Late drama turns Anfield encounter with Tottenham Hotspur into another Premier League classic…
For the second home league match in succession Liverpool were involved in an epic clash on Sunday that will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.
Unlike three weeks ago though, when the Merseysiders claimed all three points against champions-elect Manchester City, they had to be content with a point on this occasion against a Tottenham Hotspur side who both missed and scored a penalty in a phenomenal finale.
The two teams went into the match buoyed by midweek wins and a victory for the Londoners would have seen them overtake the hosts in an increasingly tight race for the three Champions League qualifying spots behind City.
With so much to play for the stakes were high but any concerns that the situation could lead to a cagey encounter were ended inside three minutes when the ball broke fortuitously to Mohamed Salah and the in-form attacker calmly slotted past Hugo Lloris.
The men in red could have extended their lead in the 11th minute after great work down the left touchline by Sadio Mané but the Senegalese speedster’s pull-back was poor with Roberto Firmino lurking.
Spurs were having decent spells of possession and territory but the hosts were defending brilliantly, in addition to looking the more dangerous going forward; a deflected James Milner effort going agonisingly close in the 18th minute.
Firmino glanced a brilliant Trent Alexander-Arnold cross wide a couple of minutes later as Liverpool began to overrun and repeatedly force errors within Spurs’ midfield.
A couple of slack moments at the back almost gifted the visitors an opportunity but for the most part Jürgen Klopp‘s side were proving too quick and too keen for the visitors.
Virgil van Dijk, restored to the line-up at the expense of Joël Matip, tested Lloris before the interval and Mané would have been in but for an over-hit Salah through-ball, while at the other end Loris Karius had to get down well to stop a Mousa Dembélé effort from distance.
Tottenham were much improved after the break; finding space in good areas, stretching the play and passing the ball around crisply.
Karius remained largely untroubled though until shortly before the hour mark when Son advanced on goal and the German keeper had to react quickly to narrow the angle and beat the ball away.
An equaliser had looked inevitable for a period but, aided by the introduction of Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the hosts appeared to have wrestled back a semblance of control as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
It was short lived as a frantic, end-to-end climax ensued with players beginning to tire and Mauricio Pochettino rolling the dice with some positive alterations.
The goal Spurs had deserved finally arrived in the 80th minute and it was an absolute stunner as Victor Wanyama, shortly after replacing Dembélé, fired into the top corner following a Karius punch.
Deflated by conceding, Liverpool began to drop increasingly deep in the closing stages and a contentious penalty decision looked set to gift the visitors a winner.
Kane looked offside, as well as going down theatrically when met by an advancing Karius, so justice was seemingly done when the striker fired the resulting spot-kick straight at the keeper.
Spurred on by their reprieve, Klopp’s men suddenly went back on the front foot and retook the lead in stoppage time when Salah brilliantly wriggled free from three players and fired home to send Anfield delirious.
Amazingly that wasn’t the end of a breathless encounter though as Spurs were awarded another contentious penalty when the assistant flagged for a foul by van Dijk on Érik Lamela that referee Jonathan Moss had initially decided to ignore.
Closer inspection suggested the assistant was probably correct but it didn’t make the award any more palatable for the majority inside the stadium and, once the commotion had finally died down, Kane made amends for his earlier penalty miss to rescue a point and move himself on to 100 Premier League goals, the second fastest player to reach the landmark.
On the balance of play a draw was probably fair but given how long the Reds had held the lead and the way both penalty decisions were handled left a sour taste in the mouth for those of a Liverpool persuasion.
Klopp, speaking at his post-match press conference, tried to make sense of the madness, without getting himself into too much trouble with the authorities.
“The game was a very intense game,” analysed the German. “Two really good sides with real challenges.
“First half, a lot of moments when it could have been a free-kick but the ref said today, ‘OK, that’s the game, that’s allowed’, but the softest touch in the whole game decides the game. It’s not a penalty, it’s a situation.
“I heard Lamela was even offside in the situation with one leg. [He was] running into Virgil van Dijk, Virgil sees him in the last moment and stops the movement but still touches him, Lamela is already on the way down. The ref says ‘keep on going’, the linesman makes the decision – that’s how it is, that’s how everyone saw.
“The first penalty was one of the clearest offside situations I have seen so far. In the moment when the ball left the foot of the Tottenham player, Harry Kane is offside and this situation never changed. Nobody touched it apart from Dejan Lovren, [so] my defence put him offside, that is good defending. I don’t know what they [match officials] discussed, but it’s not to change.
“Over all of the 90 minutes, yes Tottenham had more possession but mainly in build-up in their own half. We had more possession in the opposite half. That was the game; they have their playing build-up, they have their wide formation. We wanted to press these situations, which is what we did especially in the first half in a fantastic way.
“We caused them a lot of problems, we scored an early goal and had much fantastic situations, crosses from everywhere and put them under pressure. But Tottenham are a good side – a really good side – so they had their moments in their first half and then especially in the second half.
“We could have done better in the second half for sure, but it was very intense… In the end it was clear it would be a close result, so that’s what we got – a draw and we have accept it.”
The result means Liverpool retain a two-point cushion over Spurs but they will drop from third to fourth if Chelsea win at Watford on Monday night.
Next up for the Merseysiders is a trip to Southampton next Sunday.
So that’s what both we and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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