Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool played each other to a standstill at Anfield on Sunday in a match that started off with a mistake and ended with a frenzy of goals. Harry Kane converted a last-gasp penalty kick, just moments after missing a second, and Victor Wanyama scored a screamer to cancel two goals from Mohamed Salah, as Spurs earned a critical point away from home, drawing Liverpool 2-2.
Tottenham Hotspur have a lot of games to play in a short period of time, but Mauricio Pochettino opted not to do much rotation at all after Wednesday’s game vs. Manchester United. Mousa Dembele started his third game in eight days in midfield beside Eric Dier. Kieran Trippier kept his place in the starting XI, with Serge Aurier starting on the bench. Recovering players Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld were both omitted from the squad, as was new signing Lucas Moura, who has yet to really start training with the team.
Liverpool started with Virgil Van Dijk and Dejan Loveren in central defense, a midfield of James Milner, Emre Can, and Jordan Henderson, and the fearsome front of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane.
Spurs enjoyed an early first goal against United, but this time it was Liverpool who struck early. In the third minute, with Liverpool pushing forward towards Spurs’ box, Eric Dier tried to toe-poke a ball away from Sadio Mane. Instead, the ball ended up being a perfect through ball to Mohamed Salah who easily fired past Lloris to put Liverpool up 1-0.
That goal was the main story of the first half, but there were plenty of danger signs from Spurs. Liverpool pressed Spurs up very high, often forcing Tottenham to pass back to Hugo Lloris to reset the offense. Meanwhile, Liverpool would attempt to push forward on turnovers, using the pace of Salah, Firmino, and Mane, and trying to find space in the channels between Spurs’ center backs and fullbacks.
Hence, Liverpool had the majority of the chances in the first half. James Milner had one of the better chances, putting a chipped ball past Lloris and just wide of the far post in the 18th minute. They had numerous other opportunities, as they tried to take advantage of a pretty porous transition defense from Spurs.
Spurs settled into the match about 20 minutes in, but rarely found many opportunities in the final third. One of the better chances came in the 34th minute after Son was played into space. He fed Eriksen who had a shot saved, but Son was (wrongfully) called offside. Harry Kane was barely involved in the offense, only mustering one shot attempt, and it was blocked.
A few minutes later, a Christian Eriksen free kick fell to Dembele who had a pop from the top of the box. His shot forced Loris Karius to go low to save the ball.
Spurs were under enormous pressure in the first half and their offense looked out of sync. They were probably lucky to end the first half only down one goal.
The second half began much like the first half ended, with Spurs managing to keep much of the possession, and Liverpool trying to press high, force errors, and hit back on the counterattack.
Spurs were much better in the second half, dominating midfield and pushing forward to try and get an equalizer. One of the better chances came in the 58th minute: Son Heung-Min was through on goal after getting a step on Dejan Lovren. His shot was blocked by Karius, and Dele Alli’s rebound effort went wide.
A minute later, James Milner earned a yellow card for a high challenge on Kieran Trippier. The resulting free kick fell to Harry Kane in the box, but his effort was again saved by Karius.
Midway through the half, Jurgen Klopp opted for a double substitution, bringing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georgino Wijnaldum for Mane and Jordan Henderson.
Dele Alli earned himself a cheap yellow a few minutes later, dribbling into the box but going down without contact and earning himself a cheap yellow card from Jonathan Moss for simulation.
Pochettino made his first substitution in the 71st minute bringing on Erik Lamela for Davinson Sanchez, who had a rough match. It was a calculated and offensive-minded substitution, with Pochettino opting to really make a concerted push for an equalizer in the final 20 minutes. And it paid dividends.
Liverpool responded by bringing on Joel Matip for James Milner as LIverpool moved to a back three. Spurs also brought on Victor Wanyama for Mousa Dembele.
And then things went absolutely bonkers.
In the 81st minute Christian Eriksen took a pop from the left side of the box, and his shot was punched away by Karius. The ball fell to Victor Wanyama at the top of the box, who hit an absolute screamer with the outside of his boot that was still accelerating as it hit the back of the net. Karius had no chance, and Spurs were suddenly level.
Spurs had a chance to take the lead -- some will say controversially -- in the 84th minute. Harry Kane found himself through on goal and was taken down by Karius in the box. Jonathan Moss awarded the penalty, but then had a long conversation with his linesman amidst appeals that Kane was offside. Moss eventually gave the penalty, but Harry Kane’s spot kick was straight at Karius, who saved easily.
Liverpool then took the lead a minute into extra time off of a superb play from Salah, who slalomed, Messi-like, through four Spurs defenders and poked the ball past Lloris from close range. Jurgen Klopp and the Reds celebrated as though they had won the game, because they thought they had. It was Salah’s second of the game, and it drew him level with Kane with 21 Premier League goals this season. After the goal, Spurs brought Fernando Llorente on for Son.
Most Spurs fans thought the match was over, but Tottenham somehow earned yet another penalty in the 94th minute. Virgil Van Dijk put a knee into the leg of Erik Lamela in the box as he came out to challenge for the ball. Liverpool hoofed the ball away, but Jonathan Moss saw the incident and pointed to the spot. Harry Kane stepped up, and with the last kick of the game, buried his 22nd Premier League goal of the season and 100th of his career.
The final score was 2-2, as Spurs earned a critical point. Spurs still haven’t won at Anfield since 2011, but this was an important result in a race for top four that is looking like it could turn into a thrilling finish.
- THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY NUTS!
- Let’s talk about the two Tottenham penalty kicks. Klopp and Liverpool fans may have a point about the first one: Kane certainly did look offside and the contact was minimal. That said, you’ve seen that given frequently, and Kane kicking the ball straight at Karius was certainly karma-ish.
- The second? No question. Van Dijk kicked Lamela in the back of the legs. There was plenty of contact, and while Lamela might have tried to cut in front of him to get to the ball, I don’t think there’s a question that it was a foul. You can argue that the rules are dumb for rewarding a foul that was kind of off the ball with an 85% scoring chance, but hey, them’s the rules. The one thing it wasn’t was Lamela trying to initiate contact. He was fouled.
- There’s some argument on Liverpool’s opening goal whether Dier was trying to play a ball back to Lloris or if he was trying to poke the ball away from Mane. I lean towards the latter, but still it set up Salah perfectly. Either way it was terrible: Dier’s pass was bad, and Spurs’ center backs fell asleep.
- Dier had a shocking game, with at least two dumb give-aways and the aforementioned toe-poke-through-ball to Salah. A real Jekyll & Hyde outing after the United match. I will say that he looked better when he moved to center back, but considering Vic’s game today, I wonder if Dier should lose his spot, at least temporarily.
- Davinson Sanchez had a bad game today. He had a number of poor passes out of the back and looked very close to derping away chances. He’s 21 and young players sometimes have bad games, but he was rightfully hooked in the second half.
- Spurs were under enormous pressure from Liverpool in the first half and their offense was pretty bad. It was probably fortunate they were only down one at halftime!
- That yellow on Dele for simulation was well deserved and really poor from him. It was a very stupid yellow.
- Victor Wanyama’s goal is amazing and I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight in his honor.
- We’re going to be talking about this game for a long time, but ultimately I think this was a fair result. It’s hard to look past Kane’s poor first penalty and what might have been, though.