Football Features

“They’re champions in waiting” – How Liverpool rallied to earn valuable comeback win against Spurs

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:27, 27 October 2019

Liverpool came from behind to earn a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

With Manchester City crushing Aston Villa on Saturday to go to within three points of the Reds at the summit of the Premier League, the importance of Sunday’s clash will not have been lost on Jurgen Klopp.

Although the German is generally an unflappable character, not prone to losing his composure, he’ll have undoubtedly been worried at his side’s sluggish start to the match, going behind to a Harry Kane header in the first minute.

The goal was, in essence, entirely their own fault: Jordan Henderson was caught in possession by Harry Winks, while Liverpool allowed Moussa Sissoko to dance free of their midfield far too easily. Even Heung-min Son’s shot which bounced off the crossbar and into the path of Kane could have been avoided had Trent Alexander-Arnold or Henderson been assertive enough defensively to stop the South Korea international cutting inside.

But if the opening exchanges had Klopp worried, he’ll have been thrilled with his side’s response, quickly regaining control of the game, dictating the tempo and putting immense pressure on the Spurs penalty area.

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The Liverpool attack kept on coming in seemingly endless waves and but for an inspired performance between the sticks by deputy goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, Mauricio Pochettino’s men would have undoubtedly gone into the half-time break behind – the Argentina international actually ended the match with a grand total of 12 saves.

The half-time break may have provided Spurs with a brief moment to catch their breath, but it offered no respite from the onslaught. Whether it was a switch of play between Liverpool’s full-backs or some neat exchanges between their front three, the home side just kept on coming.

Spurs had a rare foray into the Liverpool penalty area and Son hit the crossbar from a tight angle in the 48th minute having rounded Alisson but from that moment on, it felt like a goal was inevitable.

Just four minutes later, that goal indeed arrived. Danny Rose failed to deal with a Fabinho delivery toward the back post and, atoning for his earlier error, Liverpool captain Henderson was there to drill a left-footed shot into the ground and beyond Gazzaniga’s far right corner. Yes, the goal was harsh on the superb Gazzaniga, but the same cannot be said for his Spurs teammates.

Liverpool certainly weren’t done there and could smell blood. They kept probing for routes through the drowning Spurs defence with cold-blooded efficiency and boundless energy. Again, Gazzaniga was the last line of defence and often the only thing stopping the home side.

But the former Southampton man was once again let down by his teammates when the hapless Serge Aurier brought down Sadio Mane in the box. Anthony Taylor had no choice but to point at the spot and with the 75th minute ticking by, Mohamed Salah slammed the ball into Gazzaniga’s bottom-left corner.

From there, Liverpool dug in. The likes of Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson threw their bodies on the line, making tackles, blocks and clearances, while Alisson made a few smart saves as Spurs desperately tried to rally and recover a point. The Reds had an answer to every question asked of them by the Lilywhites.

Liverpool have now won five and drawn one of the six Premier League games in which they’ve gone behind since January and although Sunday’s performance was by no means vintage, it’s that ability to dig out results which has turned them into a relentless points-winning machine.

There a lot of cliches thrown around about how certain results and performances can be a sign of champions, and the two matches against Manchester City are sure to be even more defining than this one, but watching Klopp’s side respond to an early setback by squeezing and strangling the life out of Spurs on Sunday was damned impressive.

You couldn’t help but get the feeling that you were watching the champions in waiting.