My grateful thanks go to Declan Mulcahy, who very kindly prepared this excellent match report:-
Sunday 19 December 2021, 4:30pm
Tottenham Hotspur (1) 2 Liverpool (1) 2
Tottenham Hotspur (5-3-2):
1 H Lloris (c); 12 Emerson Royal, 6 D Sanchez, 15 E Dier; 33 B Davies, 19 R Sessegnon (3 S Reguilon 86); 28 T Ndombele (29 O Skipp 64), 8 H Winks,; 20 D Alli (27 Lucas Moura 81); 9 H Kane, 7 H-M Son
Subs Not Used: 40 B Austin, 2 M Doherty, 15 J Rodon, 25 J Tanganga, 18 G Lo Celso, 23 S Bergwijn
Booked: Kane (20 foul on Robertson), Emerson Royal (28 foul on Mane), Winks (47 foul on Jota), Davies (58 foul on Salah)
Liverpool (4-3-3): Jurgen Klopp
1 Alisson; 66 T Alexander-Arnold, 32 J Matip, 5 I Konate, 26 A Robertson; 8 N Keita, 80 T Morton (9 R Firmino 60), 7 J Milner (c); 11 M Salah, 20 D Jota (12 J Gomez 90+2), 10 S Mane (21 K Tsimikas 82)
Subs Not Used: 62 C Kelleher, 76 N Williams, 78 J Quansah, 15 A Oxlade-Chamberlain, 49 K Gordon, 18 T Minamino
Booked: Morton (23 foul on Winks), Klopp (39 Liverpool manager for dissent), Keita (84 dissent), Konate (85 foul on Winks), Tsimikas (90+5 time wasting)
Sent Off: Robertson (77 serious foul play, foul on Emerson Royal)
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Attendance: 45,421
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Dan Cook
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan
Spurs give the gift of hope for Christmas
This encounter was one of the best games in the Premier League season so far. It had just about everything. Two teams both wanting to win and playing physically robust football. There was a red card. Each team led at one point. The pace never let up. A draw was a fair result at the end of the match.
There was quite a contrast in how the two teams came into the game.
Since the weekend of 4/5 December Liverpool had played a Champions League match and two Premier League game fielding strong teams and winning all three games.
Tottenham meanwhile had not played since beating Norwich City 3-0 on 5 December. In the interim they had experienced a Covid outbreak which involved at least eight members of the first team squad and five of the coaching staff. So there had been considerable disruption and many players had missed training during this period. On this basis a fighting draw against one of the two in-form teams at the top of the Premier League table was a highly creditable result.
Hojbjerg was missing from the Spurs team for the first Premier League game since he joined the club. Reguilon, Skipp and Lucas Moura were on the substitutes bench and presumably not considered fit enough to play the entire 90 minutes. Romero remains a long-term absentee. This created opportunities for Sessegnon, Ndombele, Winks and Alli to start the match and it is nice to record that all four in varying degrees took the opportunity to make an impression.
Liverpool were missing van Dijk, Jones and Fabinho as a result of covid tests, Henderson because of a cold and also Thiago. They had a reasonably strong starting XI but had some youngsters on the bench such as Williams, Quansah and Gordon. In addition the nineteen year-old Tyler Morton started the game.
Liverpool won the toss and Spurs played towards the south end in the first half. The Reds had a couple of opportunities in the first two minutes with Robertson heading wide and Milner testing Lloris with a shot. Alexander-Arnold also brought Lloris into action with a shot from outside the box early in the game.
It wasn’t all one way though. Winks with the first of a number of important turnovers started a movement which saw a Son shot from the edge of the box blocked. Then Ndombele set up Emerson Royal on the right. He crossed the ball into the box but Kane’s shot was blocked by Konate.
After another Winks turnover Ndombele played a slide rule pass to Kane who steered the ball to the left of Alisson and into the net. It was only Kane’s second goal of the Premier League season and his first at home.
Spurs could have increased their lead a couple of minutes later. Kane on the right and Son broke free. Kane teed up the ball for Son on the left but it bounced a little awkwardly and Son shot wide.
The chances were coming rapidly at this point. Mane had the ball in the Spurs box but Sanchez made a goal saving tackle. Then Son was clear at the Liverpool end but Alisson made a diving save to prevent him from scoring.
Around the 20th minute Robertson had the ball in the Liverpool half. Kane attempted a sliding tackle. He didn’t get the ball but brought Robertson down fairly heavily. Referee Tierney immediately gave Kane a yellow card and the VAR officials didn’t suggest that Tierney should view the incident on the pitch side monitor.
Then there were a couple of other bookings, the Liverpool youngster Morton followed by Emerson Royal who was a trifle unlucky.
Spurs best opportunity came around the half hour mark. Son put Alli clear in the box. He should have scored with a shot towards the right of the goal but Alisson made a diving save. Alli is perhaps a little rusty not having played a lot of Premier League football this season.
Five minutes later Robertson crossed the ball from the left. Jota hung nicely in the air to head the ball home. It is the first time he has scored ten goals in a Premier League season.
Soon afterward Emerson Royal tackled Jota in the box and the latter went down. The Liverpool players appealed for a penalty. Play continued while VAR reviewed the incident. They decided there was no case to answer. Jurgen Klopp remonstrated verbally and was booked for his pains.
