Takeaways from Liverpool's big win at Spurs

Georginio Wijnaldum scored Liverpool’s first goal in the 39th minute. (Reuters/Dylan Martinez)
Georginio Wijnaldum scored Liverpool’s first goal in the 39th minute. (Reuters/Dylan Martinez)

Liverpool’s perfect start to the 2018-19 season continued on Saturday with a 2-1 victory against Tottenham Hotspur as the Premier League returned to action following the international break. Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino scored on either side of halftime at London’s Wembley Stadium, and while Erik Lamela pulled one back for Spurs deep into stoppage time, it wasn’t enough

The win improved Liverpool’s record to 5-0, while Spurs fell to 3-2. Here are three quick thoughts on the match.

1. A well-deserved win for Liverpool

Don’t be fooled by the scoreline. This match was all Liverpool from the start. The visitors came out flying, putting Tottenham under immediate pressure and appearing to go ahead after just 43 seconds, but Sadio Mane’s goal was correctly ruled offside. Mohamed Salah, the top scorer in the Prem last season, squandered another opportunity to put the Reds ahead 22 minutes in when he split two defenders but sent his shot straight at reserve goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who was in for the injured Hugo Lloris. That’s pretty much how it would go for the rest of the match.

Sure, Spurs eventually settled down and found some sustained possession; the hosts actually had 60-percent of the ball in the first half. But they barely tested Liverpool backstop Alisson, managing just one of their three on-target shots (Liverpool had 10) before Wijnaldum pounced on two failed clearances following James Milner’s corner kick to head the opener over Vorm:

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And had the Dutch keeper not made several top-shelf stops in the second half, the game would’ve been over earlier. Lamela’s goal was well-taken, but it proved to be too little, too late.

2. Spurs response, defending lacking

After Tottenham lost their its match, to Watford on Sept. 2, manager Mauricio Pochettino said he wanted to see a response when Liverpool came to town. What he witnessed Saturday surely wasn’t what he had in mind. Pochettino’s side was sloppy throughout, making basic mistakes that, had Liverpool been slightly more clinical, would have resulted in a rout.

Spurs were a step slow all over the field, and in the back in particular. That has to be alarming after the club conceded a respectable four goals through the first four games heading into Saturday’s high-profile clash. Concentration was the main issue. The defense was slow to react on the opener, and a terrible giveaway in the midfield almost doubled Liverpool’s advantage just after the break, but Vorm was there to rob Mane.

Lucas Moura pulled the home team’s best chance of the game just wide moments later. But Liverpool’s second goal was always coming. It arrived when Liverpool’s Scottish defender Andrew caught England right back Kieran Trippier sleeping in the 54th minute. Robertson played Mane in behind, and while a scrambling Toby Alderweireld did his best to cut out Mane’s cross, he could only knock it off the post. Firmino was there to tap home from point-blank range:

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Spurs fancied themselves a potential title dark horse this season, and maybe they still are. It’s only September. But the good vibes following a 3-0 start to the campaign have evaporated now that the club has dropped consecutive games for the first time in over two years.

3. Salah, Kane continue to struggle

When the Premier League’s fixture list was announced back in June, neutrals were circling this match on their calendars. Makes sense. It promised to feature a battle between the best two strikers in England. With 32 league goals last season, Salah won the Golden Boot in record-breaking fashion. Homegrown darling Harry Kane — who went on to lead the World Cup in goals as England’s captain — finished just behind him, with 30.

Five games into 2018-19, neither are in the Top 10. Perhaps there are legitimate reasons why both players have looked like shadows of themselves so far. Fatigue is surely a factor. The World Cup took a toll on both players. England was involved all the way to the third-place game, yet Kane was back in Pochettino’s opening day lineup weeks later.

Meantime, Salah, who like Kane has two goals this season, went to Russia nursing the shoulder injury he suffered against Real Madrid in the Champions League final. And while Egypt bowed out of the tournament after the group stage, the burden of carrying that country’s hopes following a 28-year absence from the sport’s grandest stage clearly affected him.

Salah and Kane aren’t alone, to be sure. It’s also entirely possible that the World Cup hangover has affected Spurs more than most, given how many of their players’ teams went deep this summer. Hopefully they’ll be able to put on a better show when they visit Anfield for the return match in March.

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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