Liverpool went top of the Premier League table thanks to a late Bobby Firmino winner and a 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday night.
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham
Premier League (13), Anfield
December 16, 2020
Goals: Salah 26′, Firmino 90′; Son 33′
The big Rhys question
So, Joel Matip‘s back didn’t hold up. That left Jurgen Klopp with the decision over whether to play Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips or Jordan Henderson at centre-back, with the former getting the nod.
He has almost exclusively played big games for the Reds at this stage, what with his Champions League exertions and now a top-of-the-table Premier League outing, but the first 45 minutes saw him deal extremely well with the occasion.
His passing was composed and accurate, he won headers and made interceptions when needed.
Could he have done more on the goal? Perhaps, but there was a crossover between him, Curtis Jones and Steven Bergwijn and it just so happened the beneficiary was an elite-level forward named Son Heung-min, so it can be forgiven somewhat.
Williams won the headers, made clearances and kept track of Harry Kane wherever he went roving in deep areas. A big game, a very good showing from an inexperienced player in a key position.
Did we sign Curtis Jones for £75m?
The invented price tag is an exaggeration of course (although you have to factor in the ‘English premium’, obviously) but Jones’ first-half performance was excellent.
He’s growing in importance and confidence, in impact and consistency with his on-the-ball product, and Jones looks every inch the No. 8 that Klopp wants now, in contrast to early-season performances where he maybe lacked cohesion or positional work.
Jones wasn’t afraid to take on his man, demand possession in dangerous areas and be the creative spark, the difference between recycling the ball and doing something with it.
He’s only up to 29 appearances; imagine his confidence and capacity to influence games by the time he clocks up 50 games, or 100. This is a huge part of the future of the team being shaped right now.
“Imagine you had to sign him,” Klopp said after the game, “he’s already here for years and wants to stay.”
Front three in turn
Mo Salah scored, but a word instead for his unbelievable work rate. The No. 11 was relentless in his tracking back this time, twice being the deepest outfield player on the pitch with his diligence in racing back to beat Son to long passes.
This was Mo at his best on and off the ball, and a second goal would have been well-deserved.
Sadio Mane was hugely involved, but just short of having the telling impact. He is working hard and getting himself back toward top form – where he’s not yet, but he’s not hiding away from his poor recent return of goals and creativity.
He smacked the bar, was unlucky with several crap calls from the ref and generally worried Spurs throughout…without quite having the telling touch.
And Roberto Firmino. Twice he went close to scoring, denied by good saves, and his all-round game was good tonight in terms of first touch, linking, moving between the lines.
He has been most-maligned of the attack this season, with indifferent form in several matches to say the least, but here he played a leading role in keeping the Reds on the front foot and looking dangerous. More of this required.
Oh, and he sent us top with the best header of the season.
Sending off Houllier in style
An emotional night turned into an intense one.
The home fans were inside Anfield and applauding Gerard Houllier, after our former manager sadly passed away earlier this week.
Perhaps this was the ideal way to mark his passing: with a win for Liverpool going in search of silverware, which he won so much of with the Reds.
Klopp has spoken at length on how Houllier was a top man, respected and admired by all, and even how much he would have loved the new training centre.
He would have loved this last-minute winner to go top of the league even more.
Liverpool, top of the league!
Liverpool, Liverpool, top of the league!
How good did it sound to hear that ring out around Anfield at the end of the game?
It was a totally deserved three points, despite the quite astonishing post-match suggestion of Jose Mourinho that his team came for the win and deserved the win.
The Reds set down a marker here, for themselves and others.
For themselves: the performance level, the intensity needed and the attacking movement on show, in huge contrast to against Fulham for example.
For others: you have to be enormous to beat us. Even better than that. Especially at Anfield, where the Reds went top.