Liverpool vs Tottenham result: Five things we learned as Reds show off homegrown talent en route to the top

An entertaining showdown at the top of the table was decided by a late Roberto Firmino header

Karl Matchett
Wednesday 16 December 2020 22:09
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Liverpool's latest homegrown defensive stars

Liverpool leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table after a late 2-1 win at Anfield.

The home side were entirely dominant in the first 45 minutes and could easily have gone in a couple of goals up, particularly after Mohamed Salah’s shot looped in for the opener – but Roberto Firmino was twice denied by Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min strode away on the counter-attack to bury an excellent equaliser.

A more end-to-end period after the break saw Spurs miss three great chances, two from Steven Bergwijn and one from Harry Kane, while Sadio Mane hit the bar with a shot on the angle.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table - all matches by date and kick-off time

But the final word was reserved for Firmino, who buried a fantastic late header to send the Reds top.

Here are five things we learned from the game on Wednesday night.

Battle of the ‘5’ kings

One of the early intriguing tactical battles appeared as Jose Mourinho switched his pack in midfield somewhat, pushing Moussa Sissoko wider to the right and playing Son Heung-min off Harry Kane in attack.

That effectively left Liverpool with a three-on-two advantage in the centre, so Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tasked himself with sticking to Gini Wijnaldum like glue.

The two No. 5s clashed three times in the first 45 minutes, the Dane fouling the Dutch skipper on each occasion, and the Spurs man didn’t get much nearer the ball elsewhere either: at the break it was 48 touches to 19 in favour of Wijnaldum and 43 passes completed to just eight.

It was indicative of the control of the game the Reds had and Hojbjerg’s influence was further negated after he was booked early in the second half.

Predictable yet exhilerating

Jurgen Klopp against Jose Mourinho. Ask a fairweather fan for their stereotypical expectation of a tactical plan and the first 45 minutes might have been exactly on-point.

Spurs: sat back, low block, men behind the ball, six strung across the back with the wide midfielders tucked in.

Liverpool: adventurous, dominating possession, lots of rotation between the front players, looking to get the full-backs involved high up.

It might have been predictable in style, but it didn’t detract from the entertaining nature of the occasion and the clear tension which built as the game went on, no doubt enhanced by the fact supporters are back inside Anfield.

Homegrown impact

Liverpool lined up with three Academy graduates in the line-up for this top-of-the-table clash.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a guaranteed starter, and though he’s short of full fitness he had a good game here, an outlet for the Reds and defensively sound when he wasn’t high upfield.

Curtis Jones has been a midfield regular this term, a beneficiary of injuries who has taken his chance to become a key component of the side. On the night he was exceptional, creating plenty of chances and dominating the flow of the game.

And, in defence, Rhys Williams was handed his chance in the absence of Joel Matip. He dominated aerially and did as well as could be asked  for the most part, another stepping stone in his fledgling career.

Al-dier-weireld

Spurs’ defensive duo have improved immeasurably over the last few months.

While Toby Alderweireld was injured it was apparent that he was a huge and critical piece of this team, with great consistency and organisation at the back.

But Eric Dier has also been fantastic, consistent and reliable this term - not the popular narrative, but true nonetheless. Together they frustrated the home team for spells and showed why Spurs have been so tough to break down this season.

And yet, Alderweireld, by the tiny of circumstances, was involved in both goals: the first deflected off his leg and he couldn’t hold off Firmino’s header for the second.

Top end

Leicester would have gone top before this game if they won, but they didn’t. Southampton would have gone top before this game if they held onto the lead against Arsenal, but they didn’t.

Spurs thus came to Anfield top, ahead of the Reds on goal difference, with both teams knowing they could go clear in the race if they took the three points.

It looked as if this duo, too, would miss the chance to win - but the late winner has been a theme of Liverpool’s title-winning team and they showed that strength once more in this critical clash.

Firmino’s header sends the Reds three points clear and the marker has been laid down for the rest to start chasing.

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