Jack Hallows picks apart Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Anfield with Tottenham Hotspur to find both the positives and the negatives.
If you gave me a point before this game I’d have probably still been a little disappointed given the current table but I’d have taken it. Spurs are a very good side and they’ve shown it time and again in big fixtures this season.
Without lying to you at all, I predicted a 2-2 scoreline when discussing the match with a Spurs supporting friend. Both sides play attacking football, almost guaranteeing goals and both sides are very evenly matched on paper, so it was always going to be close.
The result itself? Not terrible. The circumstance in which points were dropped? Absolutely gutting.
Karius, centre backs and Salah’s goals: The good
I’m going to start with the positives that came out of this game.
When Dejan Lovren lined up as part of the Reds’ back four, there was instant moaning and groaning on Twitter. Why wouldn’t there be? Last time we played this opposition the Croatian lost his head not once but twice before being substituted just after half an hour.
Despite this, other than his missed clearance that led to Harry Kane’s first penalty, it would be tough to fault Lovren. His counterpart Virgil van Dijk was the same. One single mistake that saw his game go from fantastic to decent.
Both centre halves were commanding in the air, strong in the tackle, for the most part, smart in their decision making and intelligent in their positioning. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve not seen Harry Kane have a quieter game this season.
It certainly helped the centre back pairing that the man between the sticks probably had one of his best games in a Liverpool shirt.
Karius may have a lot more to do before he starts inspiring genuine confidence around Anfield but the German had an overall impressive 90 minutes against Pochettino’s attacking talents.
A smart decision early in the second half saw him off his line quickly to deny Son while he looked far more assured coming for crosses – to blame him for Wanyama’s goal is ridiculous. His punch went 25 yards away from goal and I guarantee you that if you ask Wanyama to attempt that same strike ten times over, he doesn’t score one.
He also looked to have been the hero when Salah netted his second due to a solid penalty save just minutes before to deny Harry Kane his 100th Premier League goal. He’ll feel very hard done by that the Englishman was given a second bite at the cherry in the dying embers of the match – a chance he wasn’t ever going to pass up.
Speaking of Salah, is there a better forward in the Premier League currently?
The Egyptian didn’t have his best game by any margin. Aside from his goals, his game was for the most part full of loose touches and poorly weighted through balls but it’s encouraging to see that even on an off day, his finishing ability and movement don’t suffer.
His first goal was typical Salah, drifting in behind the Spurs defence in anticipation of a loose back pass but his second was sheer class. In a split second, the former Roma man jinked and slipped his way past four Spurs defenders before lifting the ball over a diving Hugo Lloris in an almost Messi-like fashion.
21 Premier League goals and counting.
A lacklustre second half and absent composure: The bad
Liverpool were honestly the better team in the first half. The press was in full flow, the passing while not at it’s pinpoint best was crisp and purposeful and really, if we’d conjured up a better final ball at times we’d have probably gone into the break two or three up.
It was bizarre then to see just how poor we were during the second period.
It was clear that Klopp felt his side couldn’t keep up the intensity for a full 90 minutes and opted to sit deep, protect our lead and try to pick Spurs off on the counter-attack.
Sadly, we saw just how that worked for United a few days earlier and this oversight from the German saw the Reds spend the entirety of the games’ second forty five camped inside their own defensive third, launching long balls desperately in the vain hope that Salah would be able to get on the end of one.
What was most worrying was the lack of composure from the attacking trio when we did break.
More than once Salah and Firmino had a two on two with Mané and later Oxlade-Chamberlain speeding up alongside them but the opportunity went begging and broke down horrendously.
Whether it was simply a case of tired legs and minds or all three were just caught on an off day is up for debate but the simple fact is it wasn’t good enough.
Controversial officiating and a case for VAR: The ugly
I don’t want to touch on this too much because I won’t be able to without getting very angry but the standard of officiating in the last 20 minutes of this fixture was disgraceful.
The Reds may not have had the best second half but there’s nothing you can do when you score what looks to be the winner just moments after your goalkeeper has already saved a penalty that should never have happened only to see your opposition awarded another soft penalty that really, probably shouldn’t have been given either.
Perhaps the most baffling part of the whole fiasco is John Moss’ decision to confidently deny Spurs a penalty and allow the game to carry on, only to change his mind an eternity later at the behest of his assistant whose view was impeded at best.
The same assistant whose positioning and viewpoint he didn’t trust just 10 minutes earlier during the first incident when Moss ignored his reservations over whether Karius had actually made contact with Kane.
Klopp said after the match that he would be awarded the “biggest fine in football,” if he said what he truly thought of the decision making by the officials during that final 20 minutes. I can imagine our opinions are very, very similar.