Tottenham Hotspur 1 – Liverpool 1: Match Review

A decent draw against one of the best teams in the Premier League last season or two points dropped? Once again Liverpool produced a performance that was far from definitive. If you’re the sort of fan that wants to see everything through a negative frame then you can definitely do that. If you’re like me then you’ll be delighted with the work the Reds put in.

The constant need to give an opinion or reaction as everything happens means that Twitter was awash with people moaning and complaining at a performance that I thought was more than good. For vast periods of the game we were excellent and Spurs couldn’t even begin to live with us, but we didn’t take our chances. All things considered, then, what have we learnt from another ninety minutes?

Football Is About Fine Margins

I can’t recall a game in recent times that proved as definitively as this one that fine margins matter in a huge way in football games. From about the tenth minute up until half-time the Reds were genuinely dominant. Coutinho needs to do better when he’s presented with a virtually open goal. If he chooses to just hit that into the back of the net rather than trying to give the goalkeeper the eyes then we’re 1-0 up.

If either of the two balls through to Mané have a little bit less on them then he either gets there first, rounds the goalkeeper and scores or else he gets a touch on it to take the ball away from Vorm and the ‘keeper is shown a red card. Spurs are down to ten men and they have their third-choice shot-stopper between the sticks for the majority of the game.

Instead of that Vorm was probably their MOTM in the first half; saving well from Coutinho and beating our new star boy to the scene twice. If Liverpool had gone in with a three or even four goal lead at half-time there would have been little to complain about from Spurs’ point of view. They simply couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s frontline and looked likely to concede every time we went forward.

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

In the second-half there’s the moment that Joel Matip’s header just skims the top of the bar when it would have been a certain goal if he’d got it essentially anywhere on target. Plus, of course, the Sadio Mané disallowed goal that gives us a 2-0 lead and kills of Tottenham’s remaining ambition. Lallana is in-line with the defender to the same extent that Eric Dier is for Spurs’ equaliser, yet it goes against us and goes in their favour.

Now if you’re the sort of person who wants to complain about things then you ask why Wijnaldum doesn’t release the ball earlier, removing any question of whether it’s offside or not. If you’re a Tottenham fan then you’re wondering why Mané is still on the pitch at that point, given he arguably committed three bookable offences.

But that is how the game panned out. Those fine margins made the difference and instead of being out of sight we only had a one goal lead as Spurs re-took the initiative. The disallowed goal lifted them and Liverpool’s legs started to tire as the match wore on. The decision to bring on Origi instead of Sturridge made sense when we were 1-0 up and needed someone to help us defend from the front, but when it went to 1-1 he wasn’t the out ball that the defenders needed.

Players Answered Their Critics

It’s not a popular thing to say at the moment, but the captain put in a very good performance. The done thing is to slag off the captain or, if you’re a particularly moronic person, to make a video without any context demonstrating all of the mistakes that he made during a game in which the manager didn’t substitute him and the team won 5-0.

The manager was forced to defend him during the week and his faith was well and truly repaid. He wasn’t at his best during the match against Burnley, but which Liverpool players were, exactly? Why is it that Henderson was particularly deserving of criticism? Some people simply don’t like him and whatever he does isn’t good enough.

The question that these critics struggle to answer is what exactly they want from the former Sunderland player. He broke up play brilliantly, passed the ball with confidence and intelligence and was a leader on the pitch. It seems that unless he scores and assists every game and never misplaces a pass then he’s not worth his shirt. What an absolute nonsense.

CHEN-WEI-SENG / Bigstock.com

CHEN-WEI-SENG / Bigstock.com

James Milner also responded well to those who have been critical of the manager’s decision to play him as a left-back. He put in a real shift, was always an option when we were moving forward and looked genuinely solid at the back. Not many left-backs put in the performance that he did today, but because he’s not a speed-merchant he won’t get the credit he deserves.

You may not like him in that position and you may want the manager to enter the market and sign an out-and-out left-back, but he’s not going to do it. Milner is a player with intelligence, experience and is a brilliant part of the team, but he’s not quick enough to play in midfield in this Jürgen Klopp team. It’s understandable that the manager wants him on the pitch and maybe, just maybe, he knows better than we do what’s good for the balance of the starting XI.

Matip Looks The Real Deal

I was genuinely impressed with Joel Matip’s performance against Burton but obviously had to add in all of the usual caveats that it was lower league opposition and that he, along with the rest of the defence, wasn’t really tested. None of those caveats were in place today at White Hart Lane against a very good, well-organised and strong Tottenham side.

As far as the player himself was concerned, though, there may as well have been no difference in the quality of the sides. He looked just as confident, assured and intelligent in possession today as he did on Tuesday night, once more looking like a threat from corners and set-pieces, too.

He’s only played two games for the Reds but right now he looks like he is definitely a much better player than Martin Skrtel and is more reliable and consistent than Mamadou Sakho. If improving as a football team is about upgrading on the weakest links in your team then we’ve definitely done that here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jürgen Klopp did not want to go into the start of this season with Simon Mignolet as his number one goalkeeper and a centre-back pairing of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan. We looked much stronger at the back today thanks to the presence of Matip and will be improved further when Loris Karius returns between the sticks.

Referees Will Take Centre Stage Once More

When Raheem Sterling was wrestling with Ryan Shawcross at a corner in the second-half of Manchester City’s game against Stoke last weekend the match referee didn’t stop play to warn the player about his behaviour. Likewise in the first-half when Shawcross committed the same offence on Nicolas Otamendi Mike Dean didn’t hesitate to point to the spot.

Yet when Vertonghen dragged Matip back at a Liverpool corner in the first-half Bobby Madeley decided not to punish the defender, but rather to stop play and warn him of his future behaviour. Since when do referees get to decide to be lenient over issues of the law? How can two penalties be given for the same thing in one match one week and then a referee decide to help a defender out the next?

It’s annoying to talk about referees. It’s one of the least interesting and most frustrating topics of conversation in the game. Yet when the rules aren’t enforced with any sort of consistency from one week to the next then it’s an absolute disgrace. I’m quite certain that neither Liverpool nor Tottenham fans were pleased with the performance of Madeley today, a sure-fire sign that he did a really poor job.

If the Football Association are determined to introduce these rules then they simply have to ensure that they are delivered consistently. Anything else will result in events like today causing supporters to pull their hair out and feeling a sense of disillusionment.

Perspective

If Liverpool had lost a close game to Arsenal, beaten Burnley and got today’s creditable draw with Spurs then there would be a feeling that we are well-placed after the opening three games of the season. As it is there is instead the notion that we’ve scraped a win against the Gunners, lost to a poor side and thrown away two points against Tottenham.

If Spurs had turned up at Anfield today and played the way Liverpool played – controlling the game, looking extremely dominant and only just missing out on a heavy win – would we not have been incredibly impressed by them? Should we not also be impressed with the way Liverpool played? It’s easy to be downhearted when you don’t win after being the better team, but being the better team isn’t always easy and shouldn’t be under-stated.

The problem with football is that it’s visceral and immediate and it’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re right in the middle of it. Last season heads fell off when we lost to West Ham, only for the Hammers to go on and record excellent away victories against the likes of Arsenal. How good or bad today’s result will prove to be will only become clear as the season wears on. Liverpool looked excellent at times and that’s the sort of thing that can be built on moving forward.

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