The message on one of the German tricolours fluttering in the away end was: “Jürgen Klopp, Mein Held.” Liverpool, as their new manager promised, had a different look. They chased and harried and could not really have given much more to try to get the Klopp era off to a winning start but, ultimately, there was not enough inspiration to go with all the perspiration.
Liverpool were quick to the ball, full of energy and ran so hard that when a Tottenham man went down midway through the second half every single one of Klopp’s players migrated to the touchline for a drinks break. They looked worn out, yet they still roused themselves for one last effort.
It has been a long time since Adam Lallana has covered this much ground in one game. Emre Can sprinted when once he might have strolled. Liverpool became a team of one goalkeeper and 10 James Milners and Klopp must have been encouraged by the speed at which his changes have been implemented.
What they could not do is match all their effort with a touch more refinement. Daniel Sturridge’s latest injury setback left them with Divock Origi, ordinarily their fourth-choice striker, in attack and though the Belgium international worked hard he did look slightly raw for the position.
As such, Liverpool were unable to extend their winning sequence against Tottenham to six matches, having scored 18 times and conceded only four in their previous five encounters. They did, however, register their first clean sheet in nine matches and, in the process, they largely subdued Spurs, even if Mauricio Pochettino could justifiably reflect that his team created the better chances.
On those occasions, Simon Mignolet’s goalkeeping ensured it was not a losing start for Klopp, particularly when Harry Kane had a chance to win the match five minutes from the end of normal time. Mignolet made an even better save earlier in the match to keep out the substitute Clinton Njie, who had replaced the injured Nacer Chadli, but Spurs managed only one 15-minute spell in the first half when they put their opponents under sustained pressure and more might have been expected of the home side.
Liverpool had moved the ball with great purpose during the opening exchanges and the tall bespectacled guy on the touchline, wearing the dark tracksuit and occasionally delivering a shrill whistle to get his players’ attention, was hopping around agonisingly after 10 minutes when a corner came over, Can applied the first header and Origi diverted the ball against the crossbar.
Klopp’s team had made an enterprising start in a new 4-3-2-1 system, with Lallana and Coutinho patrolling the area behind Origi, and at that stage the home crowd might have recalled the way Liverpool had won their last two games here, with an aggregate 8-0 score. Instead, Spurs gradually began to emerge as a threat of their own and Klopp saw for the first time his team’s habit of making life difficult for themselves.
Lallana was indebted to Mignolet’s one-handed save after losing the ball deep inside his own half, giving Kane the chance to set up Njie. Later, Njie flashed a diagonal effort just over the crossbar after more hesitancy in the Liverpool defence and, in between, Mignolet’s feet kept out Kane, with Mamadou Sakho blocking the follow-up effort from Dele Alli.
The game became increasingly error-strewn after the interval and Milner, having already been shown a yellow card, was fortunate the referee Craig Pawson gave him the benefit of the doubt after a collision with Danny Rose.
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