It was a pulsating spectacle from start to finish and it is perhaps better to focus on the finish, despite everything that had gone before – the goals for either team, the one that was not and the two red cards for Liverpool.
Curtis Jones was the first to depart for a late tackle on Yves Bissouma midway through the first half, a challenge that looked honest enough but increasingly bad on the replays, and Diogo Jota followed him on 69 minutes. On as a half-time substitute for Cody Gakpo, who was injured by a Destiny Udogie challenge and then aggravated the problem in the act of equalising for Liverpool, Jota let his team down.
The first booking, for a very slight trip on Udogie, was soft. But having received it, he was playing with fire just 87 seconds later when he stretched into a tackle on the same Tottenham player. It was only going to end one way for him when he did not get the ball.
Jürgen Klopp had been hailed as one of the great innovators of the modern English game by the Spurs manager, Ange Postecoglou, on Friday. But has he ever set up in a 5-3-0 formation to try to preserve a point?
Spurs had camped inside the Liverpool half from the start of the second period and, after Jota’s dismissal, they sought to turn the screw some more. And yet the crazy thing was that Klopp’s nine men barely gave up a chance. It looked set to be one of the great backs-to-the-wall efforts. There was a bigger twist in store, the result slipping away from Liverpool in the final minute of the six added to stoke grave feelings of injustice.
Postecoglou showed his frustration when Dejan Kulusevski went back to Cristian Romero from the right wing. Spurs had to attack. But Romero swiftly worked it back out to Pedro Porro and, when he drove in a cross, Joël Matip swung a boot. The defender’s body shape was wrong; maybe it was fatigue? Instead of clearing, he sent the ball careering into the top of his own net.
As against Sheffield United in the previous game here, Spurs snatched victory at the very last. Once again the place went wild, the natives united in delirium and then acknowledgment of the revolution being wrought by Postecoglou. They are certainly loving Big Ange instead.
For Liverpool, it was brutally harsh, particularly after what had happened in the 34th minute at 0-0. Luis Díaz looked onside when he burst clear of Porro to finish brilliantly only for the flag to go up. It felt as though the VAR would intervene to overrule the on-field decision and yet it did not. A human error, the PGMOL later said. So Klopp and his players could console themselves with that.
Liverpool missed the chance to capitalise on Manchester City’s defeat at Wolves from earlier in the day while Spurs simply cavorted up above them and into second place. They remain unbeaten, everything going their way.
Klopp had started Gakpo ahead of Darwin Núñez and it felt like a long time ago that the centre-forward was narrowly failing to put a different complexion on the game in the early running. When he spun and shot after an Andy Robertson cut-back, Guglielmo Vicario made a reaction save. When Robertson banged the rebound goalwards, Vicario saved again. Put it down as an excellent double stop.
The first red card – Liverpool’s third of the league season – changed things, Klopp reconfiguring his side into a 4-4-1 with Gakpo to the right and Mohamed Salah up top. The first thing to say is that Jones had eyes on the ball and actually brushed the top of it before he clattered into Bissouma, making his opponent’s ankle buckle alarmingly. The force was strong and, when there was an announcement on the big screen of a VAR check for serious foul play, everybody knew what was coming.
Richarlison, who had blasted high at 0-0 in the 33rd minute, rattled a post just before the board went up to show six additional minutes of first-half stoppage-time. A flag had been raised, although it was hard to see why.
At which point Liverpool hauled themselves up off the canvas. Gakpo got on to a header from Virgil van Dijk and, with Micky van de Ven backing off, he turned and blasted past Vicario. Díaz should have made it 2-1 before the interval only to prod wide from Salah’s sumptuous cross.
Spurs pushed on to the front foot at the start of the second half and Alisson needed to save brilliantly to keep out Maddison and Son. The latter also had the ball in the net only for an offside flag to go up correctly against Richarlison. The drama was only just beginning.