The volume increased from the knot of Liverpool supporters shortly after the Diogo Jota sending off, as though they expected something special, something extraordinary that they could retell in years to come. You know, that trip to Tottenham when we faced down Ange Postecoglou’s all-out attack with nine men.
Dominic Szoboszlai was the first to pick up on it. A new signing who already looks a Liverpudlian to his core, he stopped in front of them and gestured frantically. They responded, raising the volume. Trent Alexander Arnold was next. He is Liverpudlian to his core and now, as the clock ticked on to 90 minutes, he implored the fans to give still more.
The clocked had moved on to 95 minutes. Only seconds remained to achieve something momentous. It’s one thing to hold out with ten men. To do so with nine, for more than 20 minutes against this Spurs team, would perhaps merit the performance of the season.
And so amidst the joy at Tottenham Hotspur Stadiumm it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with empathy for Joel Matip, foremost among the heroes here. One last chance for Tottenham, one last attack. Cristian Romero pushed the ball wide to Pedro Porro. He fired in his cross which such ferocity that Matip just instinctively reacted, stuck out a foot and directed past his own goalkeeper.
A game of this quality, with its glorious ebbs and flows, deserved its dramatic finale. It was the Premier League at its finest, the pressing rabid, the technique superb and the tactical responses to setbacks outstanding. At the end of it, all Tottenham are joint top and Big Ange was acknowledging a euphoric stadium in a glorious rendition of Robbie William’s Angel.
Curtis Jones was sent off for Liverpool against Tottenham following a high challenge on Yves Bissouma in the first half
Diogo Jota was given his marching orders in the second half after two quick bookings
Who had this on their Bingo card when Harry Kane left in August? This is more than a feeling. Tottenham are made of something more than that. And Liverpool, even in defeat, demonstrated extraordinary resilience. With City losing, maybe a title race is possible.
So to the turning point: Curtis Jones wasn’t being malicious when he went in on Yves Bissouma on 28 minutes. But he did slightly misjudge his challenge, slip over the ball and end up high, studs showing on his shin. That’s always going to be a red card in the VAR era. When they showed it back to the crowd, admittedly partisan and wishing to be horrified, there was a sharp intake of breath. When you freeze the frame, it looks even worse. In normal time, it just looked an honest mistake.
But VAR Darren England referees on the basis that freeze frame and when he called his colleague Simon Hooper over to the screen, Klopp was already reorganising his team into a 4-4-1, so inevitable was the conclusions. To the glut of pros saying it was harsh, there is no mitigation in the rules. And yet equally it seems a disproportionate intervention into the game for what amounts to a marginal mistake.
Spurs looked to seize on the moment of vulnerability but when they workd the ball over to Richarlison on the left of goal, on 33 minutes he looked woefully short of confidence, electing to control the ball, set himself and then shoot high over. His doubts overcame his instincts. And a few minutes later Luis Diaz had the ball in the net, only to be ruled out for a marginal offside. It seemed, despite the numerical imbalance, this was still simmering nicely.
Tottenham strick first with a goal of such attacking purity it echoed the best of the club. And if ever a player were made for this club, it is James Maddison, the substance matching the swagger. His through ball to Richarlison was just threaded so precisely and weighted so well, it invited the diagonal, attacking run which the Barzilain delivered. But his delicate, assured touch back for Heung-min son was just as good. The finish, Son ahead of Matip and van Dijk, wasn’t far off either.
Now Tottenham looked unstoppable and Richarlison a different man altogether. Shoulders back, eyes ablaze, he tormented Liverpool with his runs. Now his instincts had silenced his doubts. When he can surf this emotional wave, he is world-class player.
And yet, with Mohammed Salah now up top for Liverpool with Luis Diaz wide and the sublime Dominic Szobszlai now deep alongside Mac Allister, Liverpool were perfectly set up for counter attacks. One, deep into added first half minutes, enticed a foul close to the box which encouraged Virgil Van Dijk forward. As the ball was cleared, Szobszlai collected it and delivered the perfect cross into the box on to Van Dijk’s head.
Initially it seemed Cody Gakpo had missed his chance, miscontrolling. But he swivelled – it would tunr out in doing so he injured himself doing so and would not emerge for the second half – and shot on the turn to equalise. In fact, Liverpool should have gone in ahead when deep into the seventh minute of added time, Salah played the pass of the game into Diaz, who prodded wide from close range.
The second half was initially predictable. There was the great save from Allison from Maddison’s curling strike. Then the great save from Alisson from Son’s cracking volley. Then the disallowed goal from Son, when Richarlison recovered the ball offside. There was the endless succession of Spurs corners. And then there was Diogo Jota.
What a ten-men performance requires is immense discipline. What it doesn’t need is two stupid fouls in 90 seconds to leave your team with nine men. Both were on Destiny Udogie, the first a sly tactical one to prevent a breakaway on 71 minutes. Fair enough, but that’s your warning. When he dived in a minute later on the same player, he was inviting his own expulsion. Klopp responded by withdrawing the tireless Salah. Gomez and Diaz. With a 3-4-1 formation. Szoboszlai now his only nominal attacking player, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberston now wing backs.