Liverpool reopened their six point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield.
Having fallen behind early to a Harry Kane goal, the Reds rallied to take what may prove to be a huge victory with a Jordan Henderson half volley and a Mohamed Salah penalty.
Jurgen Klopp elected to make three changes from the midweek victory over Genk, with the fit again Trent Alexander Arnold replacing James Milner at right back. Elsewhere, Jordan Henderson replaced Naby Keita in midfield with Georginio Wijnaldum also coming into the engine room, in place of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.
Much of the preamble before the game centred on what kind of tactical approach Spurs would take into the game and that was answered after only a minute.
Henderson, attempting a foray upfield, was too easily muscled off the ball by Harry Winks. The ball was then swept to Son Heung Min and the Korean’s shot, which deflected off Dejan Lovren, struck the left hand post. From the rebound, Harry Kane — with typical strikers instincts — nodded the ball into the net from minimal distance for a 1-0 lead.
Liverpool, with Spurs flooding the midfield in their 4-5-1 shape, looked laboured at times in the first 20 or so minutes. With the middle third congested, much of the attack was funnelled out wide and Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson’s usual world class delivery wasn’t quite as prodigious as usual.
The tide began to turn, however, as Roberto Firmino — hitherto unseen — began to influence things and provide a link between midfield and attack.
The European Champions, now with the bit between their teeth, would have equalised in the first half if it wasn’t for the heroics of Paulo Gazzaniga in the visitors goal.
The Argentinian kept the hosts at bay with excellent saves, particularly from Virgil van Dijk. From a typically whipped Alexander Arnold set piece, Gazzaniga expertly pushed van Dijk’s goalbound header over the bar.
The half time whistle blew with Liverpool in the ascendancy, but without them making it count on the scoreboard.
Gazzaniga, who also played under Pochettino at Southampton, was in the thick of the action in the second half just like he had been in the first.
The Spurs back up saved from headers from Firmino and van Dijk and also showed his distribution skills. From a long kick from hands, Gazzaniga released Son, who after taking advantage of poor Lovren positioning, and the Korean rounded Alisson before rattling the bar with his left footed strike.
Despite bossing the game, Spurs’ almost moment was a wake up call for Liverpool and one they heeded as they scored soon after.
Fabinho, rightly, is credit as being one of the foremost, ball winning defensive midfielders in the world. But that tag doesn’t give enough credit to his playmaking abilities and they were in full show as he assisted Henderson for the equaliser.
The Brazilian’s probing ball took Spurs’ left back, Danny Rose, out of the equation and Henderson, on his weaker left foot, half volleyed home with aplomb for a deserved game leveller.
Attacking the Kop with a raucous crowd roaring them on, the table toppers attacked and attacked and completely hemmed the visitors into their own half.
It felt like a matter of time before the relentless Reds would take the lead and the breakthrough came in the 75th minute and it owed itself to the never say die attitude of Sadio Mané.
Chasing down a lost cause, the Senegalese got to the ball Serge Aurier. The Ivorian won it back, but Mane — not giving up and showing brilliant core strength — pilfered the ball again before the right back wildly kicked home and conceded what was a stone wall penalty.
Quite like the Champions League final between the sides in Madrid, Salah’s penalty was hit hard and true and past the keeper.
It was a deserved lead for Liverpool and they threatened more but held out for a 2-1 win, which was only dampened by the fact that Salah was replaced late on complaining of what appeared to be his previously injured ankle.
Liverpool team: Alisson, Alexander Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Subs: Milner for Wijnaldum, Origi for Firmino, Gomez for Salah.
Subs not used: Adrian, Lallana, Keita, Oxlade Chamberlain.