Spurs fans were brought down to Earth with a bump on Sunday, as Liverpool dealt us a third heavy defeat in as many games against the Merseyside club. It doesn’t seem to matter who the manager is, as AVB, Sherwood and now Pochettino have all failed to contain Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Four wins out of four, including last weeks phenomenal performance against QPR, had left Tottenham fans daring to dream that new boss, Mauricio Pochettino, had already turned Spurs into a team that could challenge the best in the Premier League. Liverpool handed us a reality check, only what you’d expect from opponents who have been slowly building under Rodgers for two years now. The Pochettino project was always going to need patience.
At times it was like watching the QPR game again but with Spurs’ role reversed, as Liverpool hassled and harried us off the ball, then broke at speed in packs. Capoue, so dominant last week, had a torrid time as he continually failed to pick up midfield runners, leaving our centre back pairing exposed. Kaboul and Vertonghen already had their work cut out trying to contain Sturridge and Liverpool new boy, Mario Balotelli.
Before the match, much had been made of the Italian’s arrival. He did well on his debut but missed several chances to score, most notably a badly hit shot from distance with the goal at his mercy after a Lloris misadventure. The Spurs keeper had distinguished himself rather more when saving a header from the same player in the second minute of the match.
Liverpool were irresistible at times, especially Sterling who took up from where he left off last year, running the Spurs defence ragged. One especially mazy run, left a trail of defenders littered across the floor of the penalty area, spoilt by a tame effort at goal. In the eighth minute the winger was less profligate, as he opened the scoring from close range from a Henderson cross, after the England man had run into the penalty area unmarked past a negligent Capoue.
With the opposition set up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, Tottenham did not get the ball wide often enough, or switch the play fast enough to punish their consequent lack of width in midfield.
However, it wasn’t entirely one way traffic. Liverpool’s defence did look vulnerable to balls over the top, as first Adebayor, then Chadli found themselves through on goal after punts from midfield. Adebayor tried a lob that didn’t come off, while Chadli shot too close to the keeper. A goal at that point could have changed things, Liverpool are a side built to punish you when you’re chasing the game.
Perhaps lucky to be only 1-0 down at halftime, it only took four minutes of the second half for Steven Gerrard to make it two. Another passing move led to Joe Allen running free in the box. Dier put out an inexperienced arm and Allen took the opportunity to go to ground. The contact was minimal, a very soft penalty, especially given the Liverpool defenders’ unpunished habit of grabbing lumps of Adebayor’s shirt whenever challenging him in the penalty area.
One irritating but effective tactic of Brendan Rodger’s side was their persistent fouling when Spurs had the opportunity to break. Lamela came in for a particularly rough ride, perhaps singled out after last weeks heroics. It broke up our rhythm and meant we never got into the same flow we had against QPR.
There was also a reality check when it came to the effectiveness of the Spurs substitutions. Until now, Pochettino has managed to consistently alter games in our favour with some very well judged changes of personnel. This time he was rather less successful. At 2-0 down the Argentine brought on Dembele and Townsend. Within a minute the latter had tried one trick too many on the halfway line, with his teammates dangerously committed upfield.
Sat near the front on the Liverpool left in the first half, my friend and I had remarked on how noticeably quick their fullback, Alberto Moreno, was. Here, he dispossessed Townsend, then made straight for goal. His speed was electrifying as he left Tottenham players labouring in his wake and rifled the ball across Lloris and into the far corner of the net.
The game as a contest was over.
What did you make of Spurs’ performance? Let me know in the comments below.
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