Liverpool 1 Coutinho 51'
Tottenham 1 Kane 63'
Following a dispiriting capitulation against Southampton in advance of the international break, Liverpool looked to restore order to their realm while hosting Tottenham Hotspur, in a matchup that has, in recent history, promised goals aplenty. The pre-match tea leaves delivered mixed messages. The hosts had been beaten just once at Anfield over the prior 21 contests against Spurs, but Mauricio Pochettino's side has arguably been one of the more impressive squads in a topsy turvy Premier League season.
Spurs, for their part, will have arrived at Anfield with no shortage of motivation, hoping to sustain pressure on league leaders Leicester City. They comfortably dispatched Bournemouth in their last league contest, while several of their key players went on to impress in international friendlies. Jürgen Klopp, on the other hand, will no doubt have been wary of his players thoughts' lingering on either the disappointment of the recent past or on the specter of Borussia Dortmund looming in the near future.
"It's clear it will be an intense game, if you don't see that from one side, that side will lose," said Klopp before kickoff. From the whistle, the players from both sides did their best to realize Klopp's prediction, launching themselves about with frenzied energy, and the adrenaline no doubt contributed to a few wayward passes in the early stages. The first half was like a shopping mall food court on the first day of summer break: noisy, chaotic, and sloppy but suddenly delicious when you least expected it.
After a back-and-forth series of opening exchanges, which included a grab bag of near-calamitous clearances, half-hearted penalty shouts, simulation efforts and almost-own-goals, Liverpool started to edge the contest. Still, there were good opportunities for both teams. Harry Kane caught Liverpool light at the back on a break, and tried to steer his effort past a backpedaling Dejan Lovren but ended up guiding the ball just wide of Mignolet's goal as well. At the other end, alert play allowed Daniel Sturridge to get behind Spurs' lines, with Adam Lallana in support, but the Liverpool striker launched his shot far too close to the predictably heroic Hugo Lloris.
While the hosts may have closed the first half in ascendancy, Spurs were quicker off the blocks after the restart. The reinvented Dejan Lovren had largely held Kane in check over the first 45 minutes, but Kane's supporting cast, in the form of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, were now probing Liverpool's defence with new menace and intent. Following a desperate series of rearguard pinging and ponging from Liverpool, Sturridge and Coutinho combined brilliantly to slice open the opposition, with Lallana contributing by cleverly drawing his defender. Coutinho made no mistake with his shot, and both Anfield and Leicester City erupted in celebration.
This was not a match for the faint of heart, however, and Spurs came back with a vengeance. A good move from the visitors found Son receiving the ball over the top, with space to unleash a shot from a good position, but the final effort eluded both goalkeeper and the goal. The reprieve was short-lived. A long ball found the increasingly influential Eriksen, who in turn found Kane. The England striker did very well to turn in close quarters and finish past Mignolet.
In keeping with the spirit of this contest, Liverpool were undeterred and pushed on, with Coutinho always at the heart of almost every good from the hosts. Drifting in from the left, the Brazilian tantalizingly lashed the ball mere inches across the face of the Spurs goal, but like a Phillips screwdriver against a slotted screw, it just wouldn't go in (perhaps it was a Philippe screwdriver?).
With less than twenty minutes to go in the match, Sturridge was summoned off the pitch and Divock Origi was sent in the opposite direction. Eriksen and Alli continued to show guile and enterprise against a perceptibly stretched Liverpool back four, leading to more half-comical, half-catastrophic clearances, but to their credit, the hosts held firm. Nacer Chadli, Ryan Mason, Joe Allen and Jordon Ibe turned out to be the final rolls of the dice from the two managers, but none of those substitutions were ultimately decisive. Spurs had a chance in the dying minutes to steal the points from an almost perfectly central direct free kick outside the Liverpool box, but Eriksen could not conjure up more magic.
It was a furious battle, but in the end both sides shared the points. For Spurs, the stalemate would perhaps represent the title dream slipping out of their grasp, while Liverpool could say the same for their faint hopes of a top-four finish. Pending the results of their match against Southampton, the true winners here might be Leicester City. It would be ungenerous for Liverpool supporters to begrudge their opposition a share of the spoils, but given how evenly matched the teams were in their head-to-head contests this season, and bearing in mind the relative disparity in league position, a better question for the Anfield faithful to ask might be: why can't that be us?