SATURDAY 11TH FEBRUARY, 2017
LIVERPOOL 2(2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: A Nunn, S Child
Fourth official: M Jones
Liverpool (4-3-3):- Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lucas (sub Klavan, 82), Milner; Lallana, Henderson (Capt.), Wijnaldum; Mane (sub Alexander-Arnold, 90+2), Firmino, Coutinho (sub Can, 77)
Subs not used:- Karius; Moreno; Origi, Sturridge
Booked:- Henderson (foul on Alli), Matip (foul on Eriksen), Milner (foul on Kane)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Wanyama, Dembele (sub Sissoko, 77); Eriksen (sub Winks, 68), Alli, Son (sub Janssen, 82); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer; Nkoudou
Booked:- Son (foul on Firmino), Kane (foul on Clyne), Winks (foul on Milner), Dier (dissent after foul on Can), Alderweireld (foul on Firmino)
Liverpool play the high press. Spurs fold.
Spurs had travelled to Anfield surely in a confident mood after a run of 11 games unbeaten in all competitions, whilst Liverpool had yet to win a Premier League game so far this calendar year in five attempts. They had however held title favourites (even more so after today) Chelsea to a draw, and perhaps therein lay a warning for Spurs of the real threat they faced. The fact is that this was a must win game for Jurgen Kloppís team, and they played with every ounce of determination, desire, energy and not a little skill which made them conquerors of Spurs before even 20 minutes had passed, thanks to Sadio Maneís two goals in two minutes. Spurs had surely left any vestige of confidence behind in the dressing room. Without doubt, this was the worst Spurs performance I have seen this season, and there is hardly a good word to be said about any player.
The Spurs team was unchanged from that which beat Middlesbrough last Saturday tea-time. One difference I noted was the fact that Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier switched positions from last week, with Alderweireld in his usual right side spot. Perhaps it was this change which exposed Spursí weaknesses most with both Dier and Davies having nightmare games. Spurs showed more than ever today how much they miss the strength and reliability of Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose. Another possible failing for Spurs (and this was surely down to the manager) was the choice of playing 4-2-3-1 when in so many of their crunch games this season they have opted for three at the back and a four-man midfield with two wing-backs.
The fact is that Spurs were almost penned in their own half in the early stages with the home side rampant. Spurs were on the back foot, but in those initial stages they did defend stoutly. Kyle Walker made an important interception when Coutinho received the ball at the back post after a ball from the right. Alderweireld deflected a Firmino cross from the right. Ben Davies seemed to get a shove in the back when he conceded the next corner, but Spurs were getting nothing out of the referee today. Mr. Taylor missed a Liverpool handball in midfield, but Spurs did manage a breakaway attack with Kyle Walker feeding Eriksen, whose shot was high.
More stout defending was required by Spurs as Mr. Taylor missed another handball in the middle. Liverpool always seemed to be attacking in numbers and overwhelmed Spurs players in numbers everywhere on the pitch. They also found space, especially on the Spurs flanks. Maneís first goal came when Toby Alderweireld (of all people) was caught out too near the half-way line allowing Wijnaldum to send Mane away, and allowing Mane to pick his spot to beat the unprotected Hugo Lloris. Two minutes later it was 2-0, and Mane again the scorer, after Hugo had saved from both Lallana and Firmino at close range. It was too much to ask of the Spurs goalkeeper to save for a third time. Mane was sorely missed by Liverpool when recently on The African Cup of Nations tournament, but he certainly announced his presence today.
Davies could not keep up with Mane when he hit a shot which was deflected outside the post for a corner, after which Mane forced a save from Lloris with a dive to his left. It was one way traffic at this stage, and Lallana hit a shot high over the target. Son had a decent chance after Daviesí pass, inside the area on the left, but this was saved. After a Spurs cross from the left Dele Alli headed over. Mane had the beating of Davies, but thankfully not of Dier after Coutinho had sent him away. Then there was panic as Firmino closed down Lloris and nearly got a rebound goal, but Lloris managed to clear. Lloris then held a shot by Coutinho who was found in space once again at the back of goal.
At the other end, Harry Kane found Son with a header, but Son was fouled just outside the box. Eriksen took the free kick which did land on the net above the goal. In the latter stages of the half, Lloris held a shot by Nathan Clyne, and after a Liverpool corner Lucas headed over. Lucas had only been selected because Lovren had not passed his late fitness test, but Spurs didnít test the replacement enough anyway.
The second half became a more scrappy affair with no less than seven additional bookings after Son had been booked in the first half. You know itís a bad day for Spurs when Toby Alderweireld gets booked and his late desperate foul on Firmino was his first yellow card for nearly a full year. It was Liverpool players who got the early second half bookings though with Henderson booked for a foul on Dele Alli, and Matip shown yellow for halting Eriksen. Eriksen hit a free kick on 55 minutes, and Harry Kane hit the post with his shot, but he was offside.
The mostly ineffective Eriksen was replaced by Harry Winks, and to be honest, Winks hardly put a foot wrong. After a Spurs free kick and a cross by Son, Toby Alderweireldís header was deflected into the hands of Mignolet. Winks was booked for a foul on Milner and from Milnerís free kick Matipís header was held by Lloris.
Pochettino also used substitutes Sissoko and Janssen, but neither team seriously threatened goal in the latter stages. Liverpool had used much of their energy in the first half, and Spurs just didnít seem to have much idea or ability. They certainly did not look anything like title contenders, and whilst Chelsea can race further ahead with a win at Burnley tomorrow, the fact that Liverpool and Manchester United won today means that the five teams behind the leaders have a tough fight for the three remaining top four places. At least todayís game was on paper our toughest away test for the remainder of the season.
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