“Messi-like” Salah shines but lack of ruthlessness at both ends costs Reds – Media on Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham

5 February 2018

The media were full of praise for Mohamed Salah but felt Liverpool were not clinical enough at either end in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham.


The Reds surrendered a glorious chance to take control in the top-four race by slipping to a late draw at Anfield.

Salah gave the Reds a deserved half-time lead but it was a different contest after the break, and Victor Wanyama smashed home an equaliser before Loris Karius denied Harry Kane from the spot.

In a crazy end to the game, Salah looked to have earned victory with an incredible solo strike, but Kane converted from 12-yards at the second attempt five minutes into stoppage time to ensure the points were shared.

Jurgen Klopp will be hugely frustrated to see his side fail to see out the game late on, but it’s fair to say Spurs deserved a point from a breathless encounter.

Here’s how the media assessed events at Anfield.

 

Reporters reflected on a gripping contest and offered praise for both teams

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino and Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s David Maddock praised Mauricio Pochettino for having the courage to take the Reds on at Anfield, and assessed this made for a great game:

The pace of the game was incredible, and for that we had to offer thanks to Mauricio Pochettino, who refuses to take a step back in the fearsome blinking contest with Jurgen Klopp.

Virtually every opponent – including the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United – are no negative and containing when they get to Anfield, but the Spurs boss refuses to blink in the fearsome staring contest with Klopp.

The BBC’s Phil McNulty felt the draw was a fair result:

Once the drama had subsided, this was a fair result between two teams who mix high quality, intensity and attacking intent with moments of vulnerability – leaving the top four chase as tight as ever.

Maddock thought both teams showed why they are the most likely to challenge Man City for the title in the coming seasons:

Leicester showed what a well drilled team can achieve of course, but if a side is going to challenge City over the next few years, it will be one of these – if they can keep their best players.

 

The positives and negatives of the Reds’ performance were discussed

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Liverpool's Emre Can and Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen argue after a penalty decision during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

McNulty thought the good and bad aspects of Klopp’s side were on show:

Liverpool offer so much that is good when it is measured in goals and excitement, but that nasty habit of carelessness and conceding crucial goals has still not been cured.

The Independent’s Luke Brown thought Liverpool should have killed the game off earlier:

Liverpool have one of the most the thrilling front threes in the league, but a better one would have killed this game off in the first-half, when Spurs were on the ropes and struggling.

For Goal.com, Melissa Reddy praised the defensive work produced by the Reds’ front three:

Liverpool’s sting was sharp in all departments with their explosive front three turning in a stellar defensive shift. In the first 45, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah contributed four tackles, nine possession gains and one interception between them.

Matt Stead, for Football365, thought the Reds lacked creativity and attributed this to Klopp’s preference for a hard-working midfield:

That is the issue Klopp faces in such games. The midfield trio he chose was based on their work-rate and their defensive ability, but that inevitably sacrifices their output going forward: Henderson, Can and Milner made one opportunity from open play.

Klopp has creators and destroyers/defenders in his midfield ranks, but no player who combines both roles.

ESPN’s Dave Usher was among a few journalists who felt Klopp got his in-game tactics wrong, assessing the German made error in seemingly instructing his side to sit back:

If the plan was to soak up pressure and hit Spurs on the break, it didn’t really work.

[…]

Presumably Liverpool were sitting back on their manager’s orders but it doesn’t suit them; they’re more effective when playing on the front foot.

The Mail’s Martin Samuel provided a damning stat on Liverpool’s inability to see out games:

Since Klopp took over, they have dropped 45 points from winning positions, more than any team in Europe.

 

Journalists heaped praise on Mohamed Salah after the Egyptian’s shining display

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Samuel praised Salah’s improved finishing, and likened his second goal to one Lionel Messi would be proud of:

Despite his fine tally this season, he hasn’t always been entirely reliable in one-on-one situations, but here was a sign of rapidly growing assuredness.

The Messi comparison is no exaggeration; even he would have been satisfied with the little dink into the corner that left Lloris no chance.

Our own Karl Matchett thought Salah didn’t have his best game, but praised his incredible ability to still have a decisive impact even when not in top form:

It bodes enormously well for Liverpool that even without a key player performing at his best over the 90, he is still capable of ripping up opposition defences and having such critical impacts.

Mark Ogden, for ESPN, believes a head-to-head due between Harry Kane and Salah could decide the top-four race, and assessed that Champions League qualification is vital to both clubs holding onto their star men:

If Liverpool and / or Tottenham fail to achieve Champions League qualification, can the clubs hold on to their star men?

[…]

Real are in need of young, exciting reinforcements this summer and will happily break the bank — maybe for both — and so, while Liverpool and Tottenham will believe they can hold onto their prized assets, the only way to be certain is by being able to offer Champions League football.

Brown feels that there is even more to come from Salah, assessing the Egyptian’s “ceiling remains tantalisingly high”:

Allowances have to be made: it cannot be forgotten that Salah is playing his first full season in the English top-flight, with a brand new set of team-mates. He is also relatively young and playing in an even more advanced role then where he was deployed at Roma.

His ceiling remains tantalisingly high.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Turning the focus to other performances, Odgen was impressed with Virgil van Dijk and felt the Dutchman dominated Kane:

But it is for his defensive qualities that Liverpool invested such a mammoth fee and Van Dijk stood up to every challenge in this game.

He was able to match Kane stride-for-stride and also dominated the England striker in the aerial battle. And while Kane bullied both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling during Wednesday’s 2-0 win against Manchester United, he was unable to do the same against the physically imposing Van Dijk.

Meanwhile, Usher labelled Jordan Henderson’s performance “excellent” and felt the Reds were better with than without the skipper:

Excellent for an hour before he was withdrawn. Klopp needs to be careful as his skipper comes back from injury but Liverpool had more control with him on the field than after he went off.

 

Certain reporters discussed the state of the top-four race after the draw

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 4, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce felt taking a point from a top-four rival was a “decent result”:

When the dust has settled and emotions have calmed, this can be viewed as a decent point for the Reds.

Echo Colleague Andy Kelly thinks the Reds have a tough run with trips to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge still to come:

Like this game, the race for the top four is set to go right to the wire.

Liverpool will be taking nothing for granted. If games in the mini-league among the top six will decide those top four spots, Liverpool have now played all their rivals at Anfield yet still face trips to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge among the run-in.

Finally, Matchett challenged the Reds to use the draw to inspire a perfect run of league results before the trip to Old Trafford:

A return of European action means Klopp will have to juggle his team again soon, and the all-important task now must be to head to Old Trafford on March 10 without having dropped another point in the league.

That’s three league matches, Southampton, West Ham and Newcastle, with only the first of those coming away from Anfield.

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