Liverpool returned to form in impressive fashion as the Premier League champions secured a convincing victory at Tottenham Hotspur.
After a run of five league games without a win – four of those without a goal – Liverpool moved back into the top four as they discovered their cutting edge in style at the expense of an uninspiring Spurs.
Spurs, who lost captain Harry Kane to an ankle injury at half-time, had an early Son Heung-min strike ruled out for offside before Liverpool’s threat was rewarded with their first league goal in 482 minutes in first-half stoppage time when Roberto Firmino took advantage of hesitation between Eric Dier and Hugo Lloris to tap in.
Lloris was at fault again two minutes after the break when he pushed Sadio Mane’s shot straight into the path of Trent Alexander-Arnold, who finished emphatically.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s 20-yard strike gave Spurs renewed hope almost immediately but Liverpool were always in control and after Mohamed Salah saw a goal disallowed by VAR for handball against Firmino in the build-up, Mane stole in at the far post to pounce on an error by Joe Rodon to secure the win for Liverpool.
Liverpool are now four points behind leaders Manchester City having played a game more.
Liverpool overcome the odds to strike back
This was an outstanding result and performance by Liverpool in the face of yet more central defensive injury problems.
Fabinho, who has excelled in an unfamiliar centre-back role in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, was ruled out with what was described as a “minor muscle issue” while the fragile Joel Matip lasted only 45 minutes.
It meant Liverpool’s central defensive partnership in the second half was captain Jordan Henderson and the inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips.
While that unlikely centre-back pairing coped well, it was at the other end where Liverpool were right back to their brilliant best with Mane a constant threat while Firmino and Salah were full of menace and creation.
Their disappointing recent form has seen Liverpool drop down the Premier League and also exit the FA Cup in the fourth round at Manchester United – but the manner of this display was an ominous warning that you write off the champions at your peril.
Spurs flat – and now have Kane concerns
Jose Mourinho spent much of the second half bellowing instructions at his Spurs players in an attempt to spark a reaction – but it was to no avail as they produced a lacklustre performance.
Liverpool always carried a greater threat once Son’s early finish was ruled out for VAR but it was a moment of indecision between Dier and Lloris that opened the door for Firmino right at the end of the first half.
Then, straight after the break and despite Mourinho warning his players after Spurs let Salah in for a chance, Alexander-Arnold scored to give Liverpool a two-goal advantage moments later.
Son threatened occasionally on the break but even after Hojbjerg’s blockbuster from the edge of the box failed to inspire Spurs, who looked devoid of ideas long before the final whistle.
The lack of threat was perhaps less surprising given the loss of Kane, who twice received treatment for ankle knocks before eventually succumbing to the second one on his left ankle which was sustained in an innocuous challenge with Henderson.
Kane has a history of ankle problems and Mourinho will be hoping this is not another serious one because on this evidence his side will struggle to be anywhere near their best without their talisman and leading marksman.