Liverpool secured a vital win against top four rivals Spurs in a game which included a number of impressive individual performances in red.
Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham
Premier League, Anfield
February 11, 2017
Goals: Mane 16’, 19′
Mane on fire
If there were questions as to whether Sadio Mane’s African Cup of Nations disappointment would affect his club form, then his performance here provided the answers.
He scored both goals inside two minutes of each other – his 10th and 11th of the season – and was a general menace to the opposition defence throughout the game
The Senegalese attacker regularly found himself playing as the main striker, drifting in from the wing to take the space vacated by Firmino.
It was a return of the fluid system which had worked so well earlier in the season, and it was encouraging to see it back in full flow.
Mane was full of pace and invention, with a backheel to Coutinho down the left channel almost brought his side another goal.
For a ten-minute spell in the first half Spurs’ keeper Hugo Lloris must have thought the players in front of him had given up, as Mane searched for his hat-trick and shots rained down on the Frenchman’s goal.
He didn’t manage to get his hat-trick and was replaced by Trent Alexander in injury time, but he contributed massively to the win.
Wijnaldum vital to Liverpool midfield
Klopp made just one change from the team which was beaten 2-0 at Hull, but it was an important one.
The Dutchman fought for every ball and regularly won his battles as he put in a complete midfield performance.
With Wijnaldum, Lallana and Henderson in midfield (PL):
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) February 11, 2017
He showed dogged determination in defence, and nearly always picked the right passes in attack.
His assist for Mane’s first goal was an excellent through ball which went straight into the path of the darting winger, tearing the Spurs defence apart in one swing of a right boot.
Liverpool’s number 5 was quieter in the second half, but he kept things ticking over and emerged from the game with a pass success of 89 percent.
Lucas excellent in transformed defensive display
It would be fair to say that the Liverpool starting lineup had fans worried, particularly as it contained the same back four which had performed so poorly against Hull the week before.
Lucas in particular has been a worry of late, but these fears were allayed in the first half as the Brazilian put in a dominant performance in the centre of the defence.
He was vocal throughout the game, organising the backline alongside Matip. He read the game well, intercepting numerous passes before the ball could make its way to Harry Kane or Heung-Min Son, and won his fair share of headed duels against the two forwards.
There were a couple of dangerous moments especially when Son found himself free with a clear shot on goal, but this allowed Simon Mignolet to step up and make his own contribution to the game with a great save from the Korean.
Klopp’s team were able to see out the game in the second half with some intelligent time wasting and breaking up of the game, and the defence got its clean sheet.
Set piece improvement
A Liverpool corner kick is usually more dangerous for the opposition on the counter-attack than it is a goal threat for the Reds, but in this game something had changed.
Corners were whipped in t dangerous areas, and at times it even looked like Klopp’s men might score from one. It was obviously something they’d been working on as the squad enjoyed their first full week o training since December.
And it wasn’t just the corner kicks which had been revamped. When defending an opposition free kick Liverpool had Coutinho knelt on one knee behind the wall, preventing a low shot underneath the wall as it jumped.
Their week on the training ground had obviously been spent well and the coaching staff had worked on what was obviously becoming a problem area for the team both in attack and defence.
Time for a break
In stark contrast to the busy January fixture list, Liverpool only have one more game to play in February – which is away to Leicester at the end of the month, and could even be postponed should Leicester‘s FA Cup tie go to a replay.
While other clubs are taking part in FA Cup and European matches, Klopp will have plenty of time to work with his players on the training ground. “We must use this time,” noted the manager in his post-match press conference.
Going into this long break without a game on the back of another defeat would have been troubling, and the poor form would have played on the minds of the players during this period.
But as it is they get to build on an excellent win against a top four rival, and with second place in the table firmly in their sights.
There are also only three games in March, with two of these against other top four rivals Arsenal and Manchester City. Both of these clubs have European competitions to contend with while Klopp’s men will have more time on the training ground – something the manager is keen to use to good effect.