LONDON: Harry Kane was smiling. So were Antonio Conte, Daniel Levy and Gareth Southgate. But also, no doubt, Jurgen Klopp. Even Pep Guardiola raised the hint of an ironic smile.
England’s captain had just reassured Conte that the Italian was not mistaken in taking the Tottenham job, vindicated chairman Levy in refusing last summer’s offer from Manchester City, proved for Southgate that he is still England’s finest player and suggested to Klopp that the Premier title is not out of reach.
Kane’s two goals in Tottenham’s 3-2 stoppage time win away to leaders Manchester City also proved Guardiola correct in having wanted to buy him last summer.
But Kane is about more than goals. He is a goal-scoring centre-forward whose also drops deep to look for the ball and suck out space up front for Son Heung-min to attack.
Kane provided the pass which sent Son clear to set up new signing Dejan Kulusevski for the opening goal in only the fifth minute. Captain Ilkay Gundogan hit a post and then equalised before Son set up Kane to score from close range in the second half. Riyad Mahrez equalised with a stoppage-time penalty but Kane had not finished. In the fifth extra minute he headed a close-range winner from a Kulusevski cross.
The goal ended City’s 15-game unbeaten run in all competitions, ended Spurs’ run of three defeats and meant Liverpool had cut the gap at the top to six points with a game in hand. That game is on Wednesday, the rearranged match against Leeds which was postponed on Boxing Day. Win that and the gap which was so recently 12 points will be down to three.
Gundogan sought to play down the significance of City’s defeat on the title race. He said: “It’s not a situation that we’re not used to. We know from recent years that Liverpool are always contenders. They’re always up there. We know they’ll try everything to make our lives as difficult as possible. The good thing is that they still need to come here but there are still many games to go.”
Mohamed Salah led Liverpool within two victories of City with his 150th goal for the Reds as they came from behind to beat Norwich 3-1 at Anfield.
A deflected shot from Milot Rashica gave Norwich the lead before Sadio Mane equalised with a spectacular overhead kick and Salah converted a long clearance from goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Salah thus became only the 10th man to reach 150 goals in the club’s history and the second fastest (232 matches) after Roger Hunt (226). New signing Luis Díaz converted Jordan Henderson’s assist for No3.
Liverpool had made seven changes from the team who beat Inter 2:0 in Milan in the Champions League with Joe Gomez making his first league start since November 2020. That change was designed to give Trent Alexander-Arnold an afternoon off but other switches were enforced. Roberto Firmino’s groin problem compounded concerns around Diogo Jota’s midweek ankle injury.
Manager Klopp was delighted with his strength from the bench as demonstrated by the excellent form of substitute Thiago Alcantara. This is important ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Leeds then Sunday’s League Cup Final against Chelsea. Thiago is likely to start against Leeds with returns for not only Alexander-Arnold but also Andrew Robertson and Fabinho.
Klopp said: “We never had it before, that we are in all four competitions. That’s absolutely incredible and we really enjoy that. Long may it continue because that means we can play a lot of football games. That’s what we love most.”
As captain Henderson said: “Leeds is a tough game so we need to be ready for it, use the whole squad. I’m sure the legs will be fresh for Wednesday.”