Another meeting of the league’s top six, another memorable game.
Liverpool’s strong showing in the first half, having opened the scoring on the third minute, was matched by Spurs pressure throughout the second half.
A match that threatened to be low-scoring, defined by quality play but also sensible defending and good balance, wasn’t to be after a feverish final 15 minutes, not short on drama.
Victor Wanyama’s thunderbolt and Mohamed Salah’s dazzling dink will contest one another for goal of the month competition, whilst Harry Kane scored one of the two controversial penalties he was awarded.
Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Spurs show they can do it away
After failing to play their usual game in away trips to Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, it looked to be the case again at Anfield.
In the first half, Liverpool’s midfield successfully shackled Mousa Dembélé and, as a result, Spurs could not find their usual rhythm.
Eric Dier’s mistake gave Salah the opportunity to give Liverpool an early lead and, at this point, it looked like Spurs were set struggle away from home once again.
In the second half, though, Spurs responded well: dominating possession and forcing Liverpool into defending deep.
The breathlessness and drama of everything that happened in the final fifteen minutes felt like a natural conclusion to their concerted pressure.
With just a two-point gap between them and the Champions League spaces, and Old Trafford, the Emirates, the Etihad and now Anfield out of the way, Spurs look to be in a strong position to finish with Champions League football again.
2 Mohamed Salah could be set to break more records
The Egyptian forward has had plenty of plaudits this season and rightly so. The two goals he scored against Spurs somehow feel par for a player who has been a consistent danger.
His injury-time goal, dribbling through a crowded Spurs penalty area, his low-centre of gravity stupefying the defenders was reminiscent of goals scored by Lionel Messi. There are few footballers in the world capable of scoring such a goal.
Yet it was not a surprise. That’s the startling thing about Mohamed Salah’s season - his performance felt like a continuation, just part of a continuing ascent as opposed to an apex.
It was his 21st league goal of the season. That’s one more than Eden Hazard has ever scored in a full season and five more than he has ever scored in a Premier League campaign.
This comparison is not to denigrate a player who has rightfully held a player of the season award but to illustrate exactly how special this season is for Salah.
With twelve games left to play for a team that plays on the front foot, a near 1:1 goal ratio already and as a designated penalty taker, it’s not unthinkable he breaks the record of 31 goals in a 38-game season.
3 How to limit Mousa Dembélé's influence
Man of the match in Spurs dominant display against Manchester United, the Belgian midfielder was able to exploit the space left by Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic in the middle of the pitch and dictate the game.
Liverpool could not afford to let him do the same again and set up their gameplan accordingly.
Their three-man midfield of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can were tasked with shackling Dembélé and carried that out effectively.
Whilst this approach may have raised some eyebrows with its omission of more industrious runners like Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it was certainly justified on the evidence of the first half. Dembele suffered more fouls than anyone else on the pitch but was dispossessed on more occasions too.
As Spurs grew into the game during the second half, so too did Dembélé, but nor was he the deep-lying nucleus of the team as he was against Manchester United.
Often it would be Jan Verthonghen who spread the ball out wide to the full-backs to begin an attacking move. Eventually, their breakthroughs (equaliser and two penalties) came after he was substituted.
There are questions about how suited Dembélé is to playing two games a week. Whilst it’s true he was far less effective against Liverpool than against Manchester United, this places his performance in isolation and ignores how the opposition approached him.
It’s safe to assume he won’t play in the FA Cup replay against Newport midweek. After that, it will be interesting to see if Pochettino opts to use him twice in four days again in the season-defining fixtures against Arsenal and Juventus, and if those teams follow Liverpool’s example.
4 Encouraging signs on Liverpool's goalkeeper front
Loris Karius performance was not completely faultless but it was close to.
His dive to claim the ball late-on was a little reckless. Regardless of Jon Moss’ decision, it gave Harry Kane an opportunity to go down and ask a question of the referee.
This was the only real blot on his copybook and he made amends as he stood tall to save as Harry Kane blasted it down the centre.
The former Mainz goalkeeper defended his decision to punch the ball away before Victor Wanyama’s thunderbolt of an equaliser, an unsavable shot. He did draw some criticism but he was right to defend himself - it was a strong punch out and the Kenyan’s strike was against the odds.
Karius has done enough lately to stake his claim as Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper. More performances like this will be needed to convince the powers that be that this isn’t a problem position that can be fixed in the transfer market, though.
5 Eric Dier could be due some time on the bench
The early error that gifted Liverpool a lead was a bad one. Careless and unnecessary.
Yet these things happen. Toni Kroos made a similar mistake in the World Cup final, as his clumsy hack set Gonzalo Higuaín free on goal, although fortunately for him the Argentine striker contrived to miss.
Kroos’ mistake was an outlier, though, something unthinkable from one of the world’s best midfielders. Eric Dier is not of that quality and this mistake was not unthinkable for a player who has still not recaptured his best form of the 15/16 season.
Perhaps understandably, Dier had a shaky game after the mistake. He lost the ball unnecessarily and failed to provide adequate cover ahead of the defence, making just a single tackle.
Victor Wanyama had an excellent debut campaign, last season but injuries have robbed him of much influence this season. His return might be perfect timing with Eric Dier’s loss of form.
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