LIVERPOOL: The game of cat and mouse goes on. Manchester City won on Saturday, again, to go top of the Premier League and Liverpool won on Sunday, again, to reclaim the lead.
The latest changing of the guard came courtesy of a 2-1 win over a Tottenham team who have not won in the league since February 10. This time Liverpool’s lead may last only three days since City are home to Cardiff on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men can then make amends by winning away to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton on Friday. Both then play next on the same day, Sunday, April 14: City will be away to Crystal Palace and Liverpool home to Chelsea. The clock is ticking down inexorably towards the Premier League’s grand climax on Sunday, May 12.
Liverpool relied on a standard 4-3-3 while Pochettino set up Spurs as 3-5-2. But Spurs’ manager, sitting in the stand because of a touchline ban, saw his strategy dismantled after only 15 minutes.
Tottenham were allowing Liverpool too much space on both right and left wings. Hence Andrew Robertson was free to deliver a perfect left-wing cross and Roberto Firmino bisected Davison Sanchez and Jen Vertonghen to head down past Hugo Lloris. This was the former Hoffenheim forward’s 12th league goal.
Tottenham’s tactical vulnerability was exposed again minutes later when Alexander-Arnold cut in from the right to shoot just wide. Then the England rightback set up Sadio Mane for a shot which flew narrowly off target.
Pochettino sent down instructions to change to a 5-4-1 and they began to look not only more secure in defence but more threatening in attack. Lucas Moura, their own lively Brazilian, harassed Liverpool into some inaccurate passing. Captain Jordan Henderson and goalkeeper Alisson Becker were both notably wasteful.
Tottenham made life increasingly difficult for Liverpool after half-time. Alisson could only parry a low drive from Kane and Christian Eriksen’s follow-up effort was deflected for a corner by Robertson. At the other end Mo Salah had a shot of his own blocked on the counter-attack.
As time ran on so Spurs replaced central defender Sanchez with attacker Son and were rewarded immediately for their courage. Kane whipped a quick free kick out to Kieran Trippier and Eriksen passed square for Lucas Moura to equalise.
It was not enough. Salah squared from the right and Toby Aldeweireld could not help but put the ball into his own net for Liverpool’s winner. It was Liverpool’s 400th goal under Klopp.
He said: “I was relatively calm [after the winning goal] because it was a surprise, that situation. I saw the header and nothing else. I had no clue how the ball went in.
“I was not happy we conceded but I thought we needed it a little bit. In the first half we had fantastic chances and scored a wonderful goal. In the second half we looked heavy and couldn’t really play. They changed only a little bit. We didn’t adapt well.
“After Spurs’ goal we started playing again more. We had bigger chances. We compete with the best team in the world [Manchester City] and play against one of best in the world in Tottenham – it is a tough task. It is all good.
“We can play better football but in the first half we had a lot of good moments. In the second not that many but we scored – 2-1, brilliant!
“City last year were champions and are still pretty good. We have to fight like crazy. The crowd was outstanding. They were really here to push us and at the end it helped.
“It is only positive. I said there are 500 ways to win a football game and today was slightly ugly. Who cares?”