Liverpool moved to the summit of the Premier League table after beating Tottenham Hotspurs 2-1 in the first versus second clash at Anfield.
Heung Min Son had equalised for the uber defensive visitors after a deflected Mohamed Salah strike gave the Reds a more than deserved lead. Then, in stoppage time at the end of the game, Roberto Firmino powerfully planted a header into the top corner from Andy Robertson’s corner to see the three points stay at Anfield.
From the opening whistle, it was clear that Jose Mourinho — as is his default approach at Anfield — had his team organised in the most defensive of manners. Sitting subterranean deep, the London club had no interest in having the football and their priority was to remain defensively diligent and disciplined.
Liverpool dominated territory and possession and they manufactured a raft of half chances with Salah, Firmino, and Sadio Mane guilty of mishitting or not getting enough power or purchase on shots and consistently making it easy for Hugo Lloris with shots straight at the Frenchman. The France number one also comfortably saved a flicked Firmino header from a Robertson free-kick as the Reds struggled to make their dominance count on the scoreboard.
The central defensive pairing of Premier League debutant Rhys Williams and Fabinho excelled in their defensive duty by constantly snuffing out Spurs’ forays forward before they had the chance to develop. On the ball, too, the centre-halves were a source of attacking ignition and it was through a Williams pass that the hosts began the move to open the scoring.
The 19-year-0ld — in a manner reminiscent to Virgil van Dijk — hooked an accurate cross-field pass to Robertson on the left flank. The Scot then passed to Firmino and the Brazilian found Curtis Jones with a ball forward. The young Scouser, who was impressive throughout, slalomed into the box with trademark confidence and his pass was hit first time by Salah. The ball ricocheted off Eric Dier and looped into the top corner. It was a stroke of fortune but it was a lead that Jurgen Klopp’s truly merited.
Spurs weren’t showing much ambition in attack, but in typical fashion they scored with their first and only shot of the half not long after the hosts had opened the scoring. The Reds went to sleep after an attack and Giovani Lo Celso was allowed to make headway through midfield with a dribble before the Argentinian deftly slid a through ball into the path of Son. Bearing down on goal, the Korean calmly finished into the bottom left corner, past Alisson. On the balance of play, it was scantly deserved; but it was the kind of scenario that Mourinho had his team primed for and they went into the interval level.
The visitors started the second half with more ambition, though they still rarely saw over 25% of the ball. Steven Bergwijn, a peripheral figure throughout, benefited from Williams misreading the flight of a speculative hoof up the pitch and sped in behind and through on goal. Under pressure from Trent Alexander Arnold, though, the Dutchman fired wide.
More route one football saw the former PSV Eindhoven flier through on goal again soon after. This time, Harry Kane flicked a header on over the efforts of Fabinho and Bergwijn — clean through once again — hit his effort off the right-hand post at the Kop when he really ought to have scored. Spurs continued to turn the screw and Kane was also guilty of butchering a good chance when he harmlessly headed a corner into the ground and over the bar, despite being free in the six-yard box.
Much of the Reds’ play was coming down their left and Mane struck the top of the bar when he spun Serge Aurier — a recurring theme for the whole game — in the box and hammered his shot just a little too high. On and on they pushed and finally they were rewarded for their ambition in stoppage time.
Williams’ run took away the attention of Toby Alderweireld and Firmino surged into the vacated space to meet Robertson’s out-swinging corner with a header he powerfully planted into the top corner. With his trademark beaming smile, the Brazilian ran from the Anfield Road End to the Kop to take in the adulation of the 2,000 home fans. It felt significant and, at the end of the season, it might well be.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Williams, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs used: None made.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.