Conte rues missed chances against Liverpool

Tottenham earn 2-2 draw against Liverpool, but one point could, and should, have been three

Monday, 20th December 2021 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Tottenham Spurs Stadium

Premier League

TOTTENHAM 2 (Kane 13, Son 74)
LIVERPOOL 2 (Jota 35, Robertson 69, sent off 77)

TOTTENHAM have not played a game of football since December 5 – and the snow and Covid enforced break has offered a lifeline to fringe players who surely did not think they had a future under Antonio Conte.

Today (Sunday), a makeshift Spurs side went hammer and tongs against a high-flying Liverpool team at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – and, in what was a cracking game, were rewarded with a well-earned point. It could, and should, have been three.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw, Conte said: “I think to take one point against Liverpool is good. We’re talking about one of the best teams in the world.

“They are a point of reference for us to work hard and try to be closer to them. It won’t be easy. They’ve created something special for all these years.”

Conte said he did not want to think of the match as a point gained, rather two dropped. The Tottenham boss added: “We created many chances. It is a good point but if we want to improve our mentality we have to start to think we should be disappointed to only get one point.”

Liverpool set off at a quick pace, eager to win the match with as little fuss as possible. Spurs were immediately chasing shadows: on two minutes, Andy Robertson flicked a header wide and then Hugo Lloris had to get down smartly to stop a low drive from James Milner.

But after surviving these early scares, the home side suddenly found a different gear. Those who rarely get a run out gave a turn-the-clock-back performance, reminding of the days when they were the core of Mauricio Pochettino’s young guns.

Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Davinson Sanchez and Ryan Sessegnon played like their futures depended on it. Alli found that balance and craft that he mislaid long ago. Ndombele shoved the ball forward intelligently, and Winks threw himself into everything, covering the ground and breaking up Liverpool’s rhythm.

Sessegnon defended diligently – it was down to him that Mo Salah had a quiet game – and offered a threat going forward.

As the match unfolded, Spurs seemed almost surprised as they began to carve Liverpool open at will.

Harry Kane gave Conte’s side the lead after another wave of attacks was only half cleared. Winks snapped possession back, found Ndombele, and Kane was played in. His finish was perfect.

Heung-min Son then had two glorious opportunities to extend the advantage. Moments after scoring, Kane broke and chipped a cross over for the unmarked Son, but the striker could not get a clean connection and the ball spun agonisingly wide.

Then, with plenty of time and just Alisson to beat, Son fluffed his lines and took the ball too close to the keeper.

More chances came and went. Alli was denied by Alisson’s finger tips on the half hour mark: his low shot saw the Liverpool keeper do just enough to alter a trajectory that otherwise had the bottom corner as its final destination.

There was a sense that not taking these chances would be punished, and it felt, despite being against the run of play, inevitable when the equaliser arrived.

On 35 minutes Robertson got in behind Emerson Royal and his jinked cross was guided home by a controlled Diogo Jota header.

Kane missed two more glorious chances early in the second period, allowing Alisson to block a shot and then heading over from four yards out.

Every time Tottenham got forward it felt like a goal was coming, so when Liverpool went ahead on 69 minutes the home players could understandably have lost their way. But instead the controversial nature of the goal steeled them.

Moments before Robertson gave Liverpool the lead, Alli had raced into the box and was about to shoot when he was pushed to the ground. A hand was clearly placed on his back – yet referee Paul Tierney saw nothing and refused to look at VAR.

A moment later, a long ball to the back post eventually fell for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who in turn picked out Robertson, and the Liverpool left-back stooped to score. But replays showed Salah controlled the ball with his arm in the build-up – yet the referee did not act.

But then again, this was a controversial game. In the first half Liverpool felt Kane should have been sent off for a studs-up challenge on Robertson, but he only saw yellow. And the visitors also wanted a penalty for Royal’s nudge on Jota at 1-1.

Spurs were not disheartened. Five minutes later, a powerful run by Winks got Son in. Alisson fumbled a clearance, leaving Son an empty net to roll the ball into.

On 75, Spurs received a further boost when Robertson earned a straight red for a horrendous foul on Royal. The pendulum swing again in the home teams direction, and they had a series of chances to win the game.

By the end Liverpool were doing all they could to see out added time. Conte has spoken about how he wants his players to suffer. Today, across the side, not one player left anything on the pitch. This is progress, Conte-style.

Spurs: Lloris, Sanchez, Royal, Dier, Sessegnon (Reguilon, 85), Alli (Moura, 80), Ndombele (Skipp, 63), Davies, Winks, Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Austin, Doherty, Rodon, Lo Celso, Bergwijn, Tanganga

Liverpool: Allison, Konate, Milner, Keita, Robertson (sent off 77), Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Morton (Firmino, 59), Jota (Gomez, 90), Mane (Tsimakis, 81), Salah
Substitutes not used: Kelleher, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino,, Gordon, Williams, Quansah.

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