Everything keeps going Ange Postecoglou’s way, as Liverpool will argue everything went against them – not least Joel Matip’s 96th-minute attempt to divert Pedro Porro’s cross. That brought a 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur, who will doubtless say it came from the adventure they keep showing under the Australian.
Something bigger is happening at Spurs, as could be sensed in the raucous atmosphere after another late victory, but their biggest yet. They are a point behind leaders Manchester City. Who would have expected that after the lukewarm response to Postecoglou’s appointment at the start of the summer.
Liverpool might fairly say they would have been ahead of City had it not been for much smaller moments. Jurgen Klopp’s side endured two red cards – for Curtis Jones and substitute Diogo Jota – that they greatly disputed, as well as an offside call for a Luis Diaz finish that seemed the most borderline possible.
Later, the referees’ body, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) admitted it was the wrong decision to disallow Diaz’s effort, blaming human error, and “should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention”.
On such events seasons can swing. On the other side, strokes of fortune are often the sources of greater success, especially when you put yourself in the position to take advantage of that.
Spurs will argue that’s what Postecoglou’s approach absolutely does. There’s a bravery to it.
There was only a fury and frustration to Liverpool, even if some solace could have been taken from the resolve… until the own goal. Again, Klopp will say it shouldn’t have come down to that.
Liverpool had been the better side, and would have been ahead had it not been for two brilliant successive saves from Guglielmo Vicario. He kept out both Cody Gakpo and Andy Robertson, although the former’s decision to dwell on the ball that bit too long would doubtless influence his next chance.
That only came after the game turned, from referee Simon Hooper overturning a big decision. Curtis Jones had gone in rashly on Yves Bissouma but the lack of reaction from the players seemed to vindicate the official’s initial decision that it was no more than a yellow. On reviewing the footage, though, Hooper felt he had no choice but to send Jones off.
Liverpool’s impetus started to go. Luis Diaz still turned the ball in but his fine finish was ruled out for what ended up looking the most marginal of offsides.
That felt like it changed Liverpool’s mindset even more than the red card. Spurs sensed an opportunity and immediately went about creating one, then another and another. Postecoglou at one point reacted as if Bissouma missed a sitter when the midfielder merely hesitated on the ball and played a sideways pass. The Spurs manager wanted it forward much quicker. He eventually got that, and the sort of goal that Postecoglou no doubt sees as an ideal. A wondrous move at speed involved two luscious single touches from both Richarlison and Son, the Korean’s diverting the ball past Alisson.
Liverpool could well have been furious with how the half had played out, but it partly played into their hands. The unusual amount of first-half stoppage time allowed another attack, from which Gakpo this time proved assertively decisive. With the ball headed down, he ensured he turned on time, lashing the ball past Vicario.
He was almost too decisive, though. Appearing to over-extend himself to make the shot, Gakpo was visibly in pain as he celebrated, and then went off at half-time.
His replacement, Jota, got much less time on the pitch, after almost negligible time between two yellow cards. Just 22 minutes after coming on, the Portuguese received a first booking before immediately fouling Destiny Udogie for a second.
That only deepened the inevitable pattern of the game, which was Spurs controlling all play near Alisson’s area, and Liverpool looking to counter. The goalkeeper was on supreme form, probably surpassing Vicario with the pass of the match as he kept out James Maddison’s viciously swerving effort. He’d had so many individual moments of sparkling creativity that it felt a winner could come from there.
Mohamed Salah’s breaks meanwhile felt the best source of a Liverpool goal, only for Klopp to take him off.
From that point, it was always too much of a stretch to create a chance. Liverpool had to expend too much energy on defending against two more players.
There was, inevitably, always one man over. In the very final seconds, after it looked like Liverpool had weathered the storm, that man was Porro. He drilled the ball across, more in optimism rather than real accuracy. It was enough. Matip tried to clear only for the ball to fly past Alisson into the top corner.
Spurs surge past Liverpool in the table. It might take Liverpool a while to look past this one.