Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 4 Tottenham Hotspur 2 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


THERE is a golden rule of doing these which I only ever have crossed once and regretted – Aston Villa home 2015-16.

It is this…

Do nothing before kick off.

Today I was tempted. I didn’t, but I was tempted. Though I couldn’t stop thinking about the rare thing presented to us.

Today wasn’t a dead rubber – do we need to reflect on how much of our sporting language comes from bridge and horse racing? – but instead something different and rare regardless: a game at Anfield where the situation allows relaxation and without too much cant.

Add the sun. Add the bank holiday. The idea of a game of football which doesn’t feel like a matter of life and death, while not to be thrown away, is quite the treat. No one has anything to prove, not really. The treat is exactly that. The gift is that.

You’d prefer an alternative where it is about being top of the pops, but you also need to remember there is another alternative, scrabbling for fourth like our opponents or struggling to sixth like we can see just down the 62.

We get the sunshine and a sunshiney showing, we get to revel in the entertainment and get the entertainment to be a microcosm of it all.

I would have taken any four goals. Tap-ins from two metres away, goalkeeping errors, soft penalties, anything. Liverpool needed four goals and on a beautiful afternoon at Anfield, they scored four and let in two against Tottenham in a manner befitting the end of a momentous, turbulent, difficult, exciting and meaningful season.

When it went four I said: “There are two more goals in this.”

You can make the point at 4-0 up on 60 minutes, the game changes. The disorganisation after the subs is frustrating from the idea of the two more being red in hue. We go from playing with joy and abandon to looking like we have forgotten which foot to kick the ball with.

Richarlison – despite the soundness of his politics versus his contemporaries – is swerving all over the place, rules of the game be damned. Son is a great player. Released from the yoke of Harry Kane, he is troublesome to defend against in the final quarter of the match and suddenly Liverpool don’t look entirely in control of their own half.

That’s the less good bit, then. We let two in when it would have been more spectacular to take Tottenham to the absolute cleaners. This season has been complicated in precisely that sort of way.

However, this game is otherwise massive, massive fun. Mo Salah looks so much better for a few days off. He is charging round terrifying the Tottenham defenders. His pace and range is spectacular and he scores a sweet opener 16 minutes in from a beautiful cross and everyone’s shoulders drop.

Liverpool are all over Tottenham in the first half. There is a swagger. The manager backs Harvey Elliott because he loves him and Alexis Mac Allister looks firm (he loves him too). It’s so much better than the shaky midfield of the past few games. Confidence seems to flow where it has been stuck before.

Andy Robertson slots one in on 45 – the most perfect time to score in God’s universe – and Anfield applauds. Well done, everyone.

Robertson was an absolute delight. A whirling dervish, a source of constant invention and aggression. Every single foray forward looked likely to result in goalmouth action. Mac Allister tucks in, Robertson goes and Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo interchange and Tottenham have no idea who is where.

We come back out for the second half and goals seem nailed to the mast. Cody Gakpo, having been potent on the left and having set up Mo Salah’s goal, delightfully takes one for himself. Nine minutes later, Gakpo is as shocked as everyone by a Harvey Elliot wonder.

Struck beautifully in the Gerrard form from miles out, the ball paces way over the keeper only to curve and meet the underside of the crossbar as if the almighty determined it so. Marvellous to watch. All the better coming from Harvey Elliott given his effort and excellence in the rest of the game. It was a game of working, a game of class.

Both sides, actually. Because all of this precedes the shakeup when the subs come on, but all of this is not undermined by it. Yet Tottenham’s masses stayed till the end and there were two more goals in this; scored by Tottenham. It is an imperfect Liverpool performance, but it is masses and masses of fun for all that. A more deeply troubling Tottenham performance, but you see why they stayed – they never gave up.

It’s been emotional and knocked lumps out of us, this campaign, and today was taking off tight shoes, getting into a warm bath; it was Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, not Windowlicker, and it has felt for a long time like our only speeds are 30mph or 100mph.

Today though, they play 70mph in the sunshine and Spurs can’t cope and I couldn’t have been happier. No need for the whip, no need for reminders. Liverpool hit the front four out and Spurs couldn’t make up the ground for all their best efforts.

In amongst all the emotion this season, in amongst everything. This fun is the best way to be. Working class joy at Anfield. Ours to enjoy.

And one more Anfield game to come in this now grand farewell and we got to practise that today, too.

God has given us these days of leisure. I’d have preferred less leisure today, but this is what we have been given and it is what we will take and revel in.

You take the hand dealt. You don’t miss a trick.


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