Alexander-Arnold had a shot well-saved by Lloris with his legs. In time added on at the end of the first half a nice pass by Winks just failed to connect with Son in the box and Sessegnon set up Kane but Morton blocked his effort.
Prior to the restart in the common area beneath the stands Jurgen Klopp could be seen talking to referee Paul Tierney probably about the penalty he felt Liverpool should have been awarded.
The second half commenced with the same intensity as the first. Within two minutes Winks had been booked for a foul on Jota and from the resultant free kick Jota headed narrowly over. Then Ndombele sent Emerson down the right but having passed to Kane the latter’s effort was blocked.
Ten minutes into the half Kane had a couple of good opportunities. Dier played a lovely through pass to Alli on the left of the box. He set up Kane but Alisson went to ground to save his shot. From the resulting corner the ball flicked across the box to Kane at the far corner of the goal. It was a clear opportunity but Kane headed over.
Around the midway point of the half there were a couple of crucial incidents. Sanchez set up Alli in the Liverpool box. He lost control of the ball and went over. The penalty appeal by the Spurs players was rightfully dismissed.
While this was happening Liverpool counter-attacked. After good work by Salah, Mane crossed towards the left of the goal and Robertson scored with a stooping header. A replay showed that the ball had touched Salah’s hand. It was accidental. It would have been disallowed last season but under the revised guidelines the goal was awarded.
Liverpool’s lead only lasted for five minutes. Winks played a ball into the Liverpool box. Alisson failed to hold it and Son immediately grasped the opportunity running clear of him and scoring with a diagonal shot to the right corner. Alisson is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League but he is prone to the occasional howler. All credit to Son for being well-positioned and for keeping a cool head in putting the ball in the net.
Eight minutes after giving Liverpool the lead Robertson changed from hero to villain. He went in heavily on Emerson close to the touchline in the Spurs half. There was a momentary gasp, Emerson went down and the pair were surrounded by an angry group of opponents and a minor scuffle ensued. Referee Tierney produced an immediate yellow card for Robertson. After a conversation with the VAR official he was advised to consult the pitch-side monitor. Having viewed the incident he changed his decision to a red card.
Of course comparisons were made with Kane’s earlier challenge which resulted a yellow card. Comparisons between incidents can be subjective. However it was Kane’s momentum which carried him into Robertson which may or may not be a red card. Robertson’s tackle involved a bit of nastiness which should be a red card.
With Liverpool down to ten men Conte showed attacking intent by bringing on Lucas Moura for Alli who went off to a rousing ovation. Klopp responded by taking of Mane and replacing him with the Greek left back Tsimikas. Soon after Sessegnon fouled Keita. The latter made a meal of it and showed dissent when the referee wouldn’t book Sessegnon. Instead Keita was quite rightly booked.
Spurs couldn’t make the extra man count in the remaining minutes. A draw was still a very creditable result given the different circumstances in which these teams started the match. It was a fair result for an up-tempo hugely entertaining game.
Prior to today we have seen Spurs teams trying to play in the manner that Conte wants. Today we saw it happen. Despite the covid issues Conte has used the last two weeks very productively. There wasn’t a bad performance among the fourteen players used and this could be a turning point. I say ‘could’ because Spurs supporters have seen false dawns before.
The four players brought in today all took their opportunities to varying extents.
Harry Winks was back to the earlier form which saw him play for England. He broke up Liverpool’s advances on a number of occasions. He was involved in the moves that led to both goals. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was missing from the squad in a Premier League game for the first time since he joined the club. The biggest compliment I can pay Winks is to say that Hojbjerg wasn’t missed. If he can maintain this form there will be very welcome competition between Hojbjerg, Skipp and Winks for the defensive midfield positions.
Deli Alli gave an energetic box to box display today covering a large amount of ground and showing some of the old intensity, though he did spurn a good chance to score. If he can continue to play with this intensity there will be no need for him to go out on loan in January. He will be competing for a first team starting place.
Ryan Sessegnon atoned for the NS Mura disaster. He was steady defensively. He got forward on occasions and tried to create attacking opportunities. Tanguy Ndombele had his best game of the season so far. He set up Kane’s goal and started another couple of movements. He is not where he needs to be yet, but showed commendable improvement over earlier displays.
At this point in the Premier League season there are three teams out in front and four contenders for fourth position Spurs; Arsenal; Manchester United and West Ham. The competition will be intense. However if Conte can extract performances like this from the team after a two week lay off and even better performances once they gain a rhythm, there are grounds for optimism. Conte is having a positive effect and the second half of the season could be exciting.
Spurs had lost their last seven games against Liverpool in all competitions so this was a welcome end to this sequence.
The attendance was 45,421 which was almost 8,000 less than the previous lowest attendance for a Premier League match at the new stadium of 53,076 against Aston Villa in October. The main reason was that supporters were being cautious and didn’t want to risk Covid infection before Christmas.
Today’s performance should give all Spurs supporters cheer for Christmas. A win over West Ham United next week in the Carabao Cup would add to the enjoyment. Either way the club and its supporters can look forward with optimism to the Premier League campaign after Christmas if Conte and the players can extend the momentum created today.
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