Mane was unaware of the Dutchman’s run and took the ball for himself, only to send it sky-high.
Then Lamela and Rose combined nicely and the left back almost scored, earning a corner. The corner was poorly defended and the ball came through to Lamela on the far post who controlled it well and slammed past Alisson. There was just over three minutes to go.
A minute later van Dijk conceded a free-kick far and wide on the right. Trippier sent it in but Liverpool defended well. Then it was Son’s turn to seriously threaten as he twisted and turned inside the box, but Mane and van Dijk stopped him with a joint effort and it was all over.
Just like against Leicester two weeks earlier, it was a needlessly nervy finish for the Reds. It really feels strange to be saying this, but they need to rediscover their sharpness upfront and put games to bed when presented with a chance. On this occasion, there were plenty of those.
As a side-note, it’s hard to understand how the game ended without any cards being given. Vertonghen stopped two counterattacks with cynical fouls not even looking at the player AND hit Firmino across the face, Wanyama deliberately tripped Sturridge from behind just as Lamela needlessly mowed down Milner, screamed at the linesman and kicked the ball away.
Be that as it may, Liverpool continue their fantastic Premier League run this season with their fifth straight victory.
Next up – the Champions League and Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, before welcoming Southampton.
We Walk On.