Into the quarter-finals of the League Cup and extending their unbeaten run to ten matches on the hop with a comfortable 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool looked very much the same side that eased past West Bromwich Albion on the weekend despite Reds boss Jurgen Klopp making wholesale changes to his starting eleven.
Goals from Daniel Sturridge on either side of the half ultimately saw them through, but a late penalty from Vincent Janssen after Lucas upended Erik Lamela set up an ending reminicient of Saturday’s meeting with the Baggies. And, very much in the same vein, had the hosts taken even a fraction of the chances afforded to them, the late strike would have been nothing more than a consolation rather than a reason to push on.
Having switched up his entire side, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp handed a senior competitive debut to young defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, a first start for up-and-coming attacker Ovie Ejaria, a recall for ousted first team ‘keeper Simon Mignolet and a spot in the midfield for both Kevin Stewart and Marko Grujic, but it was Sturridge who proved the decisive figure by turning the aforementioned Serb’s mishit into something special and nutmegging Spurs ‘keeper Michel Vorm to double the lead just past the hour mark.
“When you have a lot of time when you’re through one-on-one, it can be easier sometimes. It’s difficult if you think too much,” said the 27-year old, reflecting on Georginio Wijnaldum’s defense splitting pass that saw him run clear of Tottenham’s back-line. “The first one was instinctive – I thought he was going to pass it before and I just tried to react to his shot,” added Sturridge, happy to finally be back among the goals. “Luckily, I got the break.”
To be fair, he wasn’t the only one finding himself in good positions with both Divock Origi and Danny Ings, who was drafted in as a second half substitute, going within inches of adding to the tally and compounding their visitors misery. Although they rarely looked out of it, the North London side never really got their game going and had it not been for some missed chances, they could have been leaving Anfield far more battered and bruised. Klopp wasn’t the only one to make sweeping changes to his team with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino shuffling the deck as well with the Premier League race and Champions League commitments no doubt in the forefront of his mind, but despite the Argentine’s insistence that he’s happy with his side’s performance, their inability to capitalize on what little they did create will give him food for thought on the long coach ride back to the Capital — a meal no manager cares for.
But, for his counterpart in Klopp, it’s one more down and only three more to go as the German looks to make up for missing out on this particular piece of silverware last February. And, with his squad rotation working a treat, he’ll have a fully rested squad when they visit Crystal Palace on the weekend — is this a win-win? I think it is…