If Steven Bergwijn‘s second-half strike had been an inch inside the post, Spurs might have recorded a landmark victory but, instead, they were made to pay for their profligacy, as Roberto Firmino underlined the difference between champions and contenders by heading home a last-minute winner.
Recent meetings between these clubs have tended to be decided by inches but the gulf in class has nonetheless felt cavernous over the past two and a half years.
On last night’s evidence, the gap has closed and Spurs can take confidence from a performance that suggests they have staying power in the title race.
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham, Dan Kilpatrick Reports
A good place to start would be adding a more varied goal threat to his squad following a frustrating show of wastefulness in front of 2,000 supporters on Merseyside.
Heung-min Son cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s opener with a trademark goal, beating the offside trap and firing past Alisson Becker after the Egyptian’s strike had looped home via a deflection.
Between them, Son and Harry Kane have already scored 20 League goals this season but no-one else at Spurs has found the net more than once in the competition.
Their only other League scorers are Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Tanguy Ndombele – and Aurier and Ndombele both scored in the 6-1 demolition of Manchester United, a result that feels like an anomaly given Mourinho’s approach in subsequent “Big Six” meetings.
There is an absence of goals in midfield, where Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko are certain starters who rarely score, while Giovani Lo Celso and Ndombele offer only the occasional threat in the final third.
Bergwijn should really have netted twice last night, firing wide within seconds of the restart before striking the post when one-on-one with Alisson.
His wastefulness left Mourinho visibly seething but the Dutchman has impressed as Spurs’ third forward, offering willing running at both ends of the pitch.
The 23-year-old best represents the current difference between the two sides – Liverpool’s forwards work tirelessly and are ruthless in front of goal – but he is worth persevering with and is comparable to Son in his first season in England.
In the shorter-term, the integration of Bale or Dele Alli would add another seasoned goal threat to Spurs. The pair are the only other players in Mourinho’s squad who are currently capable of hitting double figures for the season but both have found opportunities limited domestically.
Bale missed consecutive matches after failing to sufficiently recover from illness but the 31-year-old would surely have buried one of Bergwijn’s openings.
The question is whether he would have been in the same positions and still has the legs to do the necessary running in Mourinho’s contain-and-counter set-up. The majority of his opportunities have so far come in turgid Europa League encounters.
Alli was a late substitute for the second time this week, suggesting he is gradually being reintegrated into the squad, just as the January transfer window looms large.
The midfielder is a square peg in Mourinho’s rapid counter-attacking side but he is nothing if not a canny goalscorer.
Mourinho will also hope that summer signing Carlos Vinicius, missing from the squad against Crystal Palace and again last night, will begin contributing in the League.
Kane and Son are statistically the deadliest duo in the top flight and are poised to smash records this season.
But Kane, by his own extraordinary standards, was also wasteful in front of goal at Anfield, miscuing a header from point-blank range to further illustrate the fine margins at the top.
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