Round Table: Tottenham 1 Reds 1

Posted by Yorkykopite on August 30, 2016, 11:22:21 PM

Round Table: Tottenham 1 Liverpool 1

There were times when this was more like a schoolyard scrap than a football match, but it was entertaining stuff nonetheless. Would we be so surprised to find these two clubs fighting, at the end of the season, for a Champions League spot? I think that highly likely.

Most Liverpool fans will believe we should have won this one - and they'll be right. We were the better team. Not significantly better maybe, but the more enterprising and the more coherent. We also carved out the best chances. Only the second best goalkeeper in the Premier League - though apparently not the best at Tottenham - stopped us coming away with the three points.

Neither side was set up to build sweetly from the back. Both Dier and Henderson are weak on the turn and not anxious to get on the ball in the deep and therefore the early exchanges were all about long balls and aerial duels. Joel Matip got an early taste of the strangest league in world football. He remained gratifyingly unflustered, turning in the most accomplished centre-back debut for Liverpool since Glen Hysen's in the Charity Shield many moons ago. Hysen ended his Liverpool career a nervous wreck, there simply being too much defending to do in English football. Matip, I trust, is made of sterner stuff. He's from the Bundesliga for one thing where the best centre forwards live. That bodes well. The lad certainly looked really good on Saturday, but centre backs need judging after 12 months at least and not after 90 minutes, no matter how accomplished those first 90 are. 

We should probably have scored after 5 minutes. Lallana smashed into Eriksen (legally), Sadio Mane picked up the loose ball and threaded it through to Firmino. Firmino passed up the chance to shoot, and released Coutinho instead. His shot was improbably saved by Vorm's extended foot, but I'm not sure Phil made the right choice going for the bottom corner. It was the top corner that was required. Check out Woodburn's second goal against Arsenal in the Under 23s - similar position, completely different strike. (How good is that kid by the way?)

Sadly Coutinho was a peripheral figure for most of the first half. But their best player was too. Lamela. These are two teams who like to smother the opposition and who are fit enough and coached enough not to give an inch, at least for 45 minutes. Later the energy dropped a tad and the game opened up enough for craft to come to the fore. But the first half hour or so was among the most frantic I've seen for a long time. On 12 minutes Harry Kane made his single contribution to the game and out-muscled Lovren to set up Dele Ali. Just as he was about to unwind his shot Adam Lallana slid in from nowhere to block it. Great stuff from Lallana who was busy at both ends of the pitch.  Incidentally if you need to know why we need a Lucas or a Can in defensive midfield here was the perfect illustration. Henderson was all over the place - busy, as you'd expect, but unable to predict the simple movements of the Tottenham players on the ball and through the madness of his own running effectively making up their minds for them. First he chased Kane on the wrong side and then went barrelling across the pitch to allow Rose to simply step inside and set up Dele Ali. Hendo had his best game so far this season but he's surely not the man we need back there - neither when we have the ball or when our opponents have it.

That was the one big hiccup in the first half. Otherwise it was the boys in Red asking the questions. A minute later Winjaldum, with a lovely bit of two-footedness, slipped Mane through for a decent chance. Soon after that a gorgeous reverse pass from Lallana appeared to have released the same player only for Vorm to produce the game's outstanding tackle. The same Lallana-Mane combo repeated the trick in the 21st minute only to see Vorm, yet again, use anticipation and a perfectly-timed slide to deprive the Senegalese winger. I couldn't help thinking what the score might have been now if Spurs had Mignolet in goal instead of Vorm? There again would they have been playing such a high line with such a slow goalie? 

A word on Mane. He was fortunate to stay on of course - a poor decision by the ref. But in the first half, at least, he was wonderful. The amount of work he got through was frightening. He defends as diligently and as vigorously as he attacks. This was no speculative buy. Klopp knew his man clearly.

And then the goal that brought some sense of justice to the scoreline. Firmino, who was clearly in some sort of personal skill duel with Lamela in the course of the afternoon, out-witted the Tottenham player and ended up on his arse next to the byline. Replays showed a clear 'ankle-tap' on our player and therefore a good decision by the ref. Milner was allowed to use his right foot for once. Klopp turned away and looked at the Liverpool supporters. The ball was smacked into the corner. Good time to score a goal.

We almost got another at the start of the second half. Wijnaldum this time: a perfect body shape as he hit the ball from the edge of the box. Vorm was motionless, a testament to the hopelessness of his cause rather than any complacency about the ball's trajectory. The damn thing curved and dipped savagely, as it was bound to do after being struck so sweetly - all the information the ball needed being imparted by Winjnaldum's shape on impact. But it didn't quite dip enough.   

At this point I began to think 'easy' - we're going to win this. A Matip header grazed the bar. And then a clever build-up from the back, some superior movement and a searing run from the deep from Lallana led to a precise cross for a Mane tap-in at the far post for number two. Tottenham were simply undone by better players. Of course the linesman flagged for offside (it wasn't) and the goal was scratched off. But it looked as if Liverpool were about rekindle the bushfire we'd started at the Emirates three weeks ago. The sheer mobility of our front men compared to leaden-footed Kane and Janssen was a joy to behold.

But it was if the disallowed goal stopped our momentum and injected some belief into the home side. On 61 minutes Spurs created their first open chance of the game, Eriksen spooning over before a retreating defence. A few minutes later Mignolet saved expertly from an Alderweireld header. And a few minutes after that reprieve Lallana and Clyne repeated their mistake at the Emirates and attacked the same ball. Last time Oxlade took advantage of the double-up. This time the ball slid off Lamela's head to Rose at the far post. Moreno was nowhere. Rose sliced it in.

The last 20 minutes were thrilling with Klopp's team stronger and more committed to getting the full three points. The pitch opened up and although Lamela began to prosper so did Firmino even more. Liverpool would have won if only Origi had found a way of getting into the game. A flurry of decent chances came our way in the last 15 minutes. Rose blocked Firmino's effort after Lallana had put him through, Firmino had a decent shout for a pen after his shot struck a defender's hand, and at the death a sharply constructed counter-attack saw Firmino and Lallana breaking at speed against a severely stretched Spurs defence. If Hendo's square pass had had any heft then Vorm would have been faced with a two on one. As it was the home side escaped with a fortunate point.

It was tough on the boys. They deserved better. We had four candidates for Man of the Match. Lallana, Matip and Milner all had good shouts. But Firmino takes the prize. His second half performance, in particular, was truly outstanding.

A final comment. 'To Do is to Dare'. 'This is My Club, My One and Only Club'. There are some wretched club-made banners and signs at Premier League football stadiums. But I reckon Tottenham's are the worst. The first is a meaningless piece of drivel. The second shouldn't need saying and therefore when it is said strongly suggests that a second club is about to command everyone's allegiance. Truly, the White Hart Lane mob shall always be the Drury Lane Fan Dancers. 

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