It appeared Jurgen Klopp’s side were about to hand the initiative to Manchester City after Lucas Moura cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s first-half header, leaving the Reds level on 77 points but significantly behind on goal difference.
However, Salah – now eight matches without finding the net – popped up at the far post to head goalwards; Hugo Lloris could only palm out weakly and Toby Alderweireld got himself in an horrendous mess to divert it back past his goalkeeper in the 90th minute.
It was a narrow escape for Klopp’s side, who return to the top of the table with a two-point lead having played one match more, having faded badly after starting so well.
Here, we rate the Spurs players.
Hugo Lloris: Could do little about Firmino’s opener but dealt poorly with Salah’s late header, leading to Toby Alderweireld’s own goal. 6
Kieran Trippier: Got caught between the full-back and wing-back roles, allowing Robertson too much space. 5
Toby Alderweireld: Did well to keep up with Liverpool’s front men and was unlucky with the late own goal. 6
Davinson Sanchez: Played centrally, the busiest of the Spurs defenders when they had five on the field, and coped well. 7
Jan Vertonghen: Did as much as anyone to ensure Salah endured a frustrating afternoon. 6
Danny Rose: A fine outlet for Spurs on the left, timing runs well and delivering dangerous crosses. 7
Christian Eriksen: Showed determination and drive to help drag Spurs back into the game. 7
Moussa Sissoko: Gave good support to attacks and broke up play but spurned a good chance late on. 6
Dele Alli: Unable to impose himself on the game and showed only glimpses of his quality. 5
Harry Kane: Was almost anonymous in the first half but later showed his class by testing Alisson and producing a fine pass in the build-up to the equaliser. 6
Lucas Moura: Was Spurs’ most positive attacking player and the equaliser was good reward for a positive display. 7
Son Heung-min (for Sanchez, 69): Entered just before the equaliser and brought fresh energy for the closing stages. 6
Ben Davies (for Moura, 82): Came on in an attempt to shore up the defence late on. 6
Fernando Llorente (for Eriksen, 90): Entered too late to make an impact. 5
The result sees the Reds go top, two points ahead of City who have a game in hand and play Cardiff City in midweek.
Roberto Firmino broke the deadlock in the 16th minute, directing a header into the back of the net following a sublime cross from Andrew Robertson. Spurs dragged themselves level with 20 minutes to play thanks to a quick free-kick from Harry Kane instigating a move that saw Lucas Moura steer in Christian Eriksen’s square ball from close range.
In the final minute of regulation time, Mohamed Salah’s header was parried by Hugo Lloris only to rebound off Alderweireld’s shin and over the line.
Here, we analyse how Jurgen Klopp’s tactics affected the game.
Goals – 2
Shots – 14
Possession – 49.5%
Tackles won – 16
Aerials won – 12
Dribbles – 4
Klopp set his side up in a traditional 4-3-3 with Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane making up a familiar looking attack. In midfield though, security was prioritised as James Milner and Jordan Henderson started ahead of Fabinho, Naby Keita and Adam Lallana.
Mauricio Pochettino was serving the second of his two-match touchline ban following his altercation with referee Mike Dean after defeat to Burnley. The Argentine watched on from the stands as he fielded a 3-5-2 system.
Spurs began the sharper of the two sides and won battles in different areas of the pitch. However, they weren’t equipped to pose a consistent threat in the final third while Liverpool always did so even when ceding possession to their visitors over certain spells of the game.
Pochettino’s side seemed to lose confidence after the hosts struck first but grew into the game again during the second half. The encounter seemed destined to end in a stalemate before the Reds snatched a fortuitous winner at the death.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
Forcing Spurs back
Spurs operated with a very narrow midfield as Kane was partnered by Moura up front. That meant they relied heavily on their wing-backs to generate width. Klopp recognised an opportunity there to suffocate their three-man central defence and force Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose to retreat.
Liverpool’s front three are well-versed in the high-press and went man-for-man against the Spurs centre-backs. Given the away side’s insistence on playing out from the back, Trippier and Rose were forced to drop deep in order to provide passing options. If they didn’t, Spurs would end up surrendering possession. If they did, their central midfielders would struggle without options out wide.
When Liverpool did win possession, they acted to swiftly to spray it out wide where their full-backs had plenty of space to operated in. In fact, that’s precisely how they made the breakthrough with Robertson having all the time in the world to whip in a majestic cross for Firmino to nod home.
Tactically speaking, this was a pretty even battle between Klopp and Pochettino. The Liverpool boss had the better set-up, striking the right balance between defence and attack. Spurs didn’t given themselves enough options in attack but grew into the game and perhaps deserved a draw. Still, Klopp managed to get the win while their title hopes seemed to inch away from them. His constant gesturing and encouragement from the technical area had a bearing on his side – and the Anfield support. It’s not entirely about tactics.
Chelsea were 1-0 down with six minutes left when Cesar Azpilicueta, who was standing two yards offside, met Marcos Alonso’s flick-on to head home the equaliser.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek punished Cardiff further in stoppage time, leaving Cardiff to count the cost of assistant referee Eddie Smart’s failure to spot that Azpilicueta was clearly offside.
Warnock also felt that Cardiff should have had two penalties, both for Chelsea players holding Sean Morrison’s shirt at set-pieces.
Antonio Rudiger, Warnock added, should also have been sent off for dragging down Kenneth Zohore with the score at 1-1 and the Cardiff substitute through on goal. Rudiger was booked by referee Craig Pawson.
“It’s almost like it’s not who you play, it’s who you get to referee and who is going to have a flag in their hand nowadays, it’s just as important,” Warnock told Sky Sports.
“The best league in the world and probably the worst officials at the minute.
“He (Smart) is saying that Willian blocked his view, but it wasn’t a six inches one. Either side you should be able to see he’s two yards offside.
“It’s soul-destroying really. I can understand why the lads are down.”
Cardiff took the lead against lacklustre Chelsea in the first minute of the second half.
Victor Camarasa struck a splendid volley and Cardiff, who are 18th and in the final relegation place, looked as if they would cut the five-point gap on Brighton, Burnley and Southampton above them.
“If I was a Burnley, Southampton or Brighton fan it’s the best thing that could have ever happened,” Warnock said.
“It’s knocked our lads down, they are flat.
“We’ve worked on things for the last three weeks and one of them is coming out at corner kicks and leaving a man in.
“The lads have just said ‘what we do now gaffer? What’s the point?’
“You’ve got to hope the linesman can see it. VAR has got to be the answer to help them out, it would have sorted the goal out within seconds.”
Chelsea’s win took them to within one point of fourth-placed Manchester United and kept alive their hopes of a Champions League spot.
But manager Maurizio Sarri, who left star forward Eden Hazard on the bench until the 53rd minute, was a target for the travelling supporters during the second half.
The Chelsea fans sang ‘we want Sarri out’ and ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ before the late goals.
Sarri said: “I don’t want to answer, but I can understand the reaction of the fans.
“But it was probably best for them to wait until the end of the match. I am getting used to this and for me, it’s not a big problem.
“I just have to work to change their opinion. If I win matches, then the fans will be happy.
“We were lucky with the first goal. But I think we deserved to win and, sometimes during a season, you need to win matches like this.”