Liverpool secured a place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup with victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, on a night that boasted plenty of positives.
Liverpool 2–1 Tottenham
League Cup Round of 16, Anfield
October 25, 2016
Goals: Sturridge 9′, 64′ ; Janssen 76’ (pen)
The Reds booked their spot in the last eight of the competition as they claimed a deserved 2-1 victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs.
Daniel Sturridge’s brace proved enough to fire the Reds through to the next stage, despite Vincent Janssen’s 76th-minute penalty setting up a nervy ending, which Jurgen Klopp’s men again saw out.
The win gave Klopp has first victory over Spurs as Reds boss, and the German will be pleased with various aspects of his side’s work on the night.
Klopp’s Rotation Rewarded
Having fielded near full-strength sides in the previous two rounds, that Klopp named a completely changed lineup at Anfield was certainly a surprise.
Some will question the decision to do so against Premier League opposition and not Burton Albion and Derby County.
But with more to lose against second-tier opponents and those early games allowing a settled side to build consistency and momentum, doing so tonight, instead of in those clashes, was a shrewd move.
Klopp took full advantage of the ideal opportunity, and it was completely the right call from the German against Pochettino’s heavily changed team, with an exciting fixture providing valuable game time, experience and confidence to those squad players selected.
A match-winning brace and full game for Sturridge is unquestionably the biggest positive, but impressive outings for Georginio Wijnaldum and backup figures Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno and Simon Mignolet were equally as welcome.
The excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold, impressive Ovie Ejaria and Marko Grujic will all benefit from the experience of a real big-game occasion, while Danny Ings’ runout continued his sharp comeback from injury, making for a good night all round.
Sturridge & Origi Prove Points
As Liverpool have moved from strength to strength this season with Roberto Firmino leading the line, Sturridge and Origi have almost become spare parts in Klopp’s squad.
But both recalled to the side to form Liverpool’s strike partnership for just the third time, the duo each produced reminders of their quality as they turned in excellent performances to put Spurs to the sword.
As in their previous two outings against Southampton last season, who they netted a combined six goals against, the front men linked up to devastating effect once more, with their pace, movement and, perhaps most impressively, work rate proving too much for the visitors.
Sturridge rediscovered his lethal touch and confidence with two excellent finishes, and though he couldn’t grab the hat-trick he deserved, his performance was exactly of the kind Klopp will have hoped for—though that it came in a two-man strike force gives the boss food for thought.
Origi provided much of the industry with his powerful running and close skill carving out some great chances, and he almost got himself on the scoresheet too, seeing a thunderbolt acrobatically turned over the bar by Michel Vorm.
The duo once more proved a handful operating together, but crucially they both showed they’re still to be relied upon and ready for when called.
Wijnaldum Impresses on Return
The Dutchman made his return to the starting XI after two games out of Klopp’s lineup through injury, and he picked up from where he left off with a dominating midfield display.
Operating from the right of the Reds’ midfield diamond, Wijnaldum’s quality shone at Anfield where he lead by example in a youthful and relatively inexperienced central quartet alongside Ejaria, Grujic and Kevin Stewart.
His constant energy in the middle of the park was crucial to Liverpool’s sustained dominance, and his endless forward running to support Sturridge and Origi provided a vital link between midfield and attack as the Reds poured forward throughout.
Crucially, Wijnaldum’s experience shone through as he took responsibility, and all that was missing from his display was a first Reds goal that he was denied as Vorm palmed away his curling free-kick.
Back to fitness and instantly in impressive form, Wijnaldum’s sharp return will have delighted Klopp.
Failure to Finish the Game Frustrates
On a night of overwhelming positives, that Liverpool were left hanging on once again in a contest they dominated for large parts caused one real frustration.
Three days after a needlessly nervy win over West Bromwich Albion, Klopp’s side put themselves in a disappointingly familiar position as they self-destructed, gifting Spurs a goal to leave them hoping they wouldn’t pay the price for failing to kill the game.
Though Sturridge hit the bar and Vorm made numerous impressive stops, including a fine save from Ings late on, certain chances should have been buried to put the game to bed.
Most notably this came from the goalscorer, who failed to connect with Origi’s ball across with the goal gaping.
The Reds almost paid the price as Spurs came on strong late on, but like against the Baggies, Liverpool managed to see out the contest, even though they couldn’t finish it once and for all.
Klopp said he enjoys the suspense and raw atmosphere of a finely-poised ending after his side held on against Tony Pulis’ men—but not all of us do for health reasons, so please start killing games off, lads.
Cup Success in Sight
From the moment the second-round draw pitted Liverpool against Burton, Klopp made no secret of his desire for League Cup glory.
He has proved as much with strong selections and shrewd utilisation of his squad in the competition so far, and he has reaped the rewards with his side moving swiftly, with three 90-minute victories, into the quarter-final stage.
Klopp is certainly going all out to avenge the disappointment of last February’s Wembley heartbreak, and the dream is now very much alive for the German, who can see the prize coming into view.
That silverware is now in sight is vital, but so too is the fact Klopp can continue to afford squad members game time with another cup fixture, keeping them fresh and hungry for success and also ready if and when called upon in the Premier League.
The way Klopp has the Reds competing on all fronts already is highly impressive, and hopefully it gets the rewards it deserves.