Liverpool showed glimpses of last season’s title-winning pedigree to return to winning ways on Thursday, beating Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had previously been winless in its past five league games, which culminated in a home loss to Burnley last week, ending its 69-game undefeated run at Anfield.
However, despite having to deal with yet further injury woes — Fabinho missed Thursday’s match — Liverpool was able to capitalize on mistakes and hesitation by its Tottenham counterparts to score three times, with goals from Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mané pushing the Premier League champion back in to the top four.
Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg scored for Tottenham to make it 2-1, but the home team struggled to capitalize on the Danish international’s goal.
In truth, the loss of superstar striker Harry Kane to an ankle injury really stunted any hope Tottenham had of making a comeback, and left a frustrated Mourinho after the game pondering his own side’s mistakes. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris might have done better for Liverpool’s first two goals, while Joe Rodon was arguably at fault for the third.
“I believe it was a very good, solid performance in the first half, with two mistakes, one in the first minute, one in the last minute,” he told Spurs TV following the defeat.
“The mistake in the last minute took us to half-time at 1-0, then at half-time we lose Harry, and we come into the second half with good ambition, good determination, again, a defensive mistake brings the 2-0, good spirit, good reaction, Pierre’s goal, I think he reflects the spirit of the team, and again, when you are dominating, when you are in the opposition half, another mistake, unfortunately this time from a boy in Joe who for me played, so, so well. Again, punished by our own mistakes.”
Dealing with setbacks
With injuries to experienced defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez early on in the season, Klopp’s title-winning defensive line has had to be reshuffled, with Brazilian midfielder Fabinho stepping in.
However, he was missing for the trip to the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. And after Cameroon international Joel Matip suffered an “ankle ligament” injury at halftime, Liverpool’s already makeshift central defensive unit comprised midfielder Jordan Henderson and the relatively inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips.
After surviving an early video assistant referee scare when Son Heung-Min’s strike ruled out for offside, Liverpool scored its first league goal in 482 minutes on the stroke of halftime.
Brazil international Firmino was the quickest to react to Mane’s cross ahead of Eric Dier and Lloris to tap home from close range.
And if it wasn’t bad enough already for Tottenham, the removal of its main striker and goal threat — Kane — due to ankle injuries will have had fans watching between their fingers.
Mourinho after the game confirmed the England captain would be out for “a couple of weeks.”
Liverpool came out the blocks flying in the second half, Alexander-Arnold doubling its lead just minutes afterwards. With five goals and 16 assists, the right-back has been involved in more goals than any other Premier League defender since the start of last season.
And despite Hojbjerg halving the deficit with his first goal for Tottenham, Spurs was unable to breakthrough the makeshift Liverpool defense to equalize.
Midway through the second half, Mane was once again quickest to react, pouncing on an error by the otherwise impressive Rodon to extend the lead again to two goals.
Afterwards, Klopp expressed his delight at the result, calling the victory “necessary.”
“We made great runs, scored obviously the first goal in a perfect moment pretty much, scored the goal [and] could go into half-time in the dressing room,” he said.
“We got aware of the struggle of Joel Matip with his ankle, so no chance to play on, so then we tried to tell the boys that it would make sense to do a couple of things again. They did and fought really hard, made a proper, proper fight of it the whole night and I’m really happy about that, and played football. So, good game, deserved win, good.”
While Liverpool move to four points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, having played a game more though, Tottenham’s first defeat of 2021 means it remains sixth in the table.