Feast of Eden Hazard’s bril­liant hat- trick sends Chelsea top

Klopp de­lighted by best per­for­mance of the sea­son af­ter Spurs stand- in fl ops

The Observer - Sport - - Front Page - Daniel Tay­lor

These may still be the em­bry­onic stages of the new Premier League sea­son but Liver­pool firmly leave the im­pres­sion they want to see the view from the top of the ta­ble, judg­ing from their su­pe­ri­or­ity here against an­other of the teams who will switch their at­ten­tions to the Cham­pi­ons League in the next few days. It was Liver­pool’ s fifth straight win, only the third time they have started the sea­son so im­mac­u­lately, and per­haps the most fright­en­ing thought for the teams play­ing catchup is that Mo­hamed Salah has still not quite found his most ex­hil­a­rat­ing form of last sea­son.

Not that Salah was too shabby dur­ing those long spells when Liver­pool over­whelmed their op­po­nents and re­peat­edly opened up what is sup­posed to be one of the bet­ter de­fences in the top di­vi­sion. Once again, the front line of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sa­dio Mané shim­mered with men­ace. Yet there is also grow­ing ev­i­dence that Liver­pool can no longer be con­sid­ered a lop­sided team. The part­ner­ship be­tween Joe Gomez and Vir­gil van Dijk is flour­ish­ing and un­til the five min­utes of stop­page time, when the sub­sti­tute Erik Lamela scored for Spurs, it was dif­fi­cult to think of an­other pe­riod when Al is­son, the away team’s goal­keeper, was in sus­tained dan­ger.

It was cer­tainly un­usual to see Spurs be­ing out­played this way and a par­tic­u­lar or­deal for Michel Vorm, deputis­ing for the in­jured Hugo Lloris . Vorm’s frail­ties were ex­posed for both goals, scored by Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum and Firmino, and his mind seemed scram­bled dur­ing parts of the sec­ond half. If any­thing, it was a sur­prise Liver­pool re­stricted them­selves to no more goals, the only crit­i­cisms be­ing that their fi­nal pass was of­ten lack­ing and their fin­ish­ing not clin­i­cal enough. The fi­nal score hardly does jus­tice to the gulf that ex­isted be­tween the sides. “The per­for­mance was bet­ter than the re­sult,” was Jür­gen Klopp’s take. “This was by far the best per­for­mance of the sea­son.” The man­ager was trou­bled by an in­jury to Firmino, who went to hos­pi­tal af­ter be­ing ac­ci­den­tally caught in an eye by Jan Ver­tonghen’s fingers, but he was dis­charged and may face Paris St- Germain on Tues­day.

For Spurs, it was the first time since the clos­ing stages of 2015- 16 that they have lost suc­ces­sive league fix­tures. L loris may have dis­graced him­self re­cently off the pitch but, if Vorm con­tin­ues be­ing this vul­ner­a­ble, Spurs will long for their first- choice goal­keeper to re­turn. Harry Kane’s per­for­mance did lit­tle to shift the per­cep­tion that he needs a break and Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino could not pos­si­bly ar­gue it was de­served when Lamela caught out Alis­son in the third minute of added time.

Al­most in­con­ceiv­ably, Spurs could have sal­vaged a draw, with Mané lucky not to con­cede a penalty in the fi­nal sec­onds for trip­ping Son He­ung­min. Spurs were en­ti­tled to grum­ble be­cause it was a clear foul. A draw, how­ever, would have been a trav­esty. “This type of game shows we need to im­prove – a lot – if we want to be a con­tender,” Po­chet­tino said.

Klopp talked about Liver­pool hav­ing “85 bril­liant min­utes” and Po­chet­tino must be acutely aware his team could have lost far more heav­ily. Klopp could also re­flect on the in­ci­dent, in­side the open­ing 40 sec­onds, when Firmino turned James Mil­ner’s cross into the far cor­ner only for the goal to be dis­al­lowed, harshly, for an off­side de­ci­sion against Mané, who did not get a touch but was deemed to have been in­ter­fer­ing with play.

When Liver­pool did take the lead, in the 39th minute, Klopp could have been for­given for think­ing it was over­due. Po­chet­tino, in turn, must have been alarmed by how of­ten his play­ers were mak­ing life dif­fi­cult for them­selves and even Chris­tian Erik­sen, such an el­e­gant mover of the ball, will have to take some cul­pa­bil­ity bear­ing in mind it was his care­less­ness that gave away pos­ses­sion close to the penalty area and led to the cor­ner. All the same, Vorm should have done much bet­ter when Mil­ner swung the cor­ner into the six- yard area. Did Mil­ner de­lib­er­ately aim it so close to the goal­keeper? It felt that way and Vorm’s at­tempted punch suc­ceeded only in flick­ing the ball to­wards the back post. Eric Dier could not get enough dis­tance with his de­fen­sive header. Wi­j­nal­dum looped his header over Kieran Trip­pier and when Vorm clawed it away the goal­keeper was a foot be­hind the line.

In fair­ness to Vorm, he did spare his team, at 0- 0, when Dier got a back­ward pass hor­ri­bly wrong and left Salah with a run on goal.

That pe­riod of the game was also no­table for Jan Ver­tonghen try­ing to chip Alis­son from just in­side the Liver­pool half. It was nowhere near com­ing off and felt strangely sym­bolic of his team’s di­shev­elled per­for­mance.

Liver­pool, in stark con­trast, looked full of con­fi­dence, chas­ing down their op­po­nents and en­cour­aged by the sheer num­ber of times that Spurs gave up the ball in­side their own half. Mané set up the sec­ond goal with a surg­ing run on the left. Ver­tonghen’s at­tempt to cut out the cross suc­ceeded only in turn­ing the ball against the post and Vorm was on the fl oor as the re­bound rolled his way. He could not ad­just in time, the ball squeezed through his hands and Firmino had a sim­ple fi nish.

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