Liverpool 2 Salah, 3’ & 90+1’
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Wanyama 80’, Kane (Pen) 90+3’
In a match that was heralded as being of immense consequence to the contestants, we came away having decided not a whole a lot. Liverpool remain third in the table for now, but may yet slip to fourth pending the result of Chelsea’s visit to Watford. Spurs, for their part, are still outside the Champions League spots, but will derive some solace from not slipping farther in the race for top four.
The result doesn’t, however, quite tell the entire story. There will no doubt me much electronic ink spilled over how we got to 2-2 at the final whistle, and while there was a lot to talk about in these ninety odd minutes, it’s questionable whether there’s much worth saying in the aftermath of this match.
There were few surprises in the lineup named by Jürgen Klopp to start this match, other than perhaps the sight of James Milner in the midfield rather than Georginio Wijnaldum. From here on out, the front trio of Salah, Firmino, and Mané that took to the pitch here will likely see as much playing time as it can handle, barring injury and fatigue. Elsewhere, Dejan Lovren was selected to play alongside Virgil van Dijk, while Andy Robertson further cements his grip on the starting left back spot.
Spurs came to Anfield on a high, have thoroughly outclassed José Mourinho’s Manchester United in midweek and declared their intent in the final stretch of the season. On that occasion, Mauricio Pochettino’s side stunned their opponent seconds after kickoff, but found themselves in the awkward position of going behind here after just three minutes.
As the Spurs defence closed in around Firmino, the ball caromed around dangerously before a back pass from Dier looked to have ended the danger. Not so, for lurking unsighted was Salah, who was not put clean through on goal with only Lloris to beat. The Egyptian did so, slotting confidently past the keeper to give the hosts a precious early lead.
Spurs settled quickly after going behind, and began to exert some pressure of their own. Still, the visitors were off the rhythm, and failed to distress Lovren or Van Dijk to any significant degree, while Alexander-Arnold and Robertson repeatedly found time and space to sally forward. In the middle of the park, the midfield trio resumed the high intensity pressing that served them so well against Manchester City, and while they did not force Spurs into more calamitous errors, they did ensure that the visitors didn’t get too comfortable.
Up front, there were opportunities to punish Spurs as Pochettino’s side committed numbers forward. Unlike during the match against City, however, the touch and decisionmaking from Liverpool on the counterattack let them down far too often during the first half. There were chances even for Van Dijk, off set pieces, but Lloris was up to the task and there was no dramatic header from the Dutchman on this occasion.
It was a somewhat entertaining, if choppy, first half, and the question was whether we would see more of the same in the second. Liverpool still looked eager to capitalize on slack possession, but once again things just didn’t come off for them in the final third of the pitch. Complicating matters for the hosts: Spurs were beginning to find their rhythm, thanks to the increasing visible and mobile Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
Whether it was due to fatigue or composition, Liverpool’s midfield looked increasing porous as the second half progressed, much to consternation of supporters. Thankfully, Spurs also struggled to find a way past a no-nonsense performance from Van Dijk and Lovren, as well as a much improved Loris Karius. The German keeper arguably had his best match for Liverpool this season, denying Spurs on multiple occasions.
It all looked a bit precarious, however, and despite the manager’s efforts to shore things up by bringing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gini Wijnaldum in the 64th minute, and Joel Matip not long after, the teams were soon on level terms. Even with the introduction of three at the back, Spurs were still able to find Eriksen and Alli in space time and again, and the breakthrough was just a matter of time.
Played in by Alli, Son looked to have a clear run at goal, but his shot was blocked by a lunging Karius. Emre Can failed to connect in his attempt to clear the rebound, which fell to a grateful Victor Wanyama. The ball came off Wanyama’s foot at such velocity that Karius likely didn’t have time to see it, much less make an attempt at a save. It was just about deserved given the run of play.
If things had ended there, it would arguable have been a fair result, but there was more drama to come. First, Spurs were awarded a penalty in somewhat head-scratching circumstances. Alli found the Harry Kane, who was in an offside position, and when the striker surged forward, out rushed Karius, who looked to make very little contact, if any. As for why the offside wasn’t called in the first place, the only plausible reason was that the ball came off Lovren before reaching Kane, but even this wasn’t totally clear.
Anfield erupted in joy, however when Karius stopped a poor penalty effort from Kane. That joy was multiplied shortly after, when Salah pulled a goal out of seemingly nowhere, dancing and weaving past a quartet of defenders in the box before lifting the ball over Lloris. It was shaping up to be another dramatic victory.
It wasn’t to be. In seemingly the last seconds of the match, Van Dijk was adjudged to have kicked Lamela in the box, despite replays showing that the defender looked to have pulled out of the challenge such that any contact would have been incidental. Jon Moss was content to allow play to continue, until his assistant alerted the referee to what he believed was a foul. After some discussion, Moss pointed to the spot, eliciting a chorus of disapproval. Kane made no mistake the second time.
Points shared, and the battle for a top four spot continues.