Firmino and Wijnaldum seal Liverpool win as Spurs pay price for Vorm errors
Daniel Taylor at Wembley
These may still be the embryonic stages of the new Premier League season but Liverpool firmly leave the impression they want to see the view from the top of the table, judging from their superiority here against another of the teams who will switch their attentions to the Champions League in the next few days. It was Liverpool’s fifth straight win, only the third time they have started the season so immaculately, and perhaps the most frightening thought for the teams playing catch-up is that Mohamed Salah has still not quite found his most exhilarating form of last season.
Not that Salah was too shabby during those long spells when Liverpool overwhelmed their opponents and repeatedly opened up what is supposed to be one of the better defences in the top division. Once again, the front line of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané shimmered with menace. Yet there is also growing evidence that Liverpool can no longer be considered a lopsided team. The partnership between Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk is flourishing and until the five minutes of stoppage time, when the substitute Erik Lamela scored for Spurs, it was difficult to think of another period when Alisson, the away team’s goalkeeper, was in sustained danger.
It was certainly unusual to see Spurs being outplayed this way and a particular ordeal for Michel Vorm, deputising for the injured Hugo Lloris in goal. Vorm’s frailties were exposed for both of Liverpool’s goals, scored by Georginio Wijnaldum and Firmino, and his mind seemed scrambled during parts of the second half. If anything, it was a surprise Liverpool restricted themselves to no more goals, the only criticisms being that their final pass was often lacking and their finishing not clinical enough. The final score hardly does justice to the gulf that existed between the sides. “The performance was better than the result,” was Jürgen Klopp’s take. “This was by far the best performance of the season.” The manager was troubled by an injury to Firmino, who went to hospital after being accidentally caught in an eye by Jan Vertonghen’s fingers, but he was discharged and may face PSG on Tuesday.
For Spurs, it was the first time since the closing stages of the 2015-16 season that they have lost successive league fixtures. Lloris may have disgraced himself recently off the pitch but, if Vorm continues being this vulnerable, Spurs will long for their first-choice goalkeeper to return. Harry Kane’s performance did little to shift the perception that he needs a break and Mauricio Pochettino could not possibly argue it was deserved when Lamela, a substitute, caught out Alisson with a low, angled shot in the third minute of added time.
Almost inconceivably, Spurs could have salvaged a draw, with Mané lucky not to concede a penalty in the final seconds for tripping Son Heung-min, another substitute. Spurs were entitled to grumble because it was a clear foul. A draw, however, would have been a travesty. “This type of game shows we need to improve – a lot – if we want to be a contender,” Pochettino said.
Klopp talked about Liverpool having “85 brilliant minutes” and Pochettino must be acutely aware his team could have lost far more heavily. Klopp could also reflect on the incident, inside the opening 40 seconds, when Firmino turned James Milner’s cross into the far corner only for the goal to be disallowed, harshly, for an offside decision against Mané, who did not get a touch but was deemed to have been interfering with play.
When Liverpool did take the lead, in the 39th minute, Klopp could have been forgiven for thinking it was overdue. Pochettino, in turn, must have been alarmed by how often his players were making life difficult for themselves and even Christian Eriksen, such an elegant mover of the ball, will have to take some culpability bearing in mind it was his carelessness that gave away possession close to the penalty area and led to the corner.
All the same, Vorm should have done much better when Milner swung the corner into the six-yard area. Did Milner deliberately aim it so close to the goalkeeper? It felt that way and Vorm’s attempted punch succeeded only in flicking the ball towards the back post. Eric Dier could not get enough distance with his defensive header. Wijnaldum looped his header over Kieran Trippier and when Vorm clawed it away the goalkeeper was a foot behind the line.
In fairness to Vorm, he did spare his team, at 0-0, when Dier got a backward pass horribly wrong and left Salah with a run on goal.
That period of the game was also notable for Jan Vertonghen trying to chip Alisson from just inside the Liverpool half. It was nowhere near coming off and felt strangely symbolic of his team’s dishevelled performance.
Liverpool, in stark contrast, looked full of confidence, chasing down their opponents and encouraged by the sheer number of times that Spurs gave up the ball inside their own half. Mané set up the second goal with a surging run on the left. Vertonghen’s attempt to cut out the cross succeeded only in turning the ball against the post and Vorm was on the floor as the rebound rolled his way. He could not adjust in time, the ball squeezed through his hands and Firmino had a simple finish.
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