Spurs road woes continue in 2019 as the north Londoners were able to hang onto an early lead, dropping a 2-1 decision to league leaders Liverpool at Anfield.
Pochettino made the curious decision to go back to Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko with DESK ahead of them, though Dele played deeper to make it look like a 4-3-3 when not in possession. Miraculously for Liverpool, Trent Alexander-Arnold somehow had some black magic done to him prior to the match and was healthy enough to start.
With all the doom and gloom leading up to this match, Tottenham Hotspur wasted no time getting on the scoresheet. Sissoko forced a turnover and managed to get the ball out to Heung-Min Son. Sonny’s attempt was blocked by Lovren, plunking it off the post. The ball fell to Harry Kane, who headed it home to make it 1-0 not even a full minute into the match.
The run of play was almost entirely one direction after the goal as Liverpool controlled possession. Spurs defensive setup was to stay in the 4-3-3 though Christian Eriksen dropped back to a right midfield spot to mark fullback Andrew Robertson. Liverpool seemed a little stymied by this at first, though started getting chances including a couple of corner kicks and a Salah volley in the 21st minute that was saved easily by Paulo Gazzaniga.
Spurs put together an attack in the 24th minute on a beautiful pass from Eriksen to Kane, who attempted a one-time pass to a streaking Dele. The pass was just too far ahead to slow down the attack. Ultimately, a Christian Eriksen attempt from distance went out to touch to kill the attack completely.
Liverpool came back not long after that as Mohammed Salah dribbled around the defense to fire an attempt for the top corner. Gazzaniga made a fantastic diving save, then followed it up with another point blank save on Firmino to keep his clean sheet in tact for the moment.
Gazzaniga was called into action again on a set piece a couple minutes later as Alexander-Arnold found the head of Virgil Van Dijk, but the Argentine flipped the ball over the crossbar. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Alexander-Arnold blasted a volley that forced Gazzaniga to make yet another diving save. Somehow, someway, it was still 1-0.
The remainder of the half was basically a masterclass in sh*thousing as Spurs conceded most of the possession, yet wound up a few of Liverpool’s players. While it felt like the Liverpool equalizer was coming before half time, Spurs stood firm and kept them off the scoresheet.
Liverpool came right at Tottenham to start the second half as Mane found Firmino far post on a cross but Gazzaniga stood tall and made another point-blank save. His distribution was brilliant as sprung Spurs on the break. Son ended up faking Allison out to round him but his touch was heavy and forced a shot from a tough angle that ended up banging off the crossbar.
Eventually, Spurs couldn’t hold on any longer. Liverpool got their equalizer in the 52nd minute as Fabinho fed him far post. Danny Rose got sucked in by Firmino, leaving the midfielder free on the far side. Henderson’s attempt went through the legs of Rose and just past the outstretched arm of Gazzaniga to make it 1-1.
A rather terrifying moment occurred a couple minutes after on what seemed like a harmless throw-in by Liverpool. Davinson Sanchez opted to let the ball go thinking Gazzaniga was ready to gather it up. Instead, Firmino was right there and took a crack at the goal. Thankfully, Gazzaniga got down quick enough to stop the shot.
After some half chances by both sides, Spurs conceded a penalty in the 75th minute. Serge Aurier and Sadio Mane got tangled up chasing down a long ball and it looked like Aurier had managed to win the battle for a clearance. Instead, before he could clear it, Mane stepped in to try and box out Aurier and ended up getting kicked in the back of the leg. Anthony Taylor took a moment to think about it, then gave the penalty to Liverpool. Salah buried the ensuing kick to put the home side up 2-1. An argument can be made that Mane fouled Serge before the penalty, but it makes no difference now.
Pochettino had made one sub prior to the second goal, bringing on Tanguy Ndombele for Harry Winks. For some reason, he waited until after the 80th minute (see: Standard Pochettino Subs) to bring on Lucas for Aurier and Giovani Lo Celso for Christian Eriksen. Those subs probably should have been made a lot sooner.
Spurs had two chances to equalize in the 92nd minute as some good movement found Son on the right side of the penalty area, but with defenders closing down he had to rush the shot. His curled effort was saved easily by Allison. The second opportunity came on a 94th minute corner kick where Danny Rose found Toby Alderweireld free. The headed effort was saved and Taylor brought the match to an end not long after.
Thoughts on the Match:
- It’s the hope that kills you, isn’t it? An early goal by Kane was great, but defending against Liverpool for 90 minutes is a herculean task.
- Gazzaniga was absolutely brilliant, making 11 saves and several of them top quality.
- Christian Eriksen was bad. The only bright spot for him was the long distance cross to Kane that almost sprung Dele for a second goal in the first half. He should have been pulled at half time.
- The 4-3-3 helped in defense for awhile, but Winks wasn’t good and got burned a few times. Sissoko was fine, but nothing to write home about.
- Sonny was so close to getting a huge goal in the second half. This match is completely different if he scores after rounding Allison. It’s a game of inches.
- Ndombele came on and immediately made a difference with forward passing. I’m desperate to see him and Lo Celso together for more than a few minutes.
- Spurs get a week off before returning to Merseyside to take on Everton at Goodison Park.