Missed chances prove costly against league leaders
Spurs 0-1 Liverpool
Sat 11 January 2020, 19:27|Tottenham Hotspur
A first-half goal from Roberto Firmino was the only difference between the two sides as we pushed Liverpool all the way in an entertaining affair at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday evening.
The league leaders scored the only goal of the game in the 37th minute during a first half in which we adopted a counter-attacking game plan, while we had the visitors on the defensive for the final 20 minutes or so as we pushed for an equaliser, substitute Giovani Lo Celso going so close to levelling it up, only to fire wide at the back post.
The game saw the Premier League debut of 20-year-old defender Japhet Tanganga, who featured at right-back while Colombian centre-half Davinson Sanchez made his 100th Spurs appearance and the pair took their place in a defensive formation that looked to contain Liverpool while hitting them on the break whenever the opportunity arose.
We were almost behind with just two minutes on the clock when Firmino got in behind down the right of the area, cut back inside Christian Eriksen and curled an effort towards the far post which was heading in until Tanganga blocked on the line. The rebound went straight back to Firmino who laid off to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, his effort hit the post, then Tanganga before Paulo Gazzaniga leapt on the loose ball. We were happy to let Liverpool have the ball as we dropped deep and tried to stay compact, while always looking to utilise the pace of Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura in attack.
It was a strategy that was working to an extent as we had half-chances - Son robbed Trent Alexander-Arnold, advanced on goal but couldn’t direct his shot on target, Dele controlled a long Toby Alderweireld ball but fired over and, when Dele won possession from Jordan Henderson on half-way, we were on the counter again, Lucas eventually finding Eriksen whose low drive was saved comfortably by Alisson.
At the other end, it was a corner that almost led to the opener, the first ball getting recycled by the visitors for Henderson to clip to the far post, where Virgil van Dijk’s header was well saved by Gazzaniga at point-blank range. On 35 minutes, Firmino and Mo Salah combined, the latter cutting back for Sadio Mane but his volley bounced down and over the bar, however, two minutes later they did break the deadlock. Henderson stooped to win a header from Dele on the edge the area, Salah took a touch and laid off to Firmino, who turned past Tanganga and rifled a left-foot shot past Gazzaniga. It was almost 2-0 in the 43rd minute when Salah broke away down the right but sent his shot wide of the post, while the last action of the half saw Lucas head well wide from an Eriksen corner.
There was no change to the pattern of the game or personnel of either team at the start of the second half but we were working hard to both keep Liverpool out at one end and fashion some attacking impetus at the other. And when van Dijk and Joe Gomez went for the same ball from a long pass out of our defence, Dele capitalised and broke forwards only for his shot to get blocked inside the area, with Serge Aurier hitting the rebound straight at Alisson.
Chances then came at both ends, Firmino firing straight at Gazzaniga while Eriksen picked out Son in the left channel of the box, the South Korean coming inside but seeing his shot deflected just wide of the far post. Back came Liverpool, Mane finding himself unmarked six yards out and heading back across goal only for Gazzaniga to dive to his right and save well. With just over 20 minutes left we made a double switch with Danny Rose and Eriksen replaced by Erik Lamela and Lo Celso and when the former superbly tackled Georginio Wijnaldum midway inside Liverpool’s half on 74 minutes, we were in on goal, Lucas sliding a pass to Son who could only blaze high over the bar from 15 yards out.
The two substitutes almost combined 10 minutes from time, Aurier releasing Lo Celso down the right flank and he advanced into the area along the goal-line before fizzing a cross which just evaded Lamela. Then came our chance of the game in the 83rd minute as Son passed to Aurier out on the right and his excellent cross found Lo Celso racing in at the back post but he put his shot on the stretch wide of the far post. More opportunities came for both sides in the closing stages, Lamela testing Alisson with a 20-yard drive and substitute Divock Origi did likewise to Gazzaniga with one from slightly closer in, while our final opportunity to salvage a point came from the boot of Son in the third minute of stoppage time but he couldn’t get enough curl on his left-foot effort and Alisson saved easily.
The only goal of the game was obviously the moment which decided the contest, but from our perspective, the chance for Lo Celso will be one we’ll look back on as pivotal in our bid to level the game up. It was a well-worked opportunity too, Harry Winks breaking tackles in midfield before finding Son who in turn found Aurier. He took one touch and delivered a teasing ball to the back post, Lo Celso timing his run perfectly but then just unable to execute the finish. It was quite a difficult chance, but he’ll feel he could have done better.
Jose Mourinho told Spurs TV: "We were always very solid and then we felt we had to have a real go with players like Lamela, who hasn’t started a game for three or four months, we put everything in, fantastic effort, great individual performances. For some players, it was their best performances since I arrived, absolutely good performances. We did what was possible to do and we deserved much more than this, so disappointed with the result, but proud of the boys."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Spurs 0-1 Liverpool
Spurs (4-4-2): Gazzaniga, Tanganga, Alderweireld (c), Sanchez, Rose (Lamela 69), Aurier, Winks, Eriksen (Lo Celso 69), Son, Dele, Lucas. Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Vertonghen, Dier, Skipp, Sessegnon.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lallana 61), Henderson (c), Wijnaldum, Salah (Shaqiri 90+1), Firmino, Mane (Origi 81). Substitutes (not used): Adrian, Minamino, Phillips, Williams.
Goal: Liverpool – Firmino 37.
Yellow cards: Liverpool – Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Weather: Thick cloud, moderate breeze, 10 degrees.