Liverpool 2 Sturridge 9', 64'
Tottenham 1 Janssen 76' (PEN)
After a continually chaotic and occassionally sloppy fixture a young Liverpool side eventually did enough to knock an even younger Spurs team out of the EFL cup.
Shooting down any misguided ideas that he won't rotate and prioritise, Jürgen Klopp rang the changes for Tuesday night's League Cup faceoff with Tottenham, swapping his entire XI from the weekend's win over West Bromwich. Simon Mignolet was reinstated between the sticks, while a senior debut was handed to right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who lined up alongside Lucas Leiva, Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno in the backline. A midfield diamond featured Kevin Stewart as the anchor, Georginio Wijnaldum and Ovie Ejaria as the shuttlers, and Marko Grujic as the point. Divock Origi partnered Daniel Sturridge up front.
A back-and-forth opening to proceedings saw two early Reds counters end in nothing, as a four-on-four counter fizzed out at Sturridge's feet, and a second break lead to a Stewart shot well over. Third time was the charm, however, and the high press forced a mistake from Georges N'Koudou. Grujic snapped the ball and his attempted shot turned into a low cross for a predatory Sturridge, who snuck in front of Michel Vorm to poke the ball home.
Minutes later, Sturridge had a swerving effort from twenty yards fisted over, before a driving run and poked pass from Origi set the former Chelsea man up all alone with the Spurs keeper, but this time, his right-footed effort was much too weak and easily collected.
On twenty minutes, Vincent Janssen headed over from a Spurs set piece, as the game became more and more jumbled. Alexander-Arnold was rightly booked for a late and rash challenge halfway through the frame, and a clash of heads saw Grujic and Cameron Carter-Vickers walked off the pitch and subjected to a concussion protocol, which they evidently passed. A Mignolet save from a Janssen shot on the half hour and a left-footed effort hooked wide by Grujic ten minutes later was all the half had left to offer.
After a cautious opening to the second half, the Reds took command of proceedings. A glorious through ball from Lucas released Origi down the right channel, and the Belgian's inch-perfect cross was delivered at Sturridge's feet five yards out. With the goal gaping, the England man was unable to muster a finish, bouncing the ball off his plant leg. Minutes later, Wijnaldum found that man Sturridge again, but the latter was unable to reach the ball after a filthy first-touch nutmeg on Carter-Vickers, largely due to the defender impeding his passage.
The Liverpool dominance continued, and a Sturridge cutback was cut out inches from an eager Wijnaldum before the Dutchman could take his shot. Origi delivered a raking strike at the top corner from 20-odd yards, but Vorm narrowly touched it over the bar. A goal was in the air, and it came on sixty-four minutes. Origi held the ball up and laid it back for Wijnaldum, who with his first touch played a perfect through ball into a streaking Sturridge. This time there was no mistake, and the ball was coolly rolled under Vorm in the Spurs goal.
Subs were made soon after, as Nathaniel Clyne came on for Alexander-Arnold, and Danny Ings got his third appearance under Klopp, replacing Origi. Ings was immediately played in by Daniel Sturridge, but took his first touch in the wrong direction and the chance petered out. Wijnaldum tossed his name in the free-kick hat soon after, as he stung Vorm's gloves with a dipping effort from 20 yards out.
Fifteen minutes from time, the visitors were handed a lifeline, and it was Lucas and the referee who conspired to make it happen. The Brazilian midfielder-cum-defender had Erik Lamela facing the wrong way at the edge of the area, but insisted on poking at the Argentinian's ankles. Lamela went down to the mosquito bites and was handed the most Spanish of penalties. Janssen converted from the spot, and Tottenham were suddenly back in the game.
The match, which had been chaotic before, now turned frantic, and dangerous situations occurred on both ends of the pitch on nearly every possession. Lamela appealed for another penalty. Sturridge had a deflected shot off the bar. Mignolet saved and held a Wanyama effort from a narrow angle, before smothering the ball at the feet of young striker Shayon Harrison. Daniel Sturridge had a shot saved at the near post. Danny Ings hammered a volley off the hands of Vorm when clean through on goal.
No-one found themselves quite able to bury their chance, however, and Liverpool took home a deserved win in the end.
Similar to the teams' meeting at White Hart Lane two months ago, the game was a seesaw affair in which the Reds edged play and chances by enough to deserve a win, without utterly dominating their opponent. A twenty-minute spell of superiority to start the second half should've seen them decisively take the game away from the visitors, but as chances went begging, it was proven once again that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead when you're Liverpool.
Although he should've scored five, Daniel Sturridge will rightly take home man of the match honours, as he looked sharp throughout the night, gliding effortlessly into pockets of space created by the movement around him. Credit goes to Origi as well, who set up two of Sturridge's best chances, and did a great deal of dirty work, pressing, dueling, holding up play and softening up defenders. Young guns Alexander-Arnold and Ejaria were tremendously encouraging in their performances, looking every bit like the new generation of footballers coming up through the Liverpool ranks will possess a combination of athletic grace, technical mastery and game intelligence. Penalty aside, Lucas was near flawless at the back, while Simon Mignolet made a number of solid saves.
On to the next one, as the entirety of Klopp’s favourite eleven will have had a full week's rest ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace, a bogey team in recent years, and one that has beaten the Reds in three of their past five meetings.