James Milner is the main man for Liverpool after 2-1 win over Tottenham

Alex Broun 15/09/2018
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James Milner tussles with Danny Rose at Wembley

Liverpool edged to a 2-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley in the early game on Saturday as the Reds kept their perfect start to the season intact with five wins from five.

Spurs fought back late with a goal to Erik Lamela with just two minutes left in injury time – and they even had a shout for a penalty in the final minute when Sadio Mane tussled with Son Heung-min in the box.

But Liverpool deservedly held on to take the points ahead of a dream/nightmare run of matches coming up.

Here are our talking points from the match:

KLOPP WINS TACTICAL BATTLE 

The Reds manager is starting to show a much more mature side to his coaching this year, with the German comfortably winning the tactical battle against the renowned Mauricio Pochettino.

The Spurs manager was guilty of being too timid at the start, opting for four at the back rather than his usual three. But it was the midfield where Pochettino really paid the price.

He started with a defensive looking trio of Harry Winks, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier who did manage to compete against the Reds trio of James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Naby Keita.

But with a decisive lack of pace, even when the Spurs mid-three won the ball they were not able to release their front trio of Christian Eriksen, sitting in behind Harry Kane and Lucas Moura.

The result was chances were few and far between for a disjointed Spurs.

In the end goal line technology awarded a goal to Gini Wijnaldum that gave Liverpool the edge at half time and after that Pochettino was playing catch up.

But the real damage was done leading up to that with Spurs far too timid from the start at home, succeeding momentum and much-needed confidence to the visitors.

SPURS SLOW START 

Tottenham were coming off a crushing loss to Watford before the international break and they needed to start with urgency at Wembley to rid themselves of any negative memories of that match.

In a cagey first half Spurs started poorly and Liverpool were unlucky not to lead with just minutes gone, with Sadio Mane ruled offside though he may not have touched the final flick on by Roberto Firminio which found its way into the net.

The match then took on a pattern with Spurs battling hard to win possession in midfield and then lob a long ball to one of the forward trio.

It almost worked with Eriksen finding room on the right to whip in fast balls in search of Kane and Liverpool fortunate to get in a head or a boot just to knick it away in time.

But in possession Spurs let the pace drop, often playing at a snail’s pace, and the match became further stagnated with Spurs happy to get niggly in the Liverpool half to stop the Reds building up any momentum.

The glacial pace in possession suited Liverpool perfectly as they were able to set themselves to repel any Spurs advances.

MILNER THE MAN 

You could have been excused for thinking James Milner would be a forgotten man at Liverpool this season.

Edging closer to 33, and with the arrival of big money signings Naby Keita and Fabinho, odds were Milner would fade into the background becoming a squad player called on in times of need.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Milner started the pre-season blazing and has hardly taken his foot off the gas.

He has grabbed one of the midfield spots and made it his own, starting all five of the Reds premier league matches to date, along with another surprise packet – Wijnaldum.

Milner was again outstanding at Wembley, but it is not just in doing the hard work winning the ball in the middle of the park where the 32-year-old is excelling.

He is driving forward dangerously, linking on the flanks with his front three or full backs, and regularly finding a killer pass to split the defence open.

Once again he was among Liverpool’s best against Spurs, with a game high five crunching tackles, 46 passes at an accuracy of 74 per cent and most telling, three chances created, another game high. He also ran 12.9kms, another game high.

His pinpoint delivery at corners also remains one of his major assets leading to Wijnaldum’s opener.

With these kinds of numbers is it any wonder he is one of the first names on Klopp’s team sheet.

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Sadio Mane sparks Liverpool's victory over Tottenham but leaves room for improvement

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Liverpool maintained their perfect start to the Premier League season as they beat Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley on Saturday.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino found the target for the Reds before Erik Lamela got one back for the hosts in stoppage-time.

Sadio Mane put in another lively display, though, and here we analyse his performance.

