Long forward balls and switches of play just fail to bring the reward of three vital points as our Premier League clash ends Liverpool 1-1 Spurs at Anfield.
It was end-to-end, exhilarating and open as two aggressive teams tried to enforce their style on each other. Each of us had our share of head-in-hands moments of disbelief, but neither side could find the quality to break the deadlock, as it ended Liverpool 1-1 Spurs at Anfield.
Each side was trying to press and hurry the other in to mistakes and turnovers. This is the first thing you’d expect in a Klopp vs Pochettino game and neither side disappointed.
We were quick to close as we condensed the playing area by squeezing up and using a high defensive line. This left us open to the through ball or pass over the top, which Liverpool rarely delivered. It also meant that the Reds were forced in to many downfield clearances. However, with a lack of time to get their heads up, or the accuracy to deliver, Dier, Wimmer, Alderweireld and the hugely impressive Mousa Dembele hoovered these clearances up.
On the other side of the ball, Liverpool were using their pressing system to limit our time on the ball. The Reds were playing with two up in the defensive phase and splitting our centre backs.
By positioning Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge in the channels between our centre backs and Eric Dier dropping in, they were able to force our play to one side.
After doing this, the pack behind would close and try to encircle and gang tackle the ball carrier.
This led to many Liverpool ball recoveries in our half and created some of their best chances. Coutinho releasing Daniel Sturridge to put him through 1v1 against Hugo Lloris being the best of them.
The long ball from back to front looking to either win the knockdowns or hoover up the loose balls has been a feature of our season. It was once more in evidence here and created our two best openings of the half.
Both chances saw us expose the much-maligned Mamadou Sakho and on each occasion Harry Kane pondered when in a good position.
The first saw a long ball sent downfield and as Sakho tried to bring it down, Son Heung-Min pounced upon him. Then, as we’ve frequently seen, we have our advanced midfield trio anticipating winning the loose ball. They are already in the space behind the opposition midfield and running towards an exposed central defence.
Kane uncharacteristically pondered, choosing neither to take on an early shot nor look for the pass. Dejan Lovren not jumping in and playing the passing lane complicated his indecisiveness. This shepherded Kane wider than he would’ve liked and in to a poor shooting or passing position.
Soon after and another long ball sent downfield saw Kane overpower Sakho, turn and race towards goal with Dele Alli in support. Lovren once more played the passing lane to delay Kane’s decision and then closed when the shot was the only option.
The long ball was proving a decisive weapon to open Liverpool up as it was bypassing the congested midfield zone. After the interval and a glorious chance was created for Son Heung-Min, but he volleyed past the post. The out-to-in run from wide has also been a feature under Pochettino and Dier’s deft pass didn’t get the finish it deserved.
Later, in a carbon copy move, Dele Alli couldn’t quite bring the ball down either as it slid agonisingly away from his attempt to control it and in to the waiting arms of Simon Mignolet.
Coutinho influence grows
Philippe Coutinho was Liverpool’s standout player and drifting from a position on the left saw him wreak havoc.
He was getting on the ball from Liverpool’s pressing traps and then providing through ball passes to set others in. He created the best opportunity of the first half for Daniel Sturridge, but he also put in a neatly chipped ball that Adama Lallana miss-hit and Hugo Lloris clawed away with a miraculous save.
After creating chances for others with his passing, Liverpool took the lead with a goal that his through ball fashioned. Starting from the left, Coutinho drifted inside and slid the ball through our lines to Daniel Sturridge in space.
Christian Eriksen was guarding Coutinho and Eric Dier was also fronting him up. As the pass went through to Sturridge, neither of our players was quick enough to react and follow Coutinho’s run.
Sturridge receiving the ball pulled Toby Alderweireld out towards him and Adam Lallana’s run dragged away Kevin Wimmer, creating a huge window for Coutinho.
Coutinho’s finish was calm as he slotted in to the corner, but there were a number of errors. Eric Dier took a lot of the criticism from pundits for not tracking the 1-2, but Christian Eriksen was equally to blame. Also, Danny Rose was slow to recognise the danger and rotate over. This left a huge hole that wasn’t closed quickly enough by the full back pinching in to help.
Coutinho’s influence grew as the match went on. He had Kyle Walker discombobulated with his twisting and turning runs as he threatened to break the game open. He fired one effort through the six-yard box that thankfully missed everybody and another just past the post.
Spurs side-to-side switches
Liverpool were causing us trouble with their pressing, but we had been getting around it in two ways. The first was through long balls forward to bypass their midfield. The second was with quick switches in play that sent the ball from side-to-side in either one or two passes. This latter method navigated their gang tackling after their initial press sought to push us to one side of the field.
Toby Alderweireld, of course, was the main instigator of his usual long diagonal switches, but others were getting involved too. Danny Rose created the first good opportunity of the game as he lasered a magnificent cross-field ball to Kyle Walker, as we switched play from full back to full back.
Walker brought the ball down and got it in to Christian Eriksen for a first time shot inside the penalty area.
After this early chance, we didn’t use the switch enough to navigate Liverpool’s pressing trap. That was until we tied the scores up at Liverpool 1-1 Spurs.
After going in front, Liverpool sunk off slightly and this invited us on as they looked to play a more counter attacking game. As a result, Toby Alderweireld could pick the ball up with time and space in the Liverpool half.
He sent another raking pass out wide towards the forward rushing Christian Eriksen. The Dane did amazingly well to not only control the pass with the outside of his right foot, but also to flick it back in towards Harry Kane in the penalty area.
What followed was a piece of absolute brilliance from Harry Kane. Dejan Lovren, who had been shepherding him extremely well throughout the game, was caught trying to be first to the loose ball. Kane’s underrated strength and ability to shield the ball came to the fore as Lovren’s momentum took him in too close. Kane rolled him superbly. The instant first-time shot that followed found the corner of the net from what seemed the most difficult of angles given Kane’s body position. Suddenly there was hope, 1-1 and game on.
The side-to-side switch then became a feature as we looked to push for a winner. Alderweireld found Danny Rose, which led to a fearsome Christian Eriksen drive from the edge of the penalty area that was clawed away by Simon Mignolet. Rose was then found getting forward again. This time his cross was deflected out for Mousa Dembele to unleash a partially scuffed drive that the Liverpool keeper pushed round the post.
Rose’s forward bursts looked to be the avenue that would bring success. In the final minute he was forward attacking once more and stole the ball back off Dejan Lovren inside the Liverpool box. Right in front of the travelling support it appeared that this would be our moment. However, Rose saw his low cross across the box blocked away by a last ditch lunging Alberto Moreno as Nacer Chadli waited with the goal gaping. It would’ve been a remarkable end to a scintillating game, but it wasn’t to be.
Liverpool 1-1 Spurs overall
A breathtaking and equally nerve-wracking game due to just how open and up-tempo both teams played at. In and out of possession the speed of both ball and player movement was rapid and at times we were a joy to watch. The flip side was that the intensity of the game, maybe combined with being leggy from the international break, led to many under and over hit passes. We also showed some uncharacteristic indecisiveness due to the speed with which the windows of opportunity for passes opened and closed.
Harry Kane and Mauricio Pochettino commented that this was two points dropped. The effect of whether this is where the title challenge faltered won’t be known for a few more weeks.
Final score: Liverpool 1-1 Spurs.