Tottenham Hotspur’s nine match unbeaten run was snapped Thursday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as Liverpool snapped their run of no league goals in 2021 with a 3-1 win. The match was competitive for most of its run, but a strong Liverpool effort throughout gave the visitors the edge in the end.
José Mourinho, thanks to a slightly depleted squad that meant Sergio Reguilón and Giovani Lo Celso were unavailable, started the game with a back three of Eric Dier, Joe Rodon, and Ben Davies. Serge Aurier and Matt Doherty were wingbacks on the right and left, respectively, while many of the usuals filled up the spaces further up the pitch.
The game was lively from its start, with Liverpool’s Sadio Mané recording a shot as early as the third minute that Hugo Lloris successfully saved. Almost right after, Son Heung-min put the ball in the back of Liverpool’s net before the referee correctly deemed it offside. The two attacks maintained this momentum for a little while longer, but a pattern clearly emerged. While Son and Harry Kane managed some end product, Liverpool’s front three of Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah were doing more.
The Spurs defense was doing just enough to maintain a 0-0 scoreline, particularly to stop an active Mané. They did their best to give the appearance of a match that was relatively even, but it was a balance that could not be maintained. With 45 seconds left to go in the first half, Mané beat Aurier and sent a ball that met Firmino right in front of goal, and despite opportunity for both Dier and Lloris to claim the ball, the Brazilian scored a tap in.
The visitors picked up where they left off in the second half, doubling the lead in the 47th minute. Mané took another shot, which Lloris saved while sending the ball straight towards Trent Alexander-Arnold, who scored the rebound.
Just as suddenly as Liverpool took both the lead and extended it, Spurs pulled one back courtesy of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Steven Bergwijn’s pass found Højbjerg, who then scored a stellar goal from right outside the box.
The scoreline gave Spurs a fighting chance, but the momentum of the match had fully swung Liverpool’s way and the hosts returned to doing just enough to keep the gap as narrow as it could be. The referee ruled out Liverpool’s next chance to extend the lead, an opportunity from Salah that was called back because of a handball from Thiago Alcântara in the buildup. The next time, Tottenham was not so lucky, but Mané finally was. In the 66th minute, Mané got away from Rodon and he scored from an angle in side the box to kill the game off.
With 24 minutes left on the clock, there was time for Spurs to get back into the match. However, a lightning start for the attackers came with very little follow up: the team had three shots overall while Liverpool had 14, and Højbjerg’s goal was Tottneham’s only shot in the second half. A switch in formation at halftime, taking Kane and Aurier off for Harry Winks and Érik Lamela, wielded few results, and Gareth Bale could not muster much in a nine minute cameo.
The result puts Spurs in sixth in the Premier League, four points behind fourth place Liverpool.
Thoughts on the Match
- In terms of individual performances, it was a bad game for most but a few were particularly bad. Lloris’ errors on Liverpool’s first two goals were costly, while Rodon struggled at times to handle Liverpool’s attack. Doherty continues to raise questions about his usefulness.
- The attacking players get a special bulletpoint because they were particularly unproductive. To repeat for the purpose of emphasis, the team had three shots overall, two on target.
- Kane’s health is once again a topic of conversation, as he came off at halftime after two checks by the medical team during the first half. He seemed well enough to complete the first half, but I’m going to guess we’re back to playing the waiting game on the seriousness of this issue.
- Halfway through the season, it’s worth reflecting on Spurs’ place on the table and if opportunities were wasted after results went the team’s way this week. Considering how tight the race for top four is, we should not be calling time on the season. However, it’s clear there is room for improvement.