Deja vu for Tottenham Hotspur as Mohamed Salah maintains Liverpool's supremacy
Spurs take early lead through Harry Kane but Jurgen Klopp's side hit back with vengeance at Anfield
For Tottenham Hotspur, this was the sequel they did not want. At Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday, as in Madrid in the Champions League final, Mohamed Salah scored a penalty and Liverpool won a game that featured a remarkably early goal.
If the plot differs there, with Tottenham leading for 51 minutes, Liverpool did savour another victory in the end. This, actually, was a far superior performance to an underwhelming display in the May showdown. They subjected Tottenham to a bombardment, wracking up the shots after they recovered from the shock of going behind to Harry Kane’s first-minute opener.
They looked what they are: league leaders and a team with a capacity to recover from setbacks. It was the second successive week that they had gone behind but they showed their powers of recovery and sheer physical power to make it 45 games unbeaten at Anfield in the league.
After drawing at Old Trafford, they now have 55 points from a possible 57 and while they have made life hard for themselves of late, a fourth consecutive win over Spurs would have been more emphatic but for the brilliant goalkeeping of Paulo Gazzaniga. A man from Murphy, Argentina, threatened to pull off a memorable result for another, in Mauricio Pochettino.
His side made a superlative start. There was a goal in the second minute of the Champions League final. This, in the 47th second of the rematch, was still quicker. The electric Heung-Min Son sprinted into space, turned infield and unleashed a shot that Dejan Lovren headed on to the bar. Kane stooped to head the rebound in. He was the first opponent to scoring in the opening minute of a Premier League match at Anfield since Olivier Dacourt in 1999.
It was a goal of statistical significance, taking Kane level with Martin Chivers on 174 for Spurs; only Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Smith are ahead of him now and, at 26, Kane has time on his side in his quest to overhaul them. For Liverpool, with only three clean sheets this season, the numbers are less flattering. Lovren looked fallible for a side whose defence has not looked as watertight this season.
They took a while to respond and then launched an onslaught that lasted an hour. The surprise was that a spell of sustained attacking did not yield a first-half equaliser. One man preserved Tottenham’s lead. Paulo Gazzaniga made a terrific double save to deny Salah and Roberto Firmino. He tipped over Virgil van Dijk’s bullet header. He parried Trent Alexander-Arnold’s thunderbolt. With Sadio Mane heading wide, Tottenham hung on and clung on for as long as they could.
Gazzaniga excelled again to repel Firmino’s downward header after the break but then came the turning point. Tottenham were inches away from securing the insurance of a second goal. Released by Gazzaniga, with a punt downfield, Son escaped from Lovren darted past Alisson but shot against the bar. The cost of that miss was apparent soon after.
If the feeling is that Liverpool’s midfielders get too few goals and assists, they added to each in the equaliser. Fabinho chipped a pass forward and, as Firmino went down, claiming a penalty, Jordan Henderson emerged to angle a half-volley in.
It was scarcely the sweetest connection and was his first Anfield goal since 2015, which may support the argument, but it came at a crucial point.
Then, in what felt a symbolic element, summing up his career, Serge Aurier fouled Mane needlessly. He had done much of the hard work, but then caught the Senegalese’s calves. Salah struck the resulting penalty with such force that Gazzaniga barely moved.
Liverpool were unrelenting in the pressure they exerted. They overwhelmed Tottenham. It was a sign of how dominant they were that Klopp waited so long to make a substitution, with James Milner only coming on after Salah had scored.
Alisson made late saves to deny Son and Kane equalisers. The England captain had been tracking Fabinho at times, isolated from his colleagues at others. If Spurs were configured to counter-attack, and their breaks contained menace, Kane was often isolated in attack, his team-mates camped around their own box as Liverpool penned them in. But even going on the defensive could not stop Liverpool.
Published: October 27, 2019 10:56 PM