Liverpool and Tottenham’s iconic duos define enthralling Premier League clash

In an enthralling Premier Legaue clash that lacked midfield authority, a key battle between Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson and Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Son Heung-min defined the day

Jamie Braidwood
Sunday 19 December 2021 22:28
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Amid the chaotic brushes of Tottenham's enthralling draw with Liverpool, two semblances of normality could be seen streaking in opposite directions on the canvas. One, a vertical flash of white, was the return of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min’s partnership, flickering into life for the first time under Antonio Conte. The other, a red diagonal from right to left, was the combination between Liverpool’s full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

Both duos were crucial to a sublime, mad game of football - perhaps the best of the season so far. It was frantic, chaotic, but also imperfect and irregular, two teams hell-bent on attacking the holes that were open in the other side. It was the headache-inducing final throes of a Premier League weekend disrupted by Covid-19 - and who knows where we go from here.

While some teams had fixtures postponed due to outbreaks in squads, others were told to plug the gaps and carry on. This, the final Premier League fixture before Christmas, was one such example. Spurs had gone two weeks since their last fixture and had five changes from that 3-0 victory over Norwich. Liverpool were without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago, Jordan Henderson: an entire first-choice midfield and the cornerstone of their defence.

It was largely in that abyss where the chaos unfolded. Tyler Morton has already bossed two Champions League group stage wins in his young Liverpool career, but his first Premier League start proved similar to being thrown in a whirring blender. James Milner alongside him struggled to keep up, Naby Keita laboured too. They were open, too easily bypassed, too easily beaten.

To ease the creative burden, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson took on even more responsibility and were the two dominant forces in red. It helped that Spurs almost allowed Alexander-Arnold space to roam inside. A cross towards Robertson within the first two minutes should have given Liverpool the lead but it set the tone for what was to come, foreshadowing what could have been the late winner.

Robertson stretched left. Alexander-Arnold floated menacingly. We’ve seen this before, but rarely to such a clear, devastating effect. Robertson set up Diogo Jota’s equaliser with a perfectly clipped ball from the byline. Alexander-Arnold forced Hugo Lloris into two top saves. The pair then combined to put Liverpool in front.

At the other end, Conte, who was facing his first real test since his appointment, dialled up his Inter Milan playbook. The Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez roles, so crucial to Inter’s title win last season, brought the best out of the Kane and Son’s partnership and offered a reminder that Spurs on their day can trouble the top teams.

The hosts were happy to sit off and the realisation that there was space to attack galvanised their front line. Morton struggled to deal with those awkward bouncing balls in midfield, Van Dijk was not there to clean up, and Kane and Son pounced, breaking into the opposing half at ease.

As a duo, there are few better when they are in full flight and they were close to being at their sharpest here - both aware of each other’s movement and able to find their runs with precision. Liverpool were on the ropes to end the first half. Son was inches away from sliding in to double Tottenham’s lead. Dele Alli ran the hard yards in midfield and benefitted from the movement of the forward runners.

Kane and Son were given a watching brief, confident the danger was in behind, happy to stroll around on the halfway line knowing that they were a crisp one-two from running in on goal. Son, with another direct run in behind, capitalised on Alisson’s error to grab the equaliser. Robertson was punished for stepping over the line with his late red card, while Liverpool will argue that Kane was lucky to escape a red card for his own earlier challenge. It was that sort of evening.

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