The game of the season. No question. It had everything. Package this and present to any sceptics. There were goals, chances, misses, saves, a red card given and not given, penalties that should have been awarded and, at the final whistle, the endorsement that the Premier League is the most thrilling, wild competition in the world.
It ended in a draw. Somehow. But it meant more for Tottenham who, if they play like this, are emphatically back under Antonio Conte with Harry Winks and Dele Alli rolling back the years, playing like they used to play and the intensity of the head coach matched on the pitch.
And yet they could – should – have been down to 10-men in the first-half with Harry Kane fortunate not be red-carded for a late challenge on Andrew Robertson who, later, was rightly sent off for an ugly foul after a VAR intervention. Liverpool will believe that different rules apply for the captains of England and Scotland. Both players scored – Kane’s goal was his first at home in the Premier League this season and only his second overall – and both should have gone.
It was breathless, open, relentless, frantic. It was a Premier League classic. It really did have everything – from the touchline frenzies of Jurgen Klopp and Conte to the opportunities created, spurned, taken out on the pitch. The managers hugged at the end. No wonder.
From the first whistle Spurs were on the ropes. But how they bounced back. Robertson should have put Liverpool ahead but headed wastefully wide; Hugo Lloris punched away Trent Alexander-Arnold’s snap-shot and the match fizzed. Then Spurs struck. Liverpool were missing their first-choice midfield but Virgil Van Dijk, also absent, was the biggest loss as they persisted in playing a high defensive line and Spurs exploited.
Still it was a loose pass, as Liverpool countered, that led to the opening goal, with Klopp holding his arms out wide in astonishment. Winks slid in to win the tackle, the ball was quickly moved on to Tanguy Ndombele and he slipped it through to Kane who cleverly held his run. Played onside by Robertson he shot low across Alisson and into the net. “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own,” sang the jubilant Spurs fans.
They broke again with Kane running free down the right. He picked out Son Heung-min but the forward, at full stretch, could only send it wide. Kane held his face but, moments later, he was fortunate not to be sent off as he lunged at Robertson, studs up, but was only cautioned by referee Paul Tierney. It was reckless and Klopp was furious. Not for the last time.
After a dreadful miss by Son, clear on goal only for Alisson to smother, which would have probably been ruled out for offside, Liverpool went close when Naby Keita shot low from the area’s edge only for Lloris to scramble and push it away.
It was a smart save but it was eclipsed by a brilliant intervention by Alisson as the outstanding Winks sent Son free once more. It seemed the chance had gone as he checked back but he found Alli, unmarked, in space only for his shot to be tipped around the post by the Liverpool goalkeeper. Alli had to score, surely, but it was some save.
It meant Spurs should have been three goals ahead. Instead they were pegged back. Liverpool were hanging on and, out of nothing, scored as Davinson Sanchez’s heavy touch allowed them to steal the ball away with Robertson bursting to the byline with his cut-back met by Diogo Jota who buried his header past Lloris.
It was the 33rd consecutive game that Liverpool had scored and the dynamic shifted as they poured forward with Jota again teed up but he delayed the shot with Emerson Royal barging into him. To Liverpool’s astonishment the penalty demands were waved away. Klopp had had enough. He had become more and more agitated and, as he angrily gestured after another foul, he was cautioned by Tierney. As Spurs were pinned back they were saved by Lloris once more when he thrust out his leg to turn away Alexander-Arnold’s fierce volley. And all this before half-time arrived.
There was no let-up. Klopp continued to protest to Tierney in the tunnel, Jota steered another header narrowly wide and there was another glaring miss from Spurs. It came as Alli was found and suddenly he and Kane were facing Alisson only for him to under-hit his pass. Still it reached Kane but Alisson was able to cover and excelled with another block. But what a chance. And there was another when a corner was flicked, reaching Kane who could not adjust enough to keep his header under the cross-bar. The decibels levels climbed; the atmosphere crackled.
It was a tough league debut for Tyler Morton and playing alongside James Milner who made his Premier League debut in Nov 2002 – 10 days after Morton was born. The 19-year-old had struggled and was replaced by Roberto Firmino with Klopp shifting formation to 4-2-3-1. Mohamed Salah, who had been marshalled well by Ryan Sessegnon, was moved into the middle.
There was more tension, more controversy. Alexander-Arnold had his hands on Alli’s back as the midfielder went over in the area but, again, no penalty was awarded with Spurs’s frustration compounded when Liverpool took the lead. A cross was headed by Salah against his own hand, Lloris scooped it out and Alexander-Arnold drove the ball across the face of goal with Robertson stooping to head it home. The angry protests came to nothing and the goal stood.
Alisson had been exceptional but, in keeping with such a crazy game, he blundered as Spurs drew level. Once more Winks created with Son running after his through ball. Still Alisson should have cleared but missed completely with Son gleefully side-footing into the empty net.
It became even more intense. Robertson took a wild swing at Emerson, catching him. A yellow was shown but Tierney was told to check the pitch-side monitor by the VAR and Robertson was dismissed although Spurs were unable to make the advantage count.