Liverpool end league goal drought as they dispatch sorry Spurs

Firmino, Alexander-Arnold and Mane get visitors back on track as Kane limps off

Sadio Mane scores Liverpool’s third against Tottenham. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty/AFP

Sadio Mane scores Liverpool’s third against Tottenham. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty/AFP

 

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 3

Jürgen Klopp had promised that his Liverpool team were “on fire to strike back” after their five-game winless streak in the Premier League, which had brought them only three points and one goal. On a night when Sadio Mané provided the spark, the champions delivered on the promise to jump back up into fourth position.

The decisive details have eluded them in recent weeks but not here. Mané scored the last goal and could have had more – he was a thorn in Tottenham’s side throughout – and, with Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold also on the scoresheet, Liverpool ensured that they did not cede further ground to the leaders, Manchester City.

Theirs was a performance of pace and no little enterprise but they were assisted by a defensive horror show from Spurs. José Mourinho tried both three and four at the back – neither system could legislate for the individual errors that underpinned each Liverpool goal.

The strange thing was that prior to this game, Spurs had conceded only five league goals in open play all season and a terrible evening for them was compounded by their talisman, Harry Kane, failing to come back out for the second half. He had felt twists to each ankle.

Liverpool’s inability once again to name a recognised central defensive partnership was a prominent detail. Klopp had lost Fabinho to a muscle injury and replaced him with the fit again Jordan Henderson, another midfielder doing a job out of position. Joël Matip was also back to play alongside him.

Spurs thought they had a third minute lead when Kane sent Son Heung-min clean through and he finished past Alisson, who was slow to get down. The move was sparked by Tanguy Ndombele darting away from Thiago and finding Son but, to Spurs’s horror, VAR would spot an offside against the South Korean at the point before he laid off to Kane.

Remarkably, Liverpool ought to have been in front by then. Mané’s second minute chance was a beauty, created after a long Alexander-Arnold pass and a give-and-go with Mohamed Salah. Mané was in but he scuffed wide with his left foot.

Harry Kane was forced off during Tottenham Hotspur’s defeat to Liverpool. Photograph: Nick Potts/Getty/AFP
Harry Kane was forced off during Tottenham Hotspur’s defeat to Liverpool. Photograph: Nick Potts/Getty/AFP

It was fast and exciting throughout the first half, the technical quality high, the incidents plentiful. Ndombele looked in the mood. His touch was lovely, so too his work in tight spaces. His spin and burst move came off repeatedly.

It was interesting to see Klopp start Thiago as one of his No8s, rather than in front of the back four. That role went to Gini Wijnaldum. Thiago’s work off the ball, including his tackles, did not match his stuff with it. He was booked for a lunge on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg while he had caught Kane earlier, which necessitated treatment for the Spurs striker. Kane would need another round on the other ankle after an awkward landing on 34 minutes.

Spurs wanted to break quickly and Steven Bergwijn played in Son in the 21st minute. He was denied by Alisson. But it was Liverpool who looked more threatening before the interval, particularly through Mané, who got into dangerous areas time and again.

Mané extended Hugo Lloris after a Salah flick, although he had looked offside earlier in the buildup, while he was denied by a Joe Rodon last-ditch challenge and also a Lloris save.

The Liverpool breakthrough had been advertised and it came in first-half stoppage-time when Mané got in around the back onto Henderson’s pass and crossed low towards Firmino. Eric Dier felt Lloris coming for the ball and hesitated and so then did the goalkeeper. Firmino gobbled up the tap-in.

Klopp lost Matip at half-time, which saw him turn to Nat Phillips in yet another central defensive reshuffle, but it was Mourinho who twisted harder. Kane did not re-emerge and Mourinho switched from 3-4-3 to 4-2-3-1, with Harry Winks on in midfield; Érik Lamela on the right.

Within minutes, Liverpool were 2-0 up and it was a horror moment for Lloris as he could only pat Mané’s tame shot into the path of Alexander-Arnold, who ripped a low drive past him. Moments earlier, Salah had fired high. Spurs had not started the second-half, much to Mourinho’s fury. Yet back they came and they had their lifeline when Højbjerg addressed a Bergwijn lay-off and cut across a glorious drive from outside the area, sending the ball fizzing into the far corner.

Enter VAR controversy. Liverpool had celebrated when Salah’s shot deflected off Winks to beat Lloris but, after a lengthy review, it was spotted that Firmino had handled in the buildup.

Liverpool did not stop. Mané did not stop. And when he did score his team’s third, it looked over. Rodon appeared to have Alexander-Arnold’s cross under control and then he did not. Mané reacted in a flash to crash home on the half-volley. - Guardian

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