Liverpool continued their resurgence up the Premier League table with an important 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in north London.
A brace from Mohamed Salah was enough to give the Reds a huge three points that could well turn their fortunes in a season that has not started as Jurgen Klopp would have imagined.
Harry Kane halved the deficit for the determined hosts as they refused to give up, but the visitors clung on for a big win.
The victory takes Liverpool up to eighth in the league, two point behind Chelsea, who occupy the final European place.
Spurs lose ground in the race for the top four as they missed the chance to leapfrog Newcastle into third, with the former’s routine 4-1 victory at Southampton dropping Antonio Conte’s side into fourth.
In a fast-tempo affair, there were chances aplenty – especially for the hosts – who, despite not having some key attacking weapons in their arsenal, hit the woodwork twice through makeshift striker Ivan Perisic in the 16th and 49th minutes respectively.
But it was the visitors who started the encounter the brighter; taking the lead through their Egyptian king Salah, who started the initial move with some nice interplay between himself and Harvey Elliott. The forward followed in the advance, sweeping home after Darwin Nunez set down an Andy Robertson cross.
Salah doubled his and the visitors’ tally five minutes before the break as he capitalised on Eric Dier’s poor defensive header under a high ball from Alisson, and he was calmness personifed as he chipped coolly over the onrushing Hugo Lloris.
The home side flew out of the blocks after the interval, revitalised by their manager’s team talk, and they went close in the early exchanges of the second half, with Dier flicking a header straight at Alisson, and Ryan Sessegnon bending one narrowly wide of the far post with his weaker right foot.
Conte’s men threw caution to the wind as they chased an unlikely comeback, and they smelled complacency and fear within the visiting ranks as they hunted that elusive goal that would turn the tables in their favour.
Talismanic striker Kane struck that goal with 20 to play, converting with aplomb from a tight angle after neat interplay between substitutes Dejan Kulusevski and Matt Doherty.
Spurs refused to go down without a proper fight, and they went close in the dying embers of the game as Rodrigo Bentancur nodded into the grateful gloves of Alisson, while Clement Lenglet also was denied from a nodded effort from a corner with ten minutes to go.
A huge win for Liverpool, as they look to close the gap on the European places. For Spurs, a real opportunity missed to consolidate their own position in the top four.
TALKING POINT – ALL TOO CAUTIOUS
Initially, anyway, for the hosts.
It’s been the story of their season so far: terrible first 45’s, solid finishes.
This time, however, it came back to bite them, and Liverpool taught them a lesson in game management.
The Reds exploded out of the traps early as they swarmed Spurs with their high press, and Nunez and Salah threatened with their darting runs inside from wide areas.
The full-backs inverted to outnumber the stretched home midfield further, and Roberto Firmino typically buzzed between the lines to give the three centre-halves a headache.
Salah’s two goals killed the game off; no matter how hard the hosts pushed back, and Conte must release the shackles if he is to end this mini rut.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – MOHAMED SALAH, LIVERPOOL
Two clinical finishes; two winning goals.
The right winger was back to his best today, but Spurs didn’t half play to his strengths.
Their lack of numbers in the wider areas meant that the Egyptian had the freedom to attack Ryan Sessegnon on the out and inside constantly, and he was hardly tracked by midfield counterpart Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was occupied with the tricky movement of Harvey Elliott, operating in the opposite direction to that of Salah.
Add to that the dangerous Alexander-Arnold in the right half-space with his sumptuous deliveries, and Liverpool’s right flank was back to its devastating best.
But it was Salah with the most important statistic, striking twice to silence the home support and send Liverpool flying back up the table.
Spurs: Lloris 7, Dier 5, Lenglet 6, Davies 6, Emerson 5, Bentancur 6, Bissouma 5, Hojbjerg 6, Sessegnon 6, Perisic 5, Kane 6. Subs: Kulusevski 7, Doherty 6, Lucas 6.
Liverpool: Alisson 6, A-Arnold 6, Konate 7, van Dijk 6, Robertson 6, Fabinho 6, Elliott 7, Thiago 7, Firmino 6, Salah 8, Nunez 7. Subs: Jones 6, Henderson 6, Gomez 6, Chamberlain 6.
11′: GOAL! Liverpool are in front, and it’s Mohamed Salah who’s got it. Great interplay between Elliott and Salah down the right, building to the left where Robertson has too much space. The Scot finds Nunez, who spins and feeds Salah, with the Egyptian sweeping home.
16′: POST! Spurs come so close! A great response as Kane persists into a crossing position, and Perisic goes up with Alisson, and hits the post! Hojbjerg’s follow-up shot is powerfully hit, but well held at the second attempt by the goalkeeper.
40′: GOAL! A huge mistake from Eric Dier, and it’s Salah at the double. It’s 2-0 Liverpool, and the long ball from Alisson is misjudged by the England defender, whose header is wayward, setting up the Egyptian forward, who bears down on goal and clips over Lloris.
49′: OFF THE BAR! Perisic hits the woodwork once again as he rattles the bar. Sessegnon broke free down the left and fed the Croat, who struck against the crossbar!
70′: GOAL! The super subs are immediately involved, as Kane halves the deficit. Doherty and Kulusevski link up down the right, as the Swede spins before feeding the England international, who finishes with aplomb from a tight angle. 2-1!