Snappy Spurs still progressing under Conte after dramatic draw against Liverpool
Julian Taylor at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
It may be scant consolation to either side who were forced to share the spoils, but for those who value fire, fury and controversy, both Tottenham and Liverpool were party to one of the games of the season.
The clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had almost everything: four goals, key penalty debates, a red card for Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, both teams driving at each other in a relentless, super charged spat – and, unfortunately what appeared to be something of an egotistical appearance from referee Paul Tierney.
Goals by Spurs’ Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in each half, and replies from Diogo Jota and Robertson plus a yellow card for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp were some of the taut, compelling moments to recall as the tempest swirled in north London.
From a Tottenham perspective, while they were denied three points against the Premier League title contenders, this was more like it. Antonio Conte’s men won three league games in a row coming into this feisty Sunday service – and a spirited display is another benchmark of much improved times, with Spurs in seventh place.
“On one hand I think we had a good performance, great commitment and desire to take points against a strong team, one of the best teams in the world”, said Conte.
“When you create many chances you have to kill your opponent. For this reason we have to be disappointed. I am happy on one hand but a bit disappointed on the other".
Liverpool had won their last five games both in the Premier League and Champions League and made a bright start, testing Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris.
As Conte demands, Tottenham then showed their character. Kane's swivelled shot from six yards in the 12th minute was turned away by the feet of Liverpool keeper Allison. This was the signal for some bite – and the England marksman, just a minute later, took his chance to fasten on to a lovely Tanguy Ndombele pass before evading the desperate lunge of Ibra Konate to slide the ball into the corner of the net.
Kane's goal proved to be a real boost for Spurs, who began to feel emboldened and attacked an exposed-looking Liverpool defence.
A price to pay for that, however, was a yellow card for an over-enthusiastic Kane, who lunged dangerously at Robertson. And without whistler Tierney utilising VAR, while doing so later, when it came to the dismissal of the Reds defender, the Tottenham hit man can possibly consider himself fortunate he didn’t suffer the same fate. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was certainly adamant on the matter, post-match.
Still, Liverpool, whilst not at full strength, and missing Virgil van Dijk in particular, are nothing if not resourceful, capable of responding calmly to surprise setbacks and they enjoyed a revival midway through the first half.
Dele Alli, on the other hand, spurned a gift-wrapped chance when he slotted wide after being set up by Son on the counter; again the Reds appearing, oddly, like a side occasionally vulnerable and stretched to the kind of jet-pace epitomised by Son and the passing craft of Harry Winks.
Spurs’ zest didn’t last, as Jota headed calmly into the corner of the net in 35 minutes to make it 1-1, epitomising the overall ebb and flow. Klopp, incensed by the lack of a penalty award when Jota was sent tumbling by Emerson Royal, was then cautioned by Tierney.
Liverpool, though, need to tighten up in places, and an Alli-Kane combination in 54 minutes should have put the north Londoners ahead, only for Allison to bravely smother. A minute later, Kane inexplicably headed over from three yards.
In an obvious aspect of Spurs’ fresh diligence, impressive Eric Dier kept a close watch on Mohamed Salah – the scorer of 14 goals in 16 outings this term – which certainly frustrated the visitors.
Then the inconsistency of Tierney began to regrettably unfold, when Robertson was dispatched.
Before the Scot trudged off, he bravely headed Liverpool back in front in the 70th minute, getting on the end of a Trent Alexander Arnold zipped shot, although there did appear to be a suspicion of handball by Salah seconds earlier. Yet, why was VAR not used in this most obvious instance? Tierney unsurprisingly should find himself under criticism for such decision making which threatened to submerge a chunk of the second half.
Spurs added a fine sprinkling of spice when Son made it 2-2 just three minutes later. An alarmed Allison somehow missed slicing the ball clear of danger, leaving the South Koran with a simple finish into an open goal.
Robertson then saw red when tangling with Royal on the touchline. Tierney eventually called for VAR and Liverpool had to regroup with ten men for the final flourish.
That was the end of the drama, just about. “If we want to improve our levels I have to improve every single player,” added Conte. “It is the only path we have to do.”
Under the Italian, Tottenham fans should be witnessing plenty more of these afternoons.