LIVERPOOL 2-0 Tottenham Hotspurs
Liverpool have finally claimed their first Premier League win of 2017, at Anfield today. Since the start of January, Liverpool had played 5 Premier League fixtures against Sunderland, Manchester United, Swansea, Chelsea and Hull and come away with 3 points from 3 draws and 2 defeats. On New Year’s Eve we had been beaten Manchester City and generally were expected to continue our winning streak through the early new year, with confidence that we were about to claim 15 more points in the 5 games ahead of us. The confidence and optimism slipped away from many Reds fans till now. We should never let disappointing results do that to us anyway but it did happen to some. Thankfully, Liverpool looked like the “Liverpool of old” and I don’t mean Shankly’s or Paisley’s lads. I just mean the Liverpool team that took us to the top of the league in 2016 and shortly after sat close behind Chelsea in 2nd place, expecting to overtake them again eventually. That was who we looked like once more. Back to our best, beating top teams like Spurs without even conceding.
Jurgen Klopp made a couple of noticeable changes. Can wouldn’t start, Wijnaldum had been put into the midfield to show what he can do from the first minute of the game. Klavan would only get placed on the substitute bench, despite the replacement for him actually being a defensive midfielder (Lucas would play as a central defender). Mané would start. There had been recent talk in the media and even interviews with Klopp that spoke of Karius possibly replacing Mignolet for this specific fixture. It wouldn’t happen though, Karius sat on the substitute bench and the Belgian would play for the whole game.
Liverpool started as strongly as we would perform for the whole game, really. There wasn’t a point when we looked like being beaten. Really. Tottenham had some great chances throughout the game but our defenders (even the ones that are actually midfielders) dealt with every attack which came that came towards them very well. Mignolet didn’t have very much to do, but when he was required to get into action he played a vital part of the defence that saw Liverpool concede no goals. “Clean Sheets” as they’re called are very important and often a big part of how you can take all the points from your fixture. Credit to our back 4 and goalkeeper for achieving that.
I couldn’t actually make my mind up on who was going to be the first goalscorer. Coutinho and Firmino were my favourites I think, with both of the Brazilians running circles around Tottenham’s defenders from early on in the game. When a ball was crossed into the penalty area early on, even Lucas had an excellent chance to score and he would head the ball just over the crossbar, then shortly after seemed to be cursing himself for missing the opportunity he was given. Just a little lower and I’d probably be telling you about Lucas’ wonderful headed goal. A shame I wouldn’t get to do that, but he still deserves credit for making his effort anyway. Better to try and fail than not to try scoring at all, right? You can learn from your failures. Now, Lucas has learned to keep his shots down a bit. The midfield were doing great too and put on a real show for the home fans, who have been through some disappointing results at Anfield lately. Now it was time for one particular player who many of our fans had missed terribly because he’d been away in Africa on international duty to shine in front of his own fans. Welcome back to Anfield, Sadio Mané.
Mané’s game isn’t always about scoring either, he knows how to assist his teammates but Sadio Mané would open the scoring in this game.
After about quarter of an hour of play, there was a sudden rush of attack from Liverpool and Tottenham’s goalkeeper had to face a 1 on 1 situation after Wijnaldum had pushed a perfect through ball directly to Mané and he “only” had to fight off defender Ben Davies and shoot a powerful shot past Hugo Lloris and into the top of the net to score. Looked easy, but really was just a combination of wonderful assistance and excellent shooting by professionals that can do some rather difficult things at will. Not every Premier League player scores goals like this. It wouldn’t be the last show of excellence by the Senegal international, either. As if this wasn’t amazing enough, just two minutes later Mané would score again.
Lallana and Firmino had been pushing hard for the last minute, getting the Tottenham defence split apart and even forcing their goalkeeper to react. Well, Lloris ended up making his way far off his line to save those player’s shots but Mané was in the right place at the right time within the penalty area to make sure there would be a follow up shot. So, Mané turned to fire a perfectly accurate shot which still had to get past the defenders even if Hugo Lloris wasn’t between the goalposts to save it.
More surprising than the fact we’d been able to score twice in two minutes against Spurs, was that we didn’t end up scoring again at all. The second half would see just as many attacks as the first half but perhaps it was our opposition who had tightened up their defence and become determined to not let Liverpool get away with any more goals. Not that this would stop us from getting our victory.
In addition to the two goals we scored, we’d had to deal with some of the Premier League’s best attackers like Harry Kane and Dele Alli. These players are known for causing nightmares to Premier League defenders, but we’d shut them both down every time they were attacking. Without those key squad members forcing us to concede, our focus was just about keeping the lead we’d built for the rest of the game. We didn’t have to use any “parked bus” tactics with 8 men at the back either, Liverpool don’t have to play ultra defensively to keep a clean sheet. It was just what was needed from our back 4 and goalkeeper.
Everything that we’d been missing since New Year’s Day and couldn’t quite get back returned to us in this fixture. A performance which was simply as good as any we’d seen in 2016. Surely we will continue with this good form, it has been so bad in the new year till this game that “it can’t get worse” – we’ll certainly get better as we continue through our fixture list now.
Man Of The Match
Sadio Mané certainly was the best player on the whole pitch. Sure, it was a team effort to get our first Premier League win of 2017 but Mané was the one getting the goals which helped us to our win. He’s come back to the news that he really seemed to be the missing part of the puzzle Liverpool fans had to have in order to stop the draws and losses that had replaced our winning streak while he was out in Africa. Each goal he got was not easy, there was hard work to be done but he did it and made sure we’d come away with a much needed win that keeps us in 4th place, just ahead of Manchester City (5th) and Manchester United (6th).
Liverpool will play Premier League Champions Leicester, but not for sixteen days! We really haven’t had a break in the fixture list like this all season but now that there’s FA Cup and League Cup and even Europa League fixtures to be played (and Liverpool aren’t a part of those competitions any more this season), we’ll have to wait for over a fortnight to play our next fixture. I think we can just celebrate getting back to winning ways in the spare time we have now.
Walk on with hope in your hearts, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.