Martin King highlights the developing partnership between Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren as a positive from Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday.
Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday may have come with a little disappointment, but there were also some encouraging signs, one of which was an impressive display by the centre-backs picked on the day.
Manager Jürgen Klopp gave new acquisition Joel Matip a Premier League debut at White Hart Lane after the former Schalke defender made his first ever Reds appearance in the EFL Cup in midweek. The Cameroon international played alongside Dejan Lovren and despite only recently pairing up in the team, the two centre-backs combined their respective strengths to good effect against a dangerous looking Spurs line-up.
Matip’s performance was one of class and composure on the ball as well as awareness and presence off it. Heading into the match, Tottenham’s attackers Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Delle Alli were always going to pose a big threat, however, when they surged forward Matip regularly found himself in a good position to snuff out the danger and he did so, more often than not.
His control on the ball was excellent. Too many times in the past, Liverpool fans have had their hearts in their mouths due to some poor quality and decision making on the ball by their center-backs but the travelling Kopites would’ve been very pleased with Matip’s display in possession. The defender’s passing and movement were effective in giving his fellow defenders some breathing space at the back, as well as setting up his forward-playing teammates. In fact, Matip played a part in setting up Roberto Firmino, who won the penalty that James Milner scored to give the Reds a first-half lead against Spurs.
And the Cameroonian could’ve crowned his league debut with a goal as he gave observers a glimpse of just how important his height will be for Liverpool on future occasions – his header from a Milner set-piece, unfortunately, came off the bar.
Matip’s partner in defence, Dejan Lovren, continued to show just how much he has improved after a fragile start to his Anfield career. The Croatian was a physical nuisance against the Lily Whites, disturbing strikers Vincent Janssen and Kane’s influence on the match, with strong tackles and a few headed clearances. In the past, very few people would back Lovren against an incoming, fast-paced attack but on Saturday, the number 6 looked confident and assured, even in the face of danger. To crown off his afternoon, the Croatia international received the Premier League’s man of the match accolade.
This display will, no doubt, establish Lovren and Matip as Klopp’s first choice pairing and consistency from the duo will be vital if Liverpool is to put an end to defensive frailties.
The one goal conceded at White Hart Lane will no doubt put a blemish on an otherwise powerful performance by the two centre backs, but supporters will hope that there’s more of these impressive displays to come from Lovren and Matip.