Liverpool 2 Man Utd 0. The Red Devils' lack of quality is jarring
The Portuguese surprised everyone when he gave a Premier League debut to 20-year-old defender Japhet Tanganga, and as much as the young lad kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet in the ICC match in Singapore when Spurs played Juventus in that friendly match here, most Spurs fans, like me, must have been terrified at the prospect of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah running rings around the inexperienced centre-back.
And indeed, Spurs set-up with two banks of four, with right-back Serge Aurier playing right midfield and Tanganga covering at right-back and sticking to Mane like a clingy ex-girlfriend.
Post-match, Jurgen Klopp said they deserved to win and should have scored more, while Mourinho was upset that Spurs didn’t get something out of the game. Both were right. For 70 minutes, Liverpool were indeed the much better team and looked likely to score every time they attacked. Spurs played like the away side and resorted to long balls to Son Heung Min, probably trying to capitalise on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s tendency to stay up and leaving space for the Korean to exploit. It was cat and mouse but clearly, the away team was dominant.
Then in the last 20 minutes, after Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso were introduced for headless chickens Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen, Spurs started to come alive. Son uncharacteristically does a three-point rugby conversion when he wriggled free from his markers inside the Liverpool box and Lo Celso sent millions of Spurs fans into raptures as he slid in to meet an Aurier cross only for the elation to turn into horror as the ball shot past the post instead of into the open net.
Both managers were, therefore, right. Liverpool should have put it to bed early, but since they didn’t, given the chances Spurs had in the final 20, they should have gotten something from the game.
Below are some of the key highlights from the game.
0 mins: Line-up announced
I see Serge Aurier, Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose in the line-up and youngster Japhet Tanganga, who has not played a single minute of Premier League football, while Liverpool plays their strongest team short of Fabinho. I run to the toilet because I threw up in my mouth a little bit from the anxiety.
2 min: Spurs survive scare
Firmino gets in behind Eriksen and curls a shot beyond Spurs’ custodian Paolo Gazzaniga. Tanganga appears from nowhere and stops the ball from going in! But the ball breaks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain inside the box and his shot hits the inside of the post! I collapse and my fellow Siao Mates watching at Cafe Football with me considered calling the ambulance.
I’ve seen bar-girls more committed to chasing a Brazilian than Eriksen, and the Dane would continue to lose all physical challenges for the rest of the match. On the bright side, Tanganga hasn’t looked overwhelmed by the occasion yet.
7 min: Son almost!
Son nicks the ball off Henderson and does his thing of running down the left, cutting inside and shooting with his right foot. Every now and then, that bulges the back of the net, but not today.
22 min: Liverpool’s corner
It’s a corner, watch Virgil Van Dijk. Everyone knows this. And of course, Van Dijk meets the ball. Thankfully, he doesn’t get much power on his header, and Gazzaniga did well to parry. The Bus is breaking down.
32 min: Dirty Mane
Tanganga rushes out like a train on steroids and nicks the ball off Mane, and looks like he’s about to charge up the field. Mane pretends to fall down and does so “accidentally” – into the youngster. Foul given, but Mane gets away with the cynical foul with no booking. Job done.
Tanganga is pretty impressive so far and has on several occasions put Mane in his pocket.
37 min: GOAL!
First off, Liverpool gets a throw-in they didn’t deserve, because the ball clearly comes off Mane before going over the line. And then, Spurs doesn’t concentrate and doesn’t clear the throw, letting Jordan Henderson head to Salah, who passes to Firmino, who sends Tanganga the wrong way before drilling a shot into the bottom right corner. Tanganga’s first and only mistake in an otherwise flawless game, and it was a costly one, but the damage was done from the nervy defending from the throw-in.
49 min: Spurs free-kick. Nothing to see here.
Lucas Moura earns a free-kick giving a chance for a cross into the box. Eriksen steps up and sends it into the first defender. Someone should teach Eriksen that such opportunities are precious and despite its name, the kick’s not really free.
57 min: Spurs almost back in
Joe Gomez’s header drops to Alli, who suddenly decided not to dilly dally and starts charging into the Liverpool box. Van Dijk blocks but the ball breaks to Aurier on the right who must score but, of course, he shoots straight to Allison.
66 min: Gazza keeps Spurs in it!
Trent Alexander-Arnold crosses from the right and Mane guides a header back across Gazzaniga. The keeper does extremely well to stop it with a strong arm, making light of all those calls for Spurs to buy a new goalkeeper. Gazza is one of those keepers who can pull off stunning saves but can also lose focus at times. Frustrating but he’s done pretty well in this match so far.
69 min: Subs, finally
Giovani Lo Celso comes on for Eriksen and Erik Lamela for Danny Rose. Fans boo Eriksen as he walks off. I don’t know why they would do that. I was clapping enthusiastically at the decision to take him off.
75 min: Son gives up football for rugby
Wijnaldum is robbed by Moura, who finds Son free in the box on the left. Under little pressure, Son hits the back of the floodlights. Rugby scouts pick up the phone and call their clubs about potentially signing the Korean. Alisson gets a neckache from following the trajectory of the ball.
80 min: The Subs almost do it!
Lo Celso finds himself free on the right with time to have a cup of tea before sending in a vicious cross. So vicious that Lamela, the only player in the box, couldn’t reach it in time for what would surely have been a tap-in. Spurs are looking lively!
82 min: The miss of the season
For once, Aurier sends in a beauty of the cross which beats the entire Liverpool defence to find a sliding Lo Celso who must surely put it into an open net. I jumped up to celebrate but the ball goes past Alisson and beyond the right post! It’s harder to miss than score! Once again, Liverpool rolls out their best signing, Lady Luck.
As my fellow Siao Mate said since September, Liverpool has already won the league, so this game meant only that they are now heading for a record number of points while doing so. With both Manchester United and Chelsea emphatically winning their games, this means that it’s mission improbable for Spurs to sneak into fourth.
Since Mourinho took over, it’s six wins, two draws and five losses. More worryingly, Spurs haven’t won a game in four matches. However, if this match is anything to go by, if Spurs can find more gems like Tanganga in their ranks, there’s a chance that they can have a decent cup run, either in the FA Cup or Champions League. It’s time for Spurs to look towards the future, and there were many positives to take from this defeat. Least of all, was Christian Eriksen waving good-bye to the fans at the end of the match, a clear sign that his time at Spurs is done.
I also learned that my heart is a lot stronger than I thought, and no ambulances were necessary on Sunday morning.