Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool registered a 0-1 win away, over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Saturday. As a result, the league leaders with 61 points are clear on the top of the table with 16 points more than nearest contender Leicester City despite having played a game less. Further down the table, the hosts Tottenham dropped to eighth mustering 30 points from 22 games.
Tottenham fell behind to a 37th-minute strike from Liverpool’s number 9, and away-day specialist, Roberto Firmino. Despite the meagre scoreline, the gulf in class was not.
We look at a couple of talking points from the match:
Gini Wijnaldum, slow dancing in a burning room
There are certain books in your life that leave you wiser between your ears, beyond your years. One such piece of work is Discovery of Slowness: It’s a tome on slowing down time around by being fully present in the moment. This includes an utter commitment to divert all your bodily, mental and spiritual energy into one task and one task alone – the task that is present in front of you.
The most successful athletes in the world talking about how they ‘went into the zone’ when they achieved a feat worthy to be painted on vases when Gods would assume human form to make up for the scarcity of miracles. In the modern world, these acts are nowhere more televised than in the game of football. Sure, there will be firefighters saving koalas, but admiration is formed out of habit and Liverpool happen to appear on TV more often.
Gini Wijnaldum, an antithesis to the ‘This Is Fine’ meme dog who is resigned to his fate, slow dances in a burning room of flaming tackles. In the midst of traffic, Wijnaldum plays the ball like someone plays the glockenspiel, with touches that are like a lick on a scoop of tender coconut ice cream. And when opponents come rushing rabid, frothing in their mind, blooding pumping in their veins, it’s Wijnaldum again who with half-a-prod of half-a-toe makes the entire opponent team stop half-step and retreat because he set Liverpool off on a counter of their own. Some of his highlights:
Christian Eriksen winning the ball dispossessing tried a first-time ball to Lucas Moura on the far left. Wijnaldum apparates. Wijnaldum upon receiving a ball in deep in Liverpool’s midfield was in danger of being the patty in the burger of two Spurs midfielders. He, without raising his head, scooped the ball with a reverse spin to his left and onto the path of Andy Robertson setting off another counter.
Again, deep in Liverpool’s midfield, Wijnaldum put Christian Eriksen on a spin cycle by dragging the ball behind him with instep and flicking the ball ahead of him as he turned with the inside of his standing foot. Eriksen visibly stopped trying to harry Wijnaldum and pressing the Liverpool midfield from that point on.
On another occasion, he dummied Erik Lamela to the degree that the Argentine international was on his backside seconds after trying to enter the Wijnaldum forcefield. That’s what it looked it as if the Liverpool number 5 had an invisible field of energy around his skin that may be a Boeing would bounce off of it. If his compatriot Virgil van Dijk is Ben Grimm from The Fantastic Four, than Wijnaldum would be Susan "Sue" Storm Richards.
It is with that invisible guile he was also almost present at the end of a cross ahead from wide right. His head nearly nodding on the ball into Tottenham’s goal. But then, there are only so many places you can be in at once.
The stats tell you that he’s Liverpool’s most important midfield player, no one has featured in more games for the Meryseysider than the Netherlands player. But leave aside the stats for a moment (which are mind-boggling in their own right, and utterly ridiculous and we will get to them as we should), this Liverpool team exudes not only a sense of imperiousness on the front foot but a quality more deadly: the luck of champions on the backfoot. It’s like every Batman episode (featuring Adam West, 1966) – there may be a tiger shark hanging from his foot, whilst dangling from a rope ladder, 100 feet over the Pacific, from a rogue helicopter set to self-destruct in 60 seconds, we know he’s going to come through in the end. It’s what we expect of protagonists in movies, TV shows and in books, and well, look away from their shining brilliance if you can rival fans, but Liverpool are protagonists now.
On the night, as were Tottenham with their low-block, were spectators.
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Fimrino, Liverpool’s lockpickers extraordinaire
Sadio Mane is probably the nicest bloke out there in world football off of the pitch, but on the pitch, he’s the Anubis to Mohamed Salah’s Ra the Sun god. In Egyptian mythology, Anubis was the god of mummification, who oversaw the process of Kings into the netherworld. Mane petrified would-be king, 20-year-old Japheth Tanganga, but the process was slow. Early doors the youngster was having the better of the physical contest with the newly crowned African Player of the Year, being the first to the ball in his challenges and interceptions. Mane proceeded with the clinical dissection, chipping away at the right-backs composure with twists, turns and flicks and when the fouls came coming in favour of the Senegalese, Tanganga’s left hamstring started to seize up.
The debutante may go onto become of the finest full-backs in the league, if he does, he’ll point to the match as being put through night school.
Similarly, Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez was simply a step ahead of Firmino, but there was little he could do when the goal came.
An inventive thrown in won controversially and cannily by Mane from Serge Aurier saw the Brazilain No 9 run through with it like an angular stab into the thigh of the Tottenham defence. The ball fell to Jordan Henderson who nodded it on inside the box despite the risk of an oncoming Tottenham elbow. Salah, with the deftest touch, brings the ball down purring and then pats it sideways like a tee stroke with his back to goal and a six-foot Sanchez breathing down his neck. Firmino now positioned near the goal line lets the ball run onto his standing left foot and ahead, and then slashes it home with the same foot beyond the reaching finger of Gazzaniga’s right hand.
Now, let’s talk about the stats as we promised.
Liverpool clocked up 61 points from 21 games with this win, setting a new record across Europe’s top five leagues. 104 points from their last 38 games is a record total by any Premier League team in a 38-game period surpassing Manchester City and Chelsea’s 102 each. Liverpool’s 81st-minute substitute completed more take ons than any Tottenham player on the pitch for the full 90. When the final whistle blew, Tottenham playing on their home turf had on 38 percent of possession. Jose Mourinho structured his team around Liverpool’s strengths than playing to their own. Maybe if he didn’t the scoreline would have been a lot worse.
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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2020 13:52:25 IST