This outcome was probably coming. Let’s face it—they were tougher. Sharper. Better. On our best day we would probably be hoping for a draw. And this wasn’t our best day. The bright beginning was squelched by a correct but typically ridiculous VAR decision. (Theirs was much more substantial—Bobby, you can’t be playing volleyball before you kick it upfield) From there our attack was mostly wasteful, one of our scorers taken out by injury, the other continuing a recent pattern, the ruled out goal to the contrary of wasteful play. So our chances rested with some fairly dynamic midfield play at least in the first half and our defending.
As for the latter, let us count the failures and bemoan the seeming collective decision to decide that Sadio Mane can be left in space with little or no risk to our prospects. After Son’s first few shouts—VAR overrule, muscled off-ball, and shot directly at the keeper, the game settled into a more familiar pattern of Liverpool keeping possession and Spurs defending. Mane was always the major threat, and Lloris made one fine save on him and we held our breath all the other times.
Until just before the whistle Aurier got greedy—moved up on a ball, letting Mane absolutely alone behind him. His cross was accurate but slow, and maybe we’ll never know who of Dier or Lloris most to blame, but somehow they allowed it to bounce nicely to Firmino for a tap-in my dead grandmother could have converted. I guess I come down most harshly on Dier for if he didn’t hear a shout from the keeper, even if one was mandated, his job is to clear that ball—whatever the risk of an own goal. But to be fair Lloris should have come out to claim it.
So then with Kane clearly ailing (and with that injury may go our top four chances, though off today I don’t see how we will top Leicester, let alone the other three big clubs at the top) Jose decides to insert Winks and Lamela and revert to a back four with Doherty now replacing Aurier on the right. And Matt joins Club Shambolic by allowing Mane by him far too easily, and this time poor Hugo, having his biggest nightmare of a game in a Spurs shirt since Brighton early last season, makes a total mess of it and Davies is caught not paying enough attention to Alexander-Arnold who, give him a credit, slams home a wonderful finish to seal our fate.
So now we have everyone but Rodon in the back four or five at fault for a goal. Hojbjerg goes all Victor Wanyama on us to give us hope, which seemingly quickly squelched as this time we double down and allow both Mane and Salah to roam free, the latter firing it home only for Firmino’s hand ball which began the entire attack to be discovered by VAR. No worry because Joe Rodon—despite one poor giveaway—hadn’t yet really entered the frame, but for his brilliant first-half challenge, until he decided to walk along the garden path with his friend Sadio, doing nothing to prevent Liverpool’s best player from collecting the ball, then firing past Lloris to put us officially out of our misery.
As for the rest, there were moments in the first half when I felt the trio of Hojbjerg, Ndombele and Bergwijn could do something special and even boss the game. But they needed help and a battered Kane and a wasteful Son weren’t supplying it. After the non-goal I felt Son was particularly poor, doing little right and constantly giving the ball back to Liverpool. Lamela added little save some energy; Winks was guilty of his typical two or three bad errors; Bale came on too late to make a difference. So what now? No title race— grasping at a Top Four fight with games against Chelsea, City and West Ham on the horizon, all possibly missed by Kane. Kane will also miss our next cup game at the Toffees and is questionable to play in the first Europa League against Wolfsberger. They are human. Teams have bad games. Liverpool are still probably no worse than the second best team in this league. Every big team has stumbled inexplicably this strange season. But let’s face it: the defence is poor. It has let us down at the end of numerous games—today the mistakes came earlier. Seventh place and no trophies is as likely an accounting at the end of this season as fourth place and one piece of silverware.
There will be a thorough overhaul of the back line and very possible a new goalkeeper by a year from now—whether we still have the same manager—or the same two prime goalscorers—or not. That may be the only given about this team. Diminished Alderweireld, regressed Sanchez, limited Dier, mistake-prone Aurier and Doherty, stolid Davies and future Madrid-bound Reguilon simply won’t cut it. That group was exposed last night, as was our goalkeeper. The success or failure of this campaign may rest on their ability to rise above today’s mess and produce something bigger. I’m sceptical.
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