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Jota’s goals, the ref & the fixtures ahead – Last word on Spurs 2-2 Liverpool

Some staggeringly poor refereeing decisions understandably left a bad taste with Liverpool fans after the 2-2 draw with Tottenham.

A weakened Reds side produced a spirited performance away to Spurs on Sunday, eventually taking home a point after battling with 10 men.

Harry Kane opened the scoring but Diogo Jota equalised in a frenetic opening 45 minutes, while Andy Robertson and Son Heung-min traded goals after the break.

Robertson was sent off for a wild lunge on Emerson Royal, however, and Liverpool ran out of steam from that point onwards.

With the dust settled after the game, TIA duo Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) and Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) were joined by fellow writer Liam Togher (@liamtogher88) to dissect an event-filled contest.

 

The good…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 19, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson (2nf from R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: I thought Liverpool put in a hell of a shift, considering the quick turnover in matches and the fact they had Van Dijk and their entire best midfield unavailable.

Tottenham have already improved under Conte so it always felt like a sticky game on paper, so I think it could be a good point come May.

Of course we could’ve won, but given the number of great chances Spurs had, and the players we had out, take the hard-earned point and move on.

Trent and Robbo were both outstanding – they really have taken the role of a full-back to new heights – and Alisson was Man of the Match, despite his error.

A few mistakes have crept in from him at times from the West Ham game onwards, but he is still having a superb season.

Mane and Jota were lively, too – how good is in the latter in the air! – and Konate was very impressive at the heart of the defence.

We lose our heads at any dropped points these days, such is the freakish consistency ourselves and Man City have found, but this was a pretty good draw in my book.

JACK: I disagree with Henry that it was a good result for Liverpool, who can only really afford draws against their title rivals, but it was an incredible game of football.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 19, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The contrast of styles made it an enthralling watch, and I think both managers coped well with the everchanging dynamic – along with, of course, late calls on who could start.

As Henry mentions, both full-backs were outstanding, while Alisson – mistake aside – was the star.

A word of praise, too, for Ibou Konate. Absolutely dominant at the back; a player who is clearly growing in confidence in a new team, and a future first choice.

LIAM: Obviously none of us want to be without Salah or Mane during AFCON next month, but at least we’ll have one red-hot forward still going strong in Jota.

With all the understandable attention that Salah has been getting, the Portuguese maestro is now up to six goals in his last seven league games – a very promising return ahead of losing the two men who are most often alongside him in the front three.

Prior to his red card, Robertson was tremendous as well, as Henry touched upon, getting forward to great effect.

Konate looked rock-solid in Virgil’s absence, and while Alisson may be disappointed for his role in Son’s equaliser, he more than made up for it with some crucial saves beforehand.

 

The bad…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 19, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson is shown a red card and sent off by referee Paul Tierney during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: PAUL TIERNEY. What a shambles of a man. That’s up there with one of the worst refereeing displays I’ve seen and he has essentially cheated Liverpool out of a win.

How Kane wasn’t sent off for that shocking lunge is beyond me – well, we all know why deep down! – and then to show Robertson a red card was salt in the wounds.

Don’t get me wrong, the Scot deserved a red, too, but it was scandalous after Kane was given one of the luckiest reprieves in a long time.

Jota was clearly fouled, too, in another woeful decision, and Tierney and the officials’ all-round showings were simply uncceptable.

VAR will never work with such clowns in charge – they’re the footballing equivalent of a certain government right now.

In terms of poor performances, Morton struggled but that was understandable, while Matip, Milner and Salah were all short of their best.

JACK: We all know the issue here: the standard of officiating in the world’s best league is ridiculously far off the level required.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 19, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp greets the referees after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The bigger problem, though, is that referees are barely held to account, despite the outside criticism – it may be a stretch to compare them to the Tory government, but the yarns spun to explain away errors are very familiar.

Beyond that, it was clear that, with his hands tied, Klopp could not put together a cohesive midfield unit, with Milner and Keita short of sharpness and Morton exposed as the No. 6.

It would be no surprise to see a shift to that 4-2-3-1 if the fixture list continues.

LIAM: I don’t really have anything to add on Kane’s lunge on Robbo which hasn’t been said already, but it doesn’t take a Mensa-level IQ to guess how I felt about that particular moment.

Also, how the officials deemed Royal’s shove on Jota not to be a penalty is nothing short of baffling.

The men in black and VAR can’t blamed, though, for how open we looked on several occasions without Virgil’s calm assurance at the back, nor for how easily Spurs played through our patched-up midfield at times.

Morton can be excused given how he was thrown in at the deep end at such a tender age, but I’d have expected more from Keita and Milner.

 

And how do we get through this run?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 19, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

HENRY: This feels like the pivotal point in the title race for me – Liverpool have to stay in touch with a City side on one of those unstoppable winning streaks.

The Reds’ squad depth is going to be tested because of COVID, but this is the point at which their monstrous mentality has to come to the fore.

Salah and Mane should only miss two league games, but they will still be enormous losses, and it is up to others to step up to the plate.

Leeds on Boxing Day has to be a win, but the trip to Leicester two days later looks really awkward (if it goes ahead), despite their current form.

Easier runs will await in the New Year, but for now, it’s a case of digging deep and not suddenly allowing City to be six or seven points clear.

If that happens, I fear it’s game over.

JACK: It’s not only about needing the secondary squad at this stage, but the tertiary group too: that group of youngsters looking to break through can be invaluable.

Regardless of the fixtures between Boxing Day and New Year being cancelled or not, Liverpool will almost certainly go into the League Cup quarter-final with a very different side.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, November 3, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jarell Quansah during the UEFA Youth League Group B Matchday 4 game between Liverpool FC Under19's and Club Atlético de Madrid Under-19's at the Liverpool Academy. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We saw Jarell Quansah on the bench on Sunday, and he’s likely to start alongside Joe Gomez, while Robertson’s red card means Owen Beck is a certainty.

Then it’s onto the likes of Tyler Morton, Conor Bradley, Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Kaide Gordon and possibly even Mateusz Musialowski, who can be urged to take their chance.

It certainly won’t be the end of the world if Liverpool get knocked out of the League Cup, and that experience could be vital for those players.

LIAM: Trying to anticipate which players will be available for our next game, or when our next game will even take place, is a bit of a lottery considering how things have gone in the Premier League over the past week.

Assuming that there aren’t any changes to the schedule or major squad developments between now and Boxing Day, though, I reckon we should manage the festive fixtures with no great trouble.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Most of the pandemic-laden players should be back by the time we face Leeds, who have huge fitness and injury issues of their own and are in quite a rut.

Leicester and Chelsea away both look like significant challenges, but if we can have the bulk of the squad available for those games, I see no reason why we can’t continue to keep Man City honest.

Robbo will be a miss, but Tsimikas has proven that he’s a reliable plug-and-play alternative.

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