October 1, 2023

Klopp that: Postecoglou’s Spurs ride their luck to shatter Liverpool curse

By Vince Rugari
October 1, 2023 — 9.48am
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London: To call it a roar would be a supreme understatement. It was more like a sonic boom, one that could be heard far and wide – from north London to Glasgow, to Yokohama, and all the way back to Australia.

Before Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur had beaten Liverpool just once in their previous 23 games, a horrible run in which they conspired to lose in variously unfortunate, embarrassing and ludicrous ways.

Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after Joel Matip of Liverpool scored an own goal. Credit: Getty

So if it took a late, late own goal and some very, very questionable refereeing to finally break the curse with a 2-1, you can forgive Spurs fans for accepting the bargain.

Equally, you can forgive Jurgen Klopp for raging against what he described as the most “unfair” game of football he’d seen. Two of his players, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota, were contentiously sent off, and a first-half goal to Luis Diaz was incorrectly disallowed for offside, with the English refereeing body admitting a “significant human error” was made by the VAR’s failure to intervene and overturn the decision.

Rightly or wrongly, for the second home match in a row, the Tottenham faithful have not so much walked away from their stadium but floated. Ange Postecoglou, their new hero, seemingly can do no wrong. Late winners or comebacks are his trademark. Postecoglou teams never stop.

Sometimes luck is not on their side. Here, it indisputably was.

The performance itself left a bit to be desired. At times, Tottenham played scintillating football – best displayed by the brilliant move that led to the opener, three minutes after Diaz’s non-goal, as James Maddison’s perfect through-ball played in Richarlison, who in turn slid it centrally for Son Heung-min to finish.

Jurgen Klopp reacts during the match as Ange Postecoglou watches on.Credit: Getty

But by Postecoglou’s own admission, at other times they rushed things, drifted away from the game plan, and failed to provide the requisite variation to break down a resolute Liverpool defence, or get past a heroic Alisson, who pulled off a string of terrific saves to keep his side in it.

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In the end, the decisive strike came not off the boot of a Spurs player but Liverpool’s Joel Matip, who turned in a desperate ground cross from Pedro Porro in the 96th minute to trigger absolute bedlam in the stands, and more musical praise for Postecoglou from the 62,001 in attendance.

“It was a fairly eventful finish again, and I’m obviously pleased to come out on the positive side,” he said.

“It’s fair to say that we’ve had some significant challenges in the first seven weeks of the season and the way we’ve dealt with them, I’ve been really pleased. Obviously, you want to put the game to bed earlier than when we did, but sometimes when you score that late, it just helps to continue to build that belief in the group and the spirit within the group that we have that in us to go to the last minute.”

The Reds scored their goal in first-half injury time through Cody Gakpo, who took a knock just prior to his turn-and-shoot strike, and was later sighted in a leg brace. Klopp said he fears it is a “bad” injury.

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Jones’ red card came in the 26th minute for a studs-up tackle on Yves Bissouma, which was upgraded from a yellow after a VAR review but looked far worse in slow motion than it did in real time, he argued.

Jota, who came on at half-time for the injured Gakpo, copped two yellow cards in the space of two minutes – but while the second was clear-cut, the first was harsh, since replays suggested Destiny Udogie may have tripped himself up.

Once upon a time, Postecoglou – a diehard Liverpool fan since his childhood – would have complained, too. But as he quipped during the week, times change, and he no longer has those posters on his wall. Posters of his face, now, are ubiquitous across Tottenham territory.

While Liverpool left with no points, Klopp said he would remember their gritty performance forever.

“It is crazy how hard we fought,” he said.

“I loved our attitude and our desire. I learned so much about my team – much more than if we had won here. Don’t think we didn’t get anything from this.”

English Premier League results

Aston Villa 6, Brighton 1

Aston Villa: Ollie Watkins (14, 21, 65), Pervis Estupinan (26), Jacob Ramsey (85), Douglas Luiz (90).

Brighton: Ansu Fati (50).

Halftime: 3-0.

Bournemouth 0, Arsenal 4

Arsenal: Bukayo Saka (17), Martin Odegaard (44), Kai Havertz (53), Ben White (90).

Halftime: 0-2.

Everton 1, Luton Town 2

Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (41).

Luton Town: Tom Lockyer (24), Carlton Morris (31).

Halftime: 1-2.

Man United 0, Crystal Palace 1

Crystal Palace: Joachim Andersen (25).

Halftime: 0-1.

Newcastle 2, Burnley 0

Newcastle: Miguel Almiron (14), Alexander Isak (76).

Halftime: 1-0.

West Ham 2, Sheffield United 0

West Ham: Jarrod Bowen (24), Tomas Soucek (37).

Halftime: 2-0.

Wolverhampton 2, Man City 1

Wolverhampton: Ruben Dias (13), Hwang Hee-chan (66).

Man City: Julian Alvarez (58).

Halftime: 1-0.

Tottenham 2, Liverpool 1

Tottenham: Son Heung-min (36), Joel Matip (90).

Liverpool: Cody Gakpo (45).

Halftime: 1-1.

Vince Rugari is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via Twitter or email.
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