Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Anfield in the fourth round of the EFL Cup thanks to two goals from Daniel Sturridge
There were 11 changes on the team-sheet but Liverpools creativity, potency and confidence remained the same as Daniel Sturridge guided Jrgen Klopps side into the EFL Cup quarter-finals. A dozen games have yielded nine wins for Liverpool this season and a youthful Tottenham Hotspur team were powerless to halt the momentum gathering at Anfield.
Both Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino utilised their resources for the fourth- round tie but only the former was able to rest his favoured strike-force and retain quality in attack. That is Sturridges lot at present, biding his time while Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Man drive Liverpool to joint-top of the Premier League, but the patience of an outstanding predator was rewarded with two clinical goals. Vincent Janssens late penalty created another tense finale at Anfield but, in truth, Liverpool should have been out of sight.
Sturridge should have departed with the match-ball but missed two gilt-edged opportunities and was denied by the crossbar from a stunning chip. Michel Vorm also saved superbly from the England international, Divock Origi and the substitute Danny Ings as Liverpool dominated chances but not the margin of victory or a flowing, absorbing cup tie. Spurs were bright in possession and spirited in their attempted comeback but, with Janssen weak up front and substitute Shayon Harrison squandering a fine opening for a late equaliser, the difference in quality between the frontlines told.
Klopp has made no secret of his desire to go one better in the League Cup this season and the 2016 runners-up have the form and strength in depth to fulfil his wishes. Trent Alexander-Arnold, an 18-year-old local lad of huge potential, impressed with his awareness, strength and athleticism on his debut at right-back. Another 18-year-old, Ovie Ejaria, grew in stature in central midfield alongside the tenacious Kevin Stewart and Marko Grujic provided another glimpse of his talent in an unaccustomed No10 role.
Pochettino rightly lauded his teams young plus points too Harry Winks in central midfield, Josh Onomah on the right but he had no reserves to compare with Sturridge or Origi. For all the Argentinians stated pride in his teams performance, Spurs striking options must be of concern for a Champions League manager with designs on the Premier League.
Klopp, by contract, revelled in his choices. That is Daniels talent, the Liverpool manager said. Hes a really good finisher and I was never in doubt about him even when he didnt score. Divock Origi didnt score but played well, Danny Ings didnt score but played well and Danny is a wonderful goalscorer. There is no discussion about the quality of Sturridge, Origi and Ings but you cannot play with four forwards and carry on defending. If you know how, tell me.
Liverpool capitalised on an unfortunate slip by the Spurs debutant Georges-Kvin NKoudou to take an early lead. Grujic was first to the loose ball when the French midfielder fell and drove into the visitors area where his low cross deflected off Kevin Wimmer into the path of Sturridge. The England international reacted quicker than anyone in white to flick home his first goal at Anfield since the Europa League semi-final victory over Villarreal in May.
Sturridge almost doubled his tally with an audacious attempt that Vorm tipped over and shot tamely at the keeper when well-placed inside the area. Grujic was also close to a second before the interval. Spurs opened brightly but Lucas Leiva, Liverpools captain in place of Jordan Henderson, thwarted Janssen and NKoudou with well-timed interceptions. Janssen brought a decent low save from Simon Mignolet on the goalkeepers return to the Liverpool team but headed his best chance high over the bar from a Kieran Trippier free-kick.
Liverpools pressure was unrelenting at the start of the second half and Sturridge, Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum all had chances before the home side carved through a suspect Spurs defence and offside trap. Origi and Wijnaldum combined to send Sturridge sprinting clear of Wimmers desperate attempt to play offside and the striker made no mistake with a cool finish through Vorms legs.
Spurs were handed a lifeline when the referee Jon Moss penalised Lucas for a nudge into the back of substitute Erik Lamela inside the area. Janssen drilled the spot-kick down the centre of Mignolets goal but their first domestic defeat of the season was unavoidable.
Pochettino was full of praise for his players but accused the Liverpool bench of double standards for complaining about a series of late fouls when, in his opinion, Alexander-Arnold should have seen red, not yellow, for an early foul on Ben Davies. I think it was a bit strange that their whole bench started to complain about our actions when their full back, Arnold, should be sent off with the big tackle on Ben Davies, he said. It was strange when their bench started to complain with another bench. It is the referees authority to say if it was a penalty or not or a foul of not. Maybe they were lucky to finish with 10 men.