A FOOTBALL match, a tale of two teams, profoundly decided by one half.
This isn’t to say the second half isn’t important. This isn’t to undo those efforts. Those necessary efforts. This isn’t to act like all that running round was irrelevant. It wasn’t. It is a game of two halves, Saint.
But, today it wasn’t. Today it was a game of one half. One half that belonged emphatically to one team. That team wore red. That team was Liverpool. That team inexorably demonstrated dominance. The sort of dominance missing from so many of these top six battles this season. We’ve seen these games go back and forth. Be utterly draining experiences. Football that self destructs, that kills those who play it.
Tonight two teams turned up at Anfield. And one was far better than the other one. It would be far too simplistic to just say that. It would also be true. It is a thing that happens. Two teams face up. One is better than the other — let that team always wear red.
Tonight it did. By a million miles it did. Liverpool’s first half should be recorded as an exemplar of everything this football team needs to do week in and week out. There isn’t a player among them off the back of that first 45 minutes who doesn’t deserve enormous credit. Every single player, including the goalkeeper, deserves credit and deserved to go in with more than two goals in their plus column.
It’s hard to specify individuals but Gini Wijnaldum was terrific. Shifted the ball along, won battles and joined everywhere. There is this thing about that position. Easy for everyone to feel like there is not enough in either direction playing that role whereas tonight he managed to be offering enough in both areas.
Sadio Mane gets his brace and it is deserved. We saw everything that he does well along with the work Liverpool need him to do. He absolutely terrified Tottenham across the pitch. He pulled them out of shape, made them need to look after their left-back. Made them worry. And what a brace. I love a good brace and this is quite the brace.
At the back, Lucas Leiva who has been understandably maligned at times this season turned this into the sort of game where he could flourish. He did so much of his business on the front foot; winning the ball in unexpected areas and putting Liverpool on the attack. Harry Kane had no meaningful involvement until the second half and then his involvement at times felt like that of a lad looking for revenge, looking for a way to make a point. Him and the penalty area were just not very well acquainted. Touches were left pointless. Liverpool resplendent. Lucas and Joel Matip in charge.
In fact, Liverpool today decided to assault all of Spurs’s strengths, not just Kane. Any area of the pitch Spurs felt they were good at first 45, Liverpool decided to pick at. First half the weaknesses of both Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele were emphasised. Liverpool held a mirror up to their faults. Drew diagrams on that mirror. Took the piss out of that mirror. Confiscated the mirror.
The second half then. Spurs had taken a team talk and a half and quite the bollocking. So they came out to kick Liverpool. They’d been bullied, legally bullied and the response was to illegally semi-bully Liverpool. Kick them like lads who didn’t want to face a manager at half-time telling them they had been second best again.
The second half Liverpool took so much time out of the way. They didn’t let Spurs have a single thing cheaply. Not one little thing. They didn’t leave the space for Spurs to exploit while still offering a threat. Liverpool were never on the back foot while being mildly defensive.
These Reds today were brave on and off the ball. Brave a million times. Brave and brave. All Spurs had was walloping people. Nothing to Kane. Nothing to Son Heung-Min. Just hitting the Reds. Retribution was all they had because they couldn’t get on top.
But the brave Reds deserve all the credit. All the love and affection. They got walloped for you and me. They walloped Spurs for you and me. They were sharp for you and me. Pinging it into one another for us. Touch, turn. Bang.
The Reds then. Let this be the turn you gorgeous bastards. It turns here and now. Beat the next lads. And the lads after. This, this is how good you are, how good we are.
Let’s go, Reds.
Up the sharp Reds.