Let’s get the basics out of the way. It was a fair result. Both penalties were correct calls and I’m sure, once he calms down (assuming he ever does). Jurgen Klopp will agree. Something is wrong with Kane—fatigue being a leading suspect or perhaps it’s just an August-like slump. Our central defence combined an adequate but hardly great game with bookended mistakes as bad as one wants to ever see. Dele’s diving problem has reached a critical stage where it could seriously risk not only his reputation but his growth as a footballer. We showed plenty of grit to get the draw—and be honest now, did you ever think it would be Wanyama who would score the goal of the season so far and Lamela who would earn the most vital opposition foul?
Those final twenty minutes were as gripping a dramatic sequence as one will see in a year of Sundays, or perhaps two or three. But let’s not forget what led to the scriptwriters’ delight. Poch trotted out the same team—we made the error that led to an early goal instead of the other way around, and the first half was reminiscent of a lot of away games this season, including those at Old Trafford and the Emirates, where Spurs simply weren’t up to snuff. But the Liverpool lead was held to the one Salah goal that Eric Dier was complicit in (Wanyama and Dembele will now be Poch’s favored duo as holding midfielders, I would surmise) because a) we were fortunate and b) there were defensive efforts from the likes of Vertonghen and Lloris that kept the Scousers from doubling the lead.
In the second half the real Spurs team showed up, but were frustrated for more than a half hour by finishes that were substandard, passes that went the wrong way, and, to be fair, some quality defending by Liverpool’s heretofore suspect back four. (Though most of the Reds’ problems have been away from Anfield—they actually have done very well at limiting the score sheet Merseyside) Kane, whether offside or not, could not find a way past Kirius; Eriksen, Dele and Son simply lacked the incisiveness of the midweek affair vs United though the chances started to come (with Son having the best); Trippier and to a lesser extent Davies (because we played right handed most of the way today until the move that really mattered) either would not or could not get around his opposite number and propel a cross into a dangerous position. Dele’s dive was the most egregious act, not just because of the obvious simulation that may very well earn him a retroactive suspension but also the fact that the ball was still at his feet only ten yards from goal when he chose to go down—why couldn’t he have tried to achieve something honestly?
And on came Wanyama for Sanchez, shifting Dier to the back line, and the difference was apparent almost instantaneously. The Kenyan offered energy and purpose and his ball to the less favored left found its way to Eriksen whose attempt clattered back outside the box and was promptly rocketed past Kirius from 20 yards just inside the post and the game was level. Surely this was the most vital goal of the season and all credit to Poch for putting the right player in the right place at the right time, but mostly credit to Wanyama himself for rescuing our top four ambitions.
The insanity that followed can best be summed up this way: 1) Kane was offside, but Lovren’s deflection removed the requirement and while Kirius’ trip was more of the soft variety, it was still a penalty pure and simple; 2) I don’t know why he chose to shoot down the middle, but Kirius sussed it out; 3) As good as Salah is I can’t for the life of me figure out just what Davies and Vertonghen were dolng as he diddled past them, and Lloris was slow to react too; 4) even so, we didn’t quit and had the ball back into the box again forthwith and 5) Van Dijk was foolish but unquestionably guilty to whack Lamela in the calf, and Lamela, unlike Dele, had a reason to fall down and glory be to the linesmen for having the cojones to make the call.
Whew. Roller coaster ride: meet two passionate fan bases who haven’t lost sight of how special it is that their sides are competing against all their wealthier brethren for a place in the highest club competition in the world. Either could have won this 2-1, but neither did. And each lives to fight another day. Newport County? Play the second team and hope they are as enthused about a cup tie at Wembley as they should be. Arsenal? Wanyama and Aurier must be considered for next weekend, and so should Moura’s bench spot. But Juve stands out as a real problem if once again Spurs’ manage to boss their rivals at Wembley but then slip back afterwards—how can Pochettino get more out of these players just a few days later?
The game is about glory. There was plenty—and some ignominy—to pass around. We’ll not soon forget this one.
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