LIVERPOOL (AFP): Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-1 on Sunday to maintain their hex over the London club, returning to winning ways after two consecutive Premier League defeats.
Jurgen Klopp’s men started the match 10 points behind fourth-placed Spurs, with questions growing over their ability even to mount a challenge for next season’s Champions League places.
But they dominated the contest from the start and took an early lead when the impressive Darwin Nunez teed up Salah, who fired into the bottom corner.
The visitors’ intensity dropped as the half wore on but they were 2-0 up shortly before half-time when Salah took advantage of a horrendous error by Eric Dier, who headed the ball straight into the path of the Egypt forward.
Harry Kane pulled a goal back in the 70th minute as the decibel count rose among the crowd of 62,000 but Spurs could not avoid a third defeat in four league matches.
Klopp celebrated the win with his trademark air punches in front of the Liverpool fans, enjoying his side’s first away win in the league since May.
“I got a bit carried away but it is big, absolutely big,” said the German manager, whose team have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season.
“What we have to show is that we are not punched too hard when we concede a goal.
“I like that tonight… We cannot be consistent by just playing all the time outstandingly well. It’s all about showing the resilience we showed tonight.”
Spurs, who have now lost seven out of the past nine Premier League matches between the sides, were without South Korea forward Son Heung-min, who suffered a fracture around his left eye in his side’s midweek Champions League win against Marseille.
Nunez, marauding down the left side of the Liverpool attack, tested Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris early and was the provider of Salah’s opener, controlling Andrew Robertson’s pass and feeding the Egyptian, who fired home in the 11th minute.
– Becker brilliance –
Tottenham found their feet as the half wore on and were only denied an equaliser when Alisson Becker saved at close range from Perisic after a pinpoint Kane cross.
Midway through the opening period the home fans bayed for a penalty when Ryan Sessegnon went down under a challenge from Trent Alexander-Arnold but referee Andrew Madley waved away the claims and VAR did not intervene.
Liverpool, who had lost their previous two Premier League matches, to Nottingham Forest and Leeds, gave Spurs a mountain to climb when they doubled their lead in the 40th minute.
Becker punted the ball upfield and Dier got his head to it but mistimed it horribly, straight into the path of Salah, who lifted the ball over Lloris and into the net.
Tottenham raced out of the blocks at the start of the second half.
England defender Dier, desperate to make amends for his error, forced Alisson into a diving save before Perisic rattled the bar.
They finally made their intense pressure count with 20 minutes to go when substitute Dejan Kulusevski, who had only just been brought on, set up Kane, who fired home from an acute angle.
Spurs centre-back Clement Lenglet headed over from close range as the minutes ticked down but Liverpool held on to record just their fifth league win of the season.
Man-of-the-match Salah has now scored 10 goals in 10 games in all competitions after a sluggish start to the season.
“Everybody will remember one of the best strikers we ever saw because the numbers will be absolutely insane,” said Klopp, brushing aside the player’s early-season struggles.
Spurs boss Antonio Conte bemoaned the injuries his team have suffered this season and said they were not the finished article despite improvements during his year in charge.
“We are far from other teams that are used to win and they have a (strong) squad to win,” he said.
“If we understand this together it will be good. Everybody wants to win. I’m the first that wants to win but we need time and patience.”