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Antonio Conte’s side didn’t this time complete a second-half comeback. Liverpool this time didn’t buckle. It came pretty close to going the other direction, though, particularly with how Harry Kane’s brilliantly improvised late header landed just the wrong side of the post. He couldn’t equal match-winner Mohamed Salah in that way, in what was otherwise a game of equals that belied that gap in the table.
Yet another good game between these two sides showed why both have not been to their best levels. You could mainly see why the two have had such issues, if also frustration about why they were not better.
There was Spurs’ force once they got going, but also an ongoing softness at the back in another false start. There was Liverpool linking up and attacking in the wondrous way they can, but also a persistent imbalance in their formation.
They just about held firm, though, which meant Jurgen Klopp’s celebration with the away fans at the end was even more raucous than those which greeted either of Salah’s goals.
They have something to build on again, albeit for about the seventh time this season.
Spurs actually remain in the top four, but with so many problems to fix right through the team to stay there. They can start at the back.
For the flurry that essentially won the game, both of Salah’s finishes were exquisite, but Spurs gave him ample space to express himself. It was actually remarkable in some ways. A Conte side found two very different ways of making cataclysmic defensive errors, one collective, the other individual.
For the first, Liverpool just played their way right through Spurs’ defensive structure, until the ball came to Darwin Nunez in the box. He had plenty of time to play the ball to Salah, but not as much as Salah had to finish. It was one of those when you could see exactly what was coming. The Egyptian impudently flicked the ball up for himself before just driving it into the corner of the net. Emphatic. Hugo Lloris was left standing there.
For the second, Eric Dier might have wished he’d just stood there. It might have worked out better. The centre-half instead tried to go for an Alisson launch but it was difficult to know what he actually intended to do with it thereafter. Dier seemed to try to head the ball back only for it to bounce off his shoulder, and leave Salah in on goal.
The forward so fluidly brought the ball under control before elegantly lifting it over Lloris.
Liverpool had a comfortable lead but, as has been proven by the recent games of both of these teams, couldn’t actually be that comfortable in play.
There was even an argument that Spurs had been the better team, or their equals, as Ivan Perisic repeatedly scorched down the left side. They might even have had a penalty as Trent Alexander-Arnold seemed to shove Ryan Sessegnon to the ground in the box. Complaints about that apart, Spurs just lacked that extra urgency to the team.
That is something Spurs have been missing in first halves of late, before the now customary second-half response.
It is also something especially missing when Dejan Kulusevksi is not on the pitch. This second-half revival inevitably coincided with the return of the Swede.
He had repeatedly blazed down Liverpool’s right, giving Klopp’s side a different problem. It soon made the difference. Kulusevski got free to release Kane, who offered that most Kane of finishes. The ball was powerfully placed past Alisson into the corner.
We had a game on now.
Klopp had a choice to make. He hauled off Roberto Firmino and Harvey Elliott to bring on Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones, ensuring his team now had more off the ball.
It was essential in a closing period when Spurs again penned an opposition side, again looked like they might be capable of overrunning them. They were finally getting in behind. They were creating chances. They were creating the excitement this team should be capable of, that would have prevented fans booing them off at half-time.
By full-time, though, the only celebrations were Liverpool’s. Klopp embraced Salah, consoled Conte and pumped his fist in front of the away end. Not for the first time this season, it felt like there was more to it than this win.