SO the champions are back in the game.
And this time there was no serious debate that the best team had won.
Roberto Firmino was on target as Liverpool returned to winning ways against SpursCredit: Reuters
Trent Alexander-Arnold also scored in a 3-1 win in North LondonCredit: AFP
After eight excruciating hours without a Premier League goal, the dam burst and Liverpool found the net four times in 20 minutes – three goals from Roberto Fimino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane as well as a Mo Salah effort harshly ruled out by VAR.
This was a night which summed up the glorious chaos of this Premier League season – injuries, errors, VAR controversies, touchline fury, it was perfect in its imperfections.
Klopp is now without his first four picks at central defence – stand-in Fabinho injured in training, Joel Matip forced off the break, to join long-term absentees Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez on the missing list.
And still Spurs couldn’t lay a glove on Liverpool.
If Kane is out for any length of time, then Tottenham will be struggling to secure Champions League football, having been in the thick of the title race just a month ago.
Liverpool moved back into that coveted top four, still four points behind Manchester City, having played a game more – but with Pep Guardiola’s men due at Anfield on Sunday week.
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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored a rocket for the hosts as they trailed 2-0Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Sadio Mane scored Liverpool’s third to seal the resultCredit: Reuters
They are not willing to cede their crown, just yet, however bad those defensive injuries.
As soon as they flicked a switch with Firmino’s opener in first-half injury-time, the Reds were instantly re-animated.
The last time these two met, Firmino headed a late winner, Mourinho claimed the ‘best team lost’, complained about Klopp’s touchline antics and we imagined a title race laced with old-fashioned mindgames.
Yet here they were, facing off as fifth-against-sixth, with Liverpool’s plunge in form particularly alarming.
Jordan Henderson and Matip returned to form Klopp’s 11th different centre-back partnership of the season – then Nat Phillips replaced Matip to make it 12.
Son Heung-Min put Spurs 1-0 up after a few minutes but the goal was disallowed for offsideCredit: Reuters
Harry Kane suffered an ankle injury in the first half and was subbed at the breakCredit: Guardian News & Media / Free to use by all titles in perpetuity under NMC agreement
Yet it was at the opposite end of the pitch where Liverpool had been suffering – without a league goal in 2021.
They ought to have ended that drought inside two minutes, Salah releasing Mane who dragged wide a shot which he would have gladly buried in happier times.
Spurs went straight up the other end and found the net, the old Kane and Son partnership clicking.
Kane’s pass found the gap between Henderson and Matip, Son strode through and drilled home left-footed, beating Allison at his near post.
But VAR decided that Son was offside by a hair’s breadth, when Alexander-Arnold had appeared to be playing him narrowly onside.
Firmino snuck in at the post to put Liverpool ahead moments before the breakCredit: Reuters
Alexander-Arnold doubled Liverpool’s lead with a fine strike minutes into the second 45Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Liverpool felt they could have had a penalty when Eric Dier tugged Firmino’s shirt.
But Kane fell awkwardly under a flailing challenge from Thiago, the England captain needing treatment but carrying on for the time being.
Liverpool were moving it at pace, Spurs defending liking an angry beehive.
But when Dier played a long diagonal pass out of defence, Son looked clear again, only for Matip to recover brilliantly.
Again, Son sprinted clear, shooting straight at Allison, Klopp dishing out a ferocious reprimand to his struggling defence.
Hojbjerg let fly from outside the box moments later to give Spurs some hopeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Mo Salah put the finishing touches on a good move but it was ruled out for a Firmino handball in the build upCredit: Getty Images – Getty
At the other end, Salah teed up Mane again, a lofted pass from the Egyptian, a volley on the stretch from the Senegalese.
Thiago was booked for a horrible lunge at Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg having escaped a caution for his foul on Kane.
Kane then fell awkwardly after contesting a high ball with Henderson, having further treatment on his ankle, then being withdrawn at the interval.
Mane got on the end of a Thiago pass and had a thumping shot pushed away by Hugo Lloris.
And Liverpool’s long-threatened opener arrived in the final seconds of the first half, Henderson releasing Mane, who chested down and crossed low for Firmino to beat Dier and Lloris to the punch and poke home.
Mourinho opted for a complete re-boot at half-time, Erik Lamela replacing the injured Kane, with Son moving to centre-forward, and Harry Winks on for Serge Aurier as Spurs moved to a back four.
Mane took advantage of Joe Rodon’s defensive error to make it 3-1Credit: Reuters
Thiago Alcantara was forced to bandage his bleeding head in the second halfCredit: Reuters
But the move backfired as Liverpool tore into their hosts, Salah lofted a shot over before Mane drilled in a shot which Lloris could only push out to Alexander-Arnold who fired home first-time.
Mourinho started machine-gunning expletives but then Spurs went from effing to blinding – Hojbjerg hammering home to reduce the deficit.
Salah thought he had made it 3-1 lashing past Lloris, only for his effort to be disallowed for a Firmino handball as he wrestled with Dier on the halfway line, Martin Atkinson checking his monitor after a word from VAR Jon Moss.
Lloris had outdone Mourinho in swear-box contributions before that let-off.
But it wasn’t long before they were cursing again, Alexander-Arnold whipping in a centre, Rodon misjudging horribly, allowing Mane to shoot past Lloris at the far post.
It was Liverpool’s seventh straight win over Spurs, Klopp’s fourth in a row against Mourinho.
Liverpool are back in business and Spurs are all over the shop.
Jurgen Klopp looked delighted with his team’s attacking prowessCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Jose Mourinho’s five-man defence failed to keep the Reds at bayCredit: EPA