Liverpool prove too strong for Tottenham and register statement victory at Wembley
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Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Liverpool 2
Liverpool showed their Premier League title credentials with a deserved 2-1 win away to Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon.
The Reds claimed all three points in Brent thanks to goals from Georgino Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino.
Erik Lamela pulled one back for Mauricio Pochettino’s men in stoppage time, but they were second best for much of this so-called heavyweight contest and have now suffered back-to-back defeats.
Spurs made three changes to the team which lost 2-1 at Watford on September 2 – the last Premier League match before the international break.
Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies dropped to the bench while Dele Alli missed out with a hamstring injury.
Incoming was Danny Rose plus Eric Dier and Harry Winks slotted into midfield as Pochettino matched up Jurgen Klopp’s trio in the centre of the park.
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Before kick-off there was some debate about whether Tottenham were going with a diamond formation in the middle, simply a three-man midfield with Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen out wide or a back-three.
When Liverpool got the game underway, it was confirmed Spurs were going with a diamond with Mousa Dembele at the base and Eriksen at the tip.
It was the Reds who made the better start and they had the ball in the back of the net after 60 seconds.
James Milner’s cross took a slight touch off Sadio Mane and beat Michel Vorm, but it was ruled out for offside.
Spurs failed to heed the early warning signs, however, as Firmino saw a shot blocked behind a minute later by Toby Alderweireld.
Liverpool continued to enjoy the better of the opening exchanges and youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold had a free kick comfortably saved by Vorm in the sixth minute.
Tottenham eventually warmed to the occasion by the quarter-hour mark and the clash had reverted to an even contest.
Although Spurs had yet to create a genuine chance by the 20th minute, they had been able to keep Mo Salah’s involvement to a minimal.
He did show his threat two minutes later when Dier’s pass was short and the Egyptian latched onto possession and raced into the area, but Vorm stood up tall and saved well before gathering at the second attempt.
It was another sloppy piece of play by Tottenham and Pochettino would not have been impressed with the game not even 25 minutes old.
After their earlier let-off, Spurs seemed to suddenly kick into gear with a fine opening created in the 27th minute when Kieran Trippier cushioned a pass into Eriksen’s path, but the Dane hesitated and saw his cut back blocked behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Mane fouled Eriksen just outside the area and presented Spurs with a good free kick opportunity.
Unfortunately the Dane could only fire straight into the hands of Alisson and a good chance had been wasted.
Tottenham continued to press and another opening occurred with half an hour played as Lucas Moura won the ball back and Dier tried his luck from range, but saw his shot take a deflection and go wide.
Pochettino’s men were unable to do anything with the corner, but after a lacklustre start, they were now up to speed.
Carelessness was still present in Tottenham’s play, however, which was evident when Dembele’s pass was short and it allowed Mane to run at Alderweireld and get a shot off which Vorm saved.
More lackadaisicalness happened in the 38th minute and eventually it proved costly as Liverpool took the lead.
First Alderweireld’s pass was blocked by Mane and it allowed the Senegal attacker to run at the Belgian.
Although Spurs initially thwarted the danger, Eriksen headed the ball straight back to Mane and he won a corner.
James Milner swung the delivery into the area and Vorm could only flap at the back and put it straight up in the air.
Even though Dier headed it as far away from goal as possible, Wijnaldum was there to power a header back towards goal and just about across the line despite the best efforts of Tottenham’s deputy goalkeeper.
With 39 on the clock, Liverpool had the lead and it was a deserved one given the opportunities they had created.
A minute of stoppage time was added on at the end of the first half, but it went by without anything to note as Spurs went in trailing.
It had been a frustrating half for the hosts though, they were perhaps fortunate not to be behind further.
Tottenham were almost presented with a great chance to level at the start of the second period when Moura disposed Joe Gomez and tried to get into the area, but he was soon crowded out.
Back came Liverpool, however, as Andrew Robertson’s cross caught out Vorm and hit the top of the crossbar before Mane tested the Dutchman in the Spurs goal minutes later.
It seemed only a matter of time before Tottenham conceded a second, but then they should have found the net.
Eriksen picked out Moura on the left and he controlled before getting past Gomez and then embarking on a run into the area, but with the goal insight, he dragged his effort wide in the 50th minute.
Given Spurs had been second best for much of the contest, it felt like a big chance had been wasted.
Liverpool made sure it was four minutes later when they did finally increase their lead in the 54th minute.
Mane got in behind Trippier and his dangerous cut back was deflected onto the post by Vertonghen and the ball agonisingly slipped through Vorm’s hands and rolled for Firmino to lash home from merely a yard out.
Straight after the goal Vorm knocked the ball out of play for a throw when trying to find Vertonghen as his confidence continue to zap.
Pochettino made a change on the hour mark with Lamela replacing Dembele, but Liverpool still looked a threat on the counter-attack.
It should have been 3-0 in the 63rd minute when Mane was released and the Reds had a three against two situations, but the former Southampton man delayed his pass and when it came to Naby Keita, he could only force Vorm to tip over.
Another substitution occurred with 17 minutes left as Heung-min Son was introduced for Winks, but it failed to spark Spurs into life.
Rather than Tottenham looking most likely to find a way back into the game, it was the visitors who seemed the more sure bet to find the net next.
Klopp’s team were creating all sorts of problems for the Lilywhites and Salah nearly got on the scoresheet in the 81st minute, but Vorm denied him.
Victor Wanyama was introduced seconds later, yet the game was over now and it was a case of damage limitation for the hosts.
Two substitutes, Son and Lamela, combined with five minutes later, but the latter could only roll an effort past the post.
When five minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the 90, it seemed they would pass by relatively quietly.
Lamela had other ideas, however, and set Rose up for a chance with 92 played, but Gomez blocked his shot behind for a corner.
Eriksen’s delivery came for the Argentinean at the back post and he controlled before brilliantly volleying past Alisson from a tight angle.
All of a sudden the Wembley crowd were alive again and Spurs threatened once more with a free kick into the area.
There was still time for one last opportunity when Son cut inside and as he was about to get a shot off, Mane appeared to catch his foot and put him off.
Referee Michael Oliver awarded a goal kick, however, and that was the last action of note as the full time whistle blew moments later.
Tottenham have nine points after five games and worrying have already suffered two defeats in what may prove to be a more difficult season than first anticipated.
Next up for Pochettino’s men is a tricky opening Champions League Group B match away to Inter Milan on Tuesday.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dembele (Lamela 60); Winks (Son 73), Dier (Wanyama 82); Eriksen; Kane ©, Moura.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Davies, Sanchez.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Matip 90), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita (Sturridge 83); Mane, Firmino (Henderson 74), Salah.
Unused substitutes: Mignolet, Fabinho, Moreno, Shaqiri.