Tottenham and Liverpool share the points after contender for Premier League game of the season

Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool: Kane, Jota, Robertson and Son all swapped strikes – and the Reds’ left-back was sent-off while the England skipper stayed on the pitch for a similarly aggressive tackle

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Sunday 19 December 2021 19:16
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Klopp: 'With smaller squads we cannot play that schedule.'

One of those matches that was bursting at the seams, but where everyone felt they could have had a bit more.

It was also one of the games of the season, that may go some way to deciding the league. There is now the daylight of three points between Liverpool and Manchester City, although there was very little clarity to the decisions that dictated this pulsating 2-2 draw between Jurgen Klopp’s team and Tottenham Hotspur.

That will give rise to more rounds of debate over who exactly benefits from what, although that no longer just applies to arguments about circuit-breakers or Covid-enforced spells without games here. There was also the officiating, particularly after the England captain wasn’t sent off but the Scottish captain was.

The oddity will be that both sides can claim justice was done and that they were the victims of injustice.

At the very least, supporters got the brilliant match that it felt the game deserved, especially amid a spell when there are renewed arguments over whether the sport should be suspended for a time.

It can’t be denied the circumstances also directly influenced the occasion, mind. That, unavoidably, is going to be the case in a situation that is mostly out of anyone’s hands.

Liverpool were missing most of their midfield, but Tottenham Hotspur missed most of their opportunities.

That was perhaps the main conclusion from the match in terms of pure football. Antonio Conte’s resurgent and impressively developing side created the vast majority of the game’s chances, and deserved it on balance of play.

Liverpool will no doubt point to other elements, not least around the game’s first goalscorer.

The situation will see a lot of self-serving discussion about who benefits from what, in a health crisis that is currently unavoidable. The break did seem to get Kane closer to speed – but not all the way. He hit one when he should have maybe had four. Spurs will feel the same over two different spells in the game, early on in both halves.

Whether the England captain benefited from favourable refereeing is a more worthwhile debate. Kane was certainly more influential than so many recent games, for good and bad.

The goal showed a real return of some qualities.

It wasn’t just that he hit his for the first at home since May, or that it was finally his second in the Premier League. It was also the feet, as he used the space that Ibrahima Konate easily gave up. The finish was still superb.

Kane wasn’t so sharp when the finishes needed to be immediate. He remained a little sluggish, especially for that third great opportunity, what seemed an open goal as the ball was squared back to him. That was bad enough but was compounded by another glaring miss mere moments later.

He wasn’t the only Spurs player guilty of it. Both Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli should have scored from better chances. The English midfielder, in particular, should surely have just clipped his finish to the side when put straight through on Alisson’s goal in so much space. The goalkeeper still did remarkably to influence his decision-making, and touch the ball wide.

It should be acknowledged that many of Spurs’ chances – particularly the way they were able to surge through the centre of the pitch – were down to Liverpool’s absences in midfield. They just didn’t have that protection there.

A furious Klopp also had the argument that Kane should not have been on the pitch by that point. Given the nature of his challenge on Andy Robertson, and the access to VAR, it was baffling why he didn’t receive a red card.

It was all only flavoured by what came next, not least the full-back’s goal and red card.

His brilliantly improvisational header came immediately after Dele had a penalty claim, but Liverpool would naturally point to their own appeal in the first half.

It was that kind of game, if also one of those days for the officials.

Every big incident seemed to have a mirror moment that gave rise to more debate about the decision.

The same applied to the goal.

Diogo Jota – of course – responded to Kane’s superb piece of forward play with a vintage striker’s goal himself. After another delightful delivery from Robertson, this one clipped towards the penalty spot, the Portuguese leapt, arched and nodded like a classic No 9. That made it 1-1, to further fire a classic game.

Spurs should have been out of sight by the time Robertson diverted his own header towards goal, and the fact that Mohamed Salah’s handball was so visible in the build-up only added to the mayhem.

Son at least showed his own clarity of thinking when Alisson deflected a through ball towards him for the game’s final goal, but it wasn’t the game's final act.

Just when it seemed to be developing into the kind of climax that the match deserved, Robertson went in as rashly as Kane, and got the red card both moments deserved.

Liverpool still went for it, but the game’s distinctive momentum was gone.

It left everyone feeling they could have had more, bar Manchester City.

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