Mane's game in numbers

Mane’s game in numbers

30-SECOND REPORT

Mane was a constant threat down the left inside channel, taking advantage of Kieran Trippier’s ventures forward and running at Toby Alderweireld. He looked sharp and hungry for goals, testing Michel Vorm with a couple of good efforts.

He created the opener with his run in behind before his ball across was deflected onto the post by Jan Vertonghen to allow Firmino a simple tap in.

GOT RIGHT

Movement – Mane was difficult to keep track of as he regularly exploited Tottenham’s high-line with his runs in behind. That’s how he helped break the deadlock as well. The Spurs defenders struggled to contain him and ended up committing six fouls against the forward.

Goal threat – The Senegal international had five shots at goal, more than anyone else on the pitch. Three of his efforts were on target as well.

GOT WRONG

Decision-making – Mane currently leads the Premier League goalscoring charts alongside Aleksandar Mitrovic with four goals and he did selfishly try to add to that when better options were available.

His decision-making was off the mark as well as he completely ignored an unmarked Mohamed Salah on one occasion and played in Naby Keita instead who had to take his shot quickly as he was being closed down.

Wasteful in possession – His passing in the final third was sloppy as well as he registered a success rate of just 66.7 per cent. Only Trent Alexander-Arnold was less accurate with his passing (64.1 per cent).

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

VERDICT

Was lively and one of Liverpool’s best performers on the day but with a little more composure, he could’ve made it a far more comfortable victory for the visitors.

RATING 7/10

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Jurgen Klopp hits back at Gary Neville's suggestion Liverpool should tank Champions League

Carl Markham 14/09/2018
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Jurgen Klopp is angry with Gary Neville

Jurgen Klopp has hit back at pundit Gary Neville after the former Manchester United defender suggested Liverpool should abandon the Champions League to boost their Premier League title hopes.

Neville this week said the Reds’ best chance of ending a 29-year wait to be English champions would be enhanced if they “kicked into touch” their European ambitions.

Klopp found the suggestion from the 43-year-old, who having had a spell as England assistant coach was sacked after three months as Valencia boss, laughable.

“How should that work? What do we do? We don’t play Champions League or what?” said the German, whose side currently top the table with a 100 per cent record after four matches and are widely seen as the main challengers to defending champions Manchester City.

“Gary should come over and tell me exactly how that would work. You bring your kids in the Champions League? That would be funny!

“I don’t want to be too critical because I don’t know exactly how he said it but sitting in an office and talking about football is completely different to doing the job, to be honest.

“What did he say about Manchester United in that case? The club he’s more interested in. Nothing?

“I don’t know exactly what it means but to focus on one competition can only be if maybe you are already out of the competition nearly.

“If it’s late in the season that you see you have a chance to do that or do this and all that stuff.

“Last year, for example, we had no chance to focus on one competition because we had to qualify for the Champions League and I don’t think that even Gary Neville would have said: ‘Quarter-finals of the Champions League, let City win’.”

Liverpool head to Tottenham on Saturday for their first real big test of the season.

It is the start of a packed schedule of seven matches – including Champions League matches against Paris St Germain and Napoli – in 23 days.

That means Klopp, who has so far made just one change to his starting line-up, will have to utilise his squad and that is likely to see a debut for summer signing Fabinho.

The £43.7million summer arrival has not featured in the matchday squad since being an unused substitute on the opening day of the campaign as he has been given time to adjust to Klopp’s training methods.

“Actually I don’t like to compare players but we had similar players and questions about Robbo (Andrew Robertson) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,” he said.

“The thing is it is absolutely no problem. I don’t like the situation. Fabinho is full of desire and wants to be involved and I have to tell him ‘You’re not involved this week’ and that’s not nice.

“It is only the job to do sometimes because we have players that work together that much longer.

“He comes from another league, a completely different system which Monaco played, and we have a good team together so that takes time.

“The plan was – and is still – he will make us better and that is what we are working on.

“Sometimes it takes more time, sometimes a bit less but from my point of view it is all fine but I know the situation is not like a few people would have expected.”

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