Liverpool took one step further towards their first Premier League title this evening by defeating Jose Mourinho’s Spurs 0-1 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Following the win, they sit 16 points ahead of second-place Leicester City. Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated proceedings in the first half, at one point registering 81% of the possession, but for a while, it looked like they’d have nothing to show for it, their best early chance being a Roberto Firmino shot that was blocked by debutant Japhet Tanganga, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck the post with the rebound.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining though, the Reds had their breakthrough, Firmino slotting home from close range following some good work from Mo Salah.
The goal ended up being pivotal; despite a good series of chances for Tottenham in the second half, Mourinho’s side could not find a breakthrough, and in the end, Liverpool largely held on to record their 20th win of the season, giving them 61 points from 21 games, the greatest start to a season in Premier League history.
Here is a look at the 3 pivotal moments from the match.
1. Firmino opens the scoring in the 36th minute
Liverpool thoroughly dominated Tottenham in the first half of this evening’s match, pinning Jose Mourinho’s side into their own half and bossing possession to the point where it felt like Spurs simply couldn’t make their way out at all.
Despite all of this domination though, for a while it did appear that Jurgen Klopp’s men would go into half-time with nothing to show for it, as Spurs hung firm, youngster Japhet Tanganga performing admirably under a lot of pressure from Liverpool’s famed front trio of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Eventually, though, the Liverpool goal that seemed inevitable came. The ball ricocheted its way to Salah inside the box, and the Egyptian controlled it marvellously before passing to Firmino, who took a touch before hitting it past Paulo Gazzaniga and into the net.
One ludicrous VAR check later – the system was apparently checking for a possible handball from Jordan Henderson, whose header had found Salah in the box – and the Reds had their winner.
Essentially, the goal was made possible by Firmino’s phenomenal first touch, and being the lone one in the match, it was clearly the key moment.
2. Eriksen and Rose replaced by Lamela and Lo Celso on 69 minutes
This evening’s match was an odd one in that while at least 2/3 of it was controlled by Liverpool, after Roberto Firmino’s first-half opener the Reds never really carved out any more gilt-edged chances, despite causing plenty of mayhem in Tottenham’s box at times.
By the end of the game, in fact, it was Jose Mourinho’s side who’d had more chances on goal – 14 shots to Liverpool’s 13, although the Reds had 7 on target compared to Spurs’ 4. The turning point for Tottenham? The moment on 69 minutes that saw Mourinho replace Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose with Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso.
Prior to that point, Spurs had huffed and puffed but never looked like breaking through Liverpool’s defensive line, but as soon as the Argentine duo were introduced, things changed. Suddenly, Tottenham’s players – Lamela in particular – were harrying the Reds every time they had the ball, and it looked like Jurgen Klopp’s side were really wobbling.
True, Tottenham couldn’t find their breakthrough, with a couple of big chances going begging, but surely the lesson to be learned for Mourinho is that he can no longer trust Eriksen. The Dane simply didn’t look interested tonight, playing far too many wayward balls and being caught in possession more than once.
Lo Celso is not completely a like-for-like replacement, but at least he clearly wants to be a Tottenham player right now, while Eriksen appears to have mentally checked out. Mourinho’s substitutions may not have changed tonight’s result, but they changed the game and he should consider his team selection carefully going forward.
3. Lo Celso’s miss in the 83rd minute
Tottenham chased hard for an equaliser in the late part of the game – particularly once Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso had been introduced – and despite failing to find the back of Liverpool’s net, they did have a couple of huge chances in the dying minutes.
The first fell to Heung Min Son, who simply dallied a little too much on the ball, allowing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s last-ditch attempt at a tackle to cause him to smash his eventual shot over the bar. But the second – which fell to Lo Celso – was probably the best opportunity that Jose Mourinho’s side had all game. How it didn’t go in is anyone’s guess.
In this instance, the key work came from Harry Winks, who found his way through Liverpool’s midfield before passing to the once again inconsistent Serge Aurier on the right side. This time the Ivorian played a perfect ball into the box, and it found its way to Lo Celso who was lurking, unmarked, at the back post.
All the Argentine needed to do was simply clip the ball into the net, and Liverpool’s winning run would most likely have been over. Somehow though, he managed to connect almost too cleanly with the ball, sending it wide of the mark and stunning Mourinho, who appeared to be ready to celebrate.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s luck this season when it’s come to penalties and VAR calls, but this was luck of a different kind; Lo Celso would probably score that chance 9 times out of 10, but tonight was the one that got away.
Published 12 Jan 2020, 01:43 IST