So Tuesday night saw Spurs come to Anfield for an EFL Cup tie. During the week both managers had indicatedthey would be making lots of changes for this tie and giving youth players their chance to impress and to get into the quarter final of this competition, a competition which Liverpool lost last season to Manchester City in the final on penalties.
Tottenham indeed named a team with 10 changes from their last game at the weekend and Liverpool named a totally new 11 from the weekends win over West Brom. Jürgen Klopp included the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Georginio Winjaldum, Lucas, Ragner Klavan and a return for Simon Mignolet in goals so although a changed side, it still had a lot of pedigree and experience.
The youngsters named included Kevin Stewart, Marko Grujic, Ovie Ejaria and Trent Alexander-Arnold with Danny Ings on the bench. These are some of the younger players in and around the first team squad training sessions and that have impressed in the u23s so far this season, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was looking to see what they are capable of at a higher lever. Giving youth a chance something we all benefit from hopefully in the long run.
Spurs started the game off well enough with some possession and a corner in the first minute but the home side soon got on the ball and by the eighth minute it seemed the pattern had been set already with the midfield seeing alot of the ball. Alot of nice passing neat and quick with Stewart and Grujic looking at home in Liverpools midfield and always looking for the forward ball to the two strikers when they were available.
On the ninth minute Winjaldum tried a cross field pass to try to put Trent Alexander-Arnold in behind the full back but it was cut out well. The follow up saw a slip from the Spurs defender which allowed Grujic take the ball and drive in to the box where he managed to get off a shot which was deflected across the face of goal to find the waiting Daniel Sturridge with an easy tap in past the goal keeper to make it one nil to the home team. Sturridge was where a good goalscorer should be and seemed to be able to sniff out the chance might come his way. A goal ahead and looking quite comfortable as at that stage Spurs hadn’t really done anything of note in the game.
Only a minute later Sturridge was again in the box after a slipped ball down the right flank by Trentham Alexander-Arnold, he jinked inside squared uo the defender facing him and attempted to curl the quick shot into the top corner as we’ve seen him do before but the goal keeper made a fine save to deny him another goal so soon.
It was fifteen minutes before Spurs were able to work the ball out wide to Tripper who crossed to the back post just too high for Janssen coming o to it and out for a goal kick. Then again on the right flank on 27 mins Lucas punted thr ball clear to the feet of Divock Origi who rolled his player and was away in behind running toward the box where he tried to beat several defenders on his own before managing to poke a ball out wide when he seemed set to lose it to the totally free Daniel Sturridge who shot with his right foot straight at the goalie. A great chance wasted by a weak shot it has to be said almost as if Sturridge want expecting to get it at all.
Spurs during the middle section of this half did gain alot of the ball in around the midfield but it was mostly cross field stuff no threat apart from free kicks which they seemed to always be trying to load the ball to the far post away from Mignolet maybe trying to tempt him out for one of them to make a mistake. On 32 minutes Moreno gave away a soft free kick on the right side for Spurs who took it short and worked a cross into the box where it was flicked on twice and eventually found Janssen free again at the back post where he shot low and hard across the goal forcing Mignolet into a fine save down to his right side.
Liverpool come back into the game in terms of possession after that for last few mins of the half and on thirty eight minutes midfielder Kevin Stewart won the ball back in the centre circle where he has done a lot of his fine work, he passed the ball to Ejaria who quickly lays it on to Sturridge who gives a fine ball onto the rushing Grujic onto the box. He shoots low also across the goal towards the far post but it goes just wide. A smooth transition of the ball forward quickly from the moment it was won back again.
The first half came to an end with Liverpool’s midfield looking composed aggressive and adventurous particularly the impressive Stewart who didn’t look out of place alongside Winjaldum who was there to control the pace of the game. Out wide Trent Alexander-Arnold was having a fine game also always available down that right side and breaking up a lot of Spurs ball also back in his own position. Daniel Sturridge looked sharp and eager for more goals with his partner up front finding it harder to get into the game I thought.
As the half ended two thoughts jumped out at me. One, that Moreno still always going forward to try crosses alot of which don’t come off and leaving huge gaps behind him and two, the kids involved were doing themselves justice so far and didn’t look out of place in what was no doubt a watered down version of both teams.
No changes at half time and Spurs come out with more aggression and moving the ball forward that bit quicker for the first five minutes or so. On 51 mins Janssen held up the ball from a throw in and playsed it across the box to the waiting Tripper who brought it down with one touch and tries a volley from 20 yards out that goes over the cross bar. A sign of Spurs prseeure high up and early in the second half. But only a minute later Lucas again slides a great ball down the the right side for Origi to run onto at the corner of the box where he crosses a great ball for the onrushing Sturridge in the middle of goal who just can’t find that final touch to get his second goal of the game. A good chance missed.
On the hour mark Spurs made their first change and brought on Eric Lamella to try to give an out lay for Spurs now as Liverpool hhad spent the first few minutes of the second camped somewhat around the edge of the opposition box probing with alot of the ball looking for that final ball. The feeling in the ground is that the second goal is coming soon such is the pressure the Spurs defence now find themselves having to cope with. Origi is much better this half so far getting alot of ball turning and being more direct and quicker with his distribution. Indeed he gathers the ball about 30 yards oit on 58 mins and with not alot of options ahead of him shoots himself, a wicked dipping shot produces a fine save from Vorm in the Spurs goal.
A few mins later on 63 Winjaldum slotted an excellent first time ball through the Spurs defence opening them up from the centre circle onto which Sturridge runs now 1 on 1 with the goalie he slots it through his legs for his second well deserved goal of the game. Not sure he meant to nutmeg the keeper though.
Danny Ings comes into the fray on 67 mins to a huge applause from the big crowd of over 53000 at Anfield for the game, his first involvement since his injury nightmare.Also joined on the pitch now for Liverpool by Nathaniel Clyne.
Liverpool now still linking up well looking for the tird goal which sees Ings have a shot blocked in the box on 71 mins.
Vorm in excellent form makes yet another fine save from the follow up free kick from Winjaldum too.
Spurs get a goal back on 75 mins after being awarded a soft penalty which Janssen convert after Lucas was harshly judged to have taken down Lamella on the edge of the box although he did have several nibbles at him before Lamella threw himself to the ground looking for the decision.
He again went down far too easily in the box after a challenge on 78 from Moreno but the referee this time wasn’t interested rightly so.
The biggest chance in the game after this for Spurs fell to a young Spurs player who only came on in the 83 minute by the name of Harrison. With Lucas yet again caught up field out of position the youngster made the clever run into that empty space where Lamella found him with an excellent cross field ball that negated thr whole defence. The youngster tried to bring it down on his chest inside the box but the ball thankfully ran to the diving Mignolet at his feet chance lost.
Liverpool’s last good chance came after Impressive Grujic again won a tackle and played a long first time ball over the top where the defender could only head it into the path of Ings who was through and had a good shot yet again saved by the impressive Vorm who surely kept Spurs in the game all night long.
The game ended with another 2-1 win for the home team and on into the quarter finals now. Daniel Sturridge was man of the match with two goals and maybe should have had four. Impressive performances from Stewart and Trent Alexander-Arnold and Grujic will not have gone unnoticed by the boss especially I thought Kevin Stewart who seemed right at home in midfield passing and breaking up attacks all night long. Great to see these youngsters get the game time and also great to see Ings back as well. Another good performance in the same style the senior team is accustomed to now in the style of play and everyone knows what they are doing.
Written by @StephenKing75