When the dust has settled and Liverpool fans finished celebrating, it’s s time to take a look at what happened in the big game on Thursday. When the two teams last faced off in December they were 1st and 2nd in the Premier League table. This time they were 5th and 6th in the table and had to fight for their spot in the Top 4. But they didn’t disappoint.
Mourinho arranged his team typically for a clash against one of the big teams. He started with three central defenders (Ben Davies, Eric Dier, and Joe Roden), Aurier and Matt Doherty as wing-backs, Ndombele and Hojberg were defensive midfielders, and the trio Son, Kane, Berwijn in the attack. With the 2 wing-backs playing right next to the central defenders, Bergwijn was almost as a 2nd right back, with Son and Kane left in front to work their magic.
Against them, Klopp faced everything best he has to offer. With Fabinho injured, Henderson took his spot in the center of the defense next to Matip. Milner got a spot in midfield with Gini and Thiago. The trio Mane, Firmino, Salah were upfront, and Trent and Robertson started at the full-backs position.
Fly Over Sports Podcast: Episode 32 – Fly Over Sports Podcast
The game started at a really wild tempo. In the first ten minutes, it was a real rollercoaster, attacks on both ends. In the 3rd minute, Son found a way behind Liverpool’s defense and scored. Sadly for Tottenham, after a lot of drawn lines, the goal was ruled out due to Son being offside. Tottenham had a clear plan: stay tight at the back; when stealing the ball, pass it to Kane and he’ll pass a through ball to Son.
The plan worked well, but against them, they had the amazing Joel Matip. The Cameroonian was the best player on the pitch during the first half. He blocked a clear goal-scoring shot from Son, stole a couple of balls just before they reach their target, and dispossessed the attackers a couple of times. Matip probably played his best half of the football game in his Liverpool career. Sadly it was only half, he got ankle ligament damage and was subbed at halftime.
On the other side of the field, Liverpool’s trio looked back to their best. After the drop in form, the whole team suffered, and especially the trio; they looked like they have their mojo back. Firminho was the conductor of the orchestra he needs to be. He dropped deeper, leaving the space for Mane and Salah; he played a lot of through balls for Mane and only the good reactions from Lloris denied Liverpool the goal earlier.
After all, at the last minute, Liverpool’s persistence paid off, Lloris, Aurrier, and Dier didn’t understand each other who have to clear the ball and it reached Firminho, who couldn’t have dreamed of a better goal-scoring opportunity. 0-1. There are rumors that there was a heated argument in Tottenham’s dressing room and that Serge Aurier left the stadium after feeling he’s accused of being guilty of the goal.
Both teams had to make a substitute due to injuries. Already told you about Matip’s ankle problem, Nathaniel Philips took his spot next to Jordan Henderson. And Erik Lamela went on for Harry Kane who got injured attempting his “trademark move” on Liverpool’s captain.
It was just a matter of time until Kane injures somebody doing this thing. Unluckily for him, it was him this time. Let’s hope he never tries this again. Mourinho made a 2nd substitute at half time with Harry Winks going on for Serge Aurier. This changed Tottenham’s formation to something similar to 4-3-3.
The second half started just like the first; a real rollercoaster. 30 seconds after it had started, Salah had a great opportunity, but his shot went high above the goal. A minute later, Mane saw his shot saved by Lloris, only the ball to reach Trent Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the six-yard box. The young defender couldn’t miss from there.; 0-2. It was the dream start of the 2nd half for Liverpool.
Two minutes fast forward, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg added to his great defensive display a goal. He found the ball at the edge of the box and with a great shot he left no chance to Alison; 1-2. This was another proof that Hojbjerg is probably Tottenham’s most important player since the beginning of the season, and Mourinho was right to push so hard to have him on the team. This goal gave the hosts an impulse in their game, but it was clear that when Kane and Son don’t play together the whole team struggles.
On the other hand, every Liverpool player showed his best and when this happens this team is really hard to play against. There were few quite interesting ways in Liverpool’s plays; most of their attacks were through the center. Trent and Robertson stayed a little behind and limited their inclusions in the attacking plays, which may be left Mourinho’s side surprised.
On the other hand, Firminho and Thiago interacted brilliantly and the defense had no answer to their game. And a little detail that may hold the answer to, “Why Klopp won’t play Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams when they have no CBs?”
Every time Liverpool played the ball from the back it looked like they were ignoring Nat Phillips. They moved the ball between each other, Ali to Robbo, Robbo to Hendo, Hendo to Ali andeven when the ball was passed close to Phillips he stepped back and left it for the other player. So maybe he’s not as good as Klopp wants him to be on the ball. He’s brilliant in the air, good on tackling and fast enough but not that sure when he has to play on the ball.
After the bad run of games Liverpool had in the last month, people started questioning Klopp and his decisions in charge. On Thursday, Klopp’s men clearly showed that they are one of the best teams in the country; they haven’t given up on the title.
After Kane picking up another injury, Tottenham season is in real danger. They look like a team really dependent on their attacking duo (Kane & Son). Now, the rest of the team will have to step up and take more responsibility in creating chances; otherwise, they’re risking losing Champions league football again, which might be disastrous for their financial situation.
Fun fact: Jurgen Klopp now has the same number of wins against Mourinho (5), as Pep Guardiola (3), Arsen Wenger (1), and Alex Ferguson (1) combined.