Tottenham Hotspur went into Anfield knowing it would be a tough match, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting and nerve wracking matches of the whole season. Spurs conceded an early goal, but clawed back an equalizer from Lucas Moura, only to concede a heartbreaking own goal in the 90th minute, falling to the Reds 2-1.
Tottenham Hotspur started with just about as strong a lineup as they could field, but with one notable exception: Son Heung-Min started on the bench, with Lucas Moura taking his place in the forward attacking band. Spurs rolled out with what looked like a back three of Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, and Jan Vertonghen, with Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose as the fullbacks. With no Eric Dier or Harry Winks, Spurs opted for a fluid midfield that included Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli. Erik Lamela was, notably, not in the match day 18.
One notable omission from the team Mauricio Pochettino sent to the pitch: Pochettino himself. The Spurs manager was in the stands, serving the second of his ridiculous two-match touchline ban for arguing with Mike Dean. Martin Atkinson served as the match official.
The home crowd at Anfield was electric as the match kicked off — this match was as important to Liverpool as it was to Spurs, and the crowd was in full voice. The opening 15 minutes of the match were fairly even — Liverpool strangely declined to fully press Spurs, and Tottenham was able to find their footing through runs from Dele Ali and ball progression upfield through Lucas.
Spurs’ first half chance came in the sixth minute after Christian Eriksen played a ball to Lucas Moura into the box. Lucas found some space after Joel Matip slipped on the pitch, but the Reds were able to block the ball out for a corner.
Unfortunately, the match didn’t end at 15’. In the 16th minute, Liverpool opened the scoring thanks to Roberto Firmino. Andy Robertson fired a ball into the box on the counter, and Firmino found himself wide open in the box, putting an easy header past Lloris.
Once that goal went in, Liverpool pressed their advantage. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane went close before the 20 minute mark, and Spurs were knocked on their back heels.
Spurs had another look on goal in the 29th minute thanks to a cross from Danny Rose, but Lucas Moura couldn’t quite get his boot to the ball. But probably Spurs’ best chance of the half came in the 33rd minute — a poor ball by Jordan Henderson allowed Dele some space at the top of the box, but his half-volleyed shot was just off target.
Mane went close again a few minute before halftime, but poor passing out of the back let Spurs continue to prod at Liverpool’s defense. Few chances were forthcoming, but they did enough to think that they might be able to snatch a goal before match end.
The first half ended 1-0 to Liverpool.
The second half kicked off with no changes to either side, and with a similar tenor to the first half, though Liverpool came out pressing high, something we expected them to do from the outset but which they didn’t do much of in the first half.
Virgil van Dijk went close with a header off of a corner kick that went over the bar three minutes into the half. Christian Eriksen also had a pop from distance that was way off target.
Spurs nearly snatched an equalizer in the 56th minute thanks to some good team play. Moussa Sissoko ran in from deep and passed to Rose on the left flank. Rose’s cross came to Kane who put his first shot on target, and the deflection came to a wide open Eriksen. Andy Robertson just managed to get his foot in the way and the ball went out for a corner.
Liverpool came close to doubling their lead minutes later on a break by Mohamed Salah, but Toby Alderweireld snuffed out the chance with some excellent one-on-one defending and Spurs were able to neutralize the threat.
Spurs’ attack really came into their own midway through the second half. They were able to keep possession, and could on occasion move forward with pace. Liverpool had their chances as well but Spurs did enough defensively to keep them out.
Spurs made their first substitution at the 69h minute, bringing in Son Heung-Min for Davinson Sanchez, as Spurs changed their shape to a back four. It paid instant dividends — not even a minute afterwards, Harry Kane earned a foul in midfield. He quickly restarted, firing a long ball to Kieran Trippier at the edge of the box. Trips poked the ball centrally to Christian Eriksen, who found a streaking Lucas in the box. Lucas made no doubt of the chance and fired past Allison to level the score!
The Reds had another incredible effort from Alexander-Arnold on target that Hugo managed to just get a finger on to tip over the goal. Liverpool responded by making a double substitution at 77th minute, bringing on Divock Origi and Fabinho for Jordan Henderson and James Milner. The Reds quickly earned a corner, and Firmino nearly bundled the ball into the back of the net, but Hugo went low to smother the ball.
Lucas Moura earned a yellow card for fouling Salah outside the box in the 80th minute, and Origi’s free kick took a heavy deflection and went out for a corner. Lucas was subbed off moments later as Pochettino brought on Ben Davies to help shore up the defense.
The action was frantic in the final 10 minutes of the match, real end to end stuff with both teams pushing forward for a winner.
Spurs nearly got the winner on a breakaway in the 85th minute — Moussa Sissoko found himself with the ball and acres of space in front of him and he motored towards Allison with one Liverpool defender in his way and Son Heung-Min beside him. Unfortunately, instead of passing to Sonny, Sissoko took it on himself and blazed his shot over the bar.
Dele also tried his luck in the 88th minute, putting a cheeky chip towards the top corner that went just wide.
Then: disaster. In the 90th minute, off of a corner kick, Kane headed the ball out. Robertson fired a cross into the box and Salah put a header on target. Hugo parried the ball but it deflected off the legs of Alderweireld and across the line. It was an own goal on Toby, horribly unfair, and the Reds took a 2-1 lead into stoppage time.
Spurs pushed forward and tried to get an equalizer, but the damage was done. The final whistle blew, and Spurs lost a heartbreaker at Anfield, falling 2-1.
- This... this one is hard to take. Spurs put in a really, really good performance in probably the toughest place to play in the Premier League, and deserved at least a point in this match. Toby was so good the entire match, and it’s so incredibly crushing to lose the match this way. Let’s be honest — we all had this match pencilled in as a loss. But to lose this way hurts, and hurts bad.
- Not especially not take: Hugo should’ve caught Salah’s header instead of trying to parry it away.
- It’s worth restating just how good Spurs were, especially in the second half. The front line of Kane, Dele, and Lucas were all very good, and Sonny made them more dangerous when he came on. Even without a midfield, this was probably a 90th percentile performance from Tottenham today.
- Dele Alli was magnificent all game, making excellent runs and really keeping Spurs’ offense going.
- A loss at Anfield looks bad — Spurs have now taken one point out of their last 15 — but it’s not the end of the world. They are still on track to finish top four, though it is no longer anything close to a sure thing. The good news? Spurs play five of their last seven matches in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The season isn’t over. Spurs are still good. But this one hurts, a lot.
- Here’s Michael Caley’s xG map, if you want confirmation on how Spurs played today.
xG map for Liverpool - Tottenham. Spurs somehow contrived to play Liverpool dead even at Anfield, but sadly for them it was a football game. pic.twitter.com/njTsaezflu— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) March 31, 2019
- BRB, gonna go have a good cry.