Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in a thrilling tactical battle at Anfield on Wednesday night to take a three-point lead in the Premier League title race. Many predicted what the pattern of the game would be, and the two managers obliged.
Jose Mourinho was unwavering as he asked his side to defend deep and play on the break. Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp’s intensity on the sideline was replicated on the pitch as the Reds dominated possession and won the ball high up the pitch to keep Spurs pinned down.
Liverpool took the lead fortuitously through a Mohamed Salah goal, but on the whole, they perhaps deserved the goal for the way they started the game.
Spurs, however, stuck to their game plan. Mourinho’s side took their chance through a Son Heung-Min goal on the break and looked the better team in the early stages of the second half.
Liverpool, though, asserted their dominance as the game went on and scored a last-gasp winner through a Roberto Firmino header.
Let’s now take a look at the five talking points from the game:
#1 A battle of styles
Liverpool had a game plan that was centred on stifling Spurs off the ball during the transitions, and their midfield three, with Roberto Firmino dropping deep, were key to this strategy.
The Reds dominated the ball, and despite being aware of the threat that the likes of Steven Bergwijn, Son, and Harry posed, Klopp went with the high-risk strategy that paid off.
Even a low-block is not guaranteed to stop Liverpool as they so often swarm forward when they see a small opening. Mourinho tried to add more speed to the side for the transitions by bringing on Lucas Moura and Sergio Reguilon, but Liverpool countered their threat well.
Despite seeing just 24% of the ball, Spurs were pretty dangerous on the break and could have won it had they taken their one-v-one openings. More than a fourth of the passes Spurs made were long balls, so it wasn’t exactly spectacular to watch.
#2 Rhys Williams’ impressive Premier League debut for Liverpool
Joel Matip was not even named on the bench after his back spasm, and eyebrows were raised when Klopp handed Rhys Williams his Premier League debut.
The teenager has done well in the Champions League, but a game with Kane and Son to contend with was going to be a tough test.
Williams was partly at fault for the goal that Liverpool conceded as Spurs got in behind the defender with some route-one football. Apart from that, however, he put in a good shift.
Spurs were always going to target the young defender and Alexander-Arnold’s side as a potential attacking outlet, but the former headed away most long passes that came his way.
Williams finished the game with six aerial duels won -- the highest among all the players – and was also pretty composed on the ball. His performance will come as a massive boost as it remains to be seen if Matip will be able to play regularly over the festive period.