Liverpool continued their 100 per cent start to the Premier League season with an authoritative 2-1 win over Tottenham.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored away from home in England’s top flight for the first time and Roberto Firmino gave Jurgen Klopp’s men breathing space in the 54th minute.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs were again out of sorts following their 2-1 loss to Watford before the international break, with substitute Erik Lamela’s stoppage-time goal giving the scoreline a very flattering look for the hosts.
Liverpool thought they had the lead inside 45 seconds when Firmino touched James Milner’s excellent cross beyond Michel Vorm, but Sadio Mane prodded at the Brazilian’s effort from an offside position.
Vorm stood firm when a slack pass from Eric Dier allowed Mohamed Salah a run at goal but Tottenham’s goalkeeper – playing once more in place of injured captain Hugo Lloris – was culpable when Liverpool took the lead six minutes before half-time.
Following a botched punch from a corner, Vorm could only paw Wijnaldum’s header away from behind his goal line.
More sloppy play from Tottenham after the break gave Vorm the opportunity to atone for his error with a sharp stop from Mane, before Lucas Moura found space at the other end to shoot against the outside of Alisson’s right post.
A post was also involved in Liverpool’s second as Jan Vertonghen slid in to block Mane’s low cross, Vorm was unable to gather the rebound and Firmino converted from point-blank range.
It should have been 3-0 after the hour as Mane delayed his pass to Naby Keita and Vorm pushed the resulting shot over.
Firmino limped off before Vorm’s mixed outing concluded with a stop from Salah.
Such wasteful finishing set up late drama as Lamela pounced on slack set-piece defending before Mane escaped a penalty shout for an untidy challenge on Son Heung-min.
They have five wins from their first five games now, their best start since the 1990-91 campaign, and this victory more than any of the rest was a sign that they are the real deal. That is not to say that they will win the title this season but it looks likely that theirs is a challenge that will test any team that aspires to finish above them to the very limit.
‘I am not the kind of personality to wait for problems,’ Klopp said after the match, when he was asked about the eye injury that forced Roberto Firmino off the pitch and how he thought his team would react when they had to cope with key absences, ‘but I am old enough to know that they will come. I have been in this game long enough to know that no one plays a perfect season.’
For the moment, at least, Liverpool look formidable. Their investment in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk has made a huge difference to their confidence. Their strength has always been their attack but they had an Achilles’ heel and other teams knew it. Now they are armour-plated in defence and other teams know that, too. They are no longer a soft touch at the back.
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
TOTTENHAM (4-3-3): Vorm 4; Trippier 5, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6, Rose 6; Dier 5.5 (Wanyama 83), Dembele 5 (Lamela 60, 6), Winks 6 (Son 73, 6); Moura 6, Eriksen 6 ; Kane 5
SUBS NOT USED: Sanchez, Gazzaniga, Aurier, Davies
GOAL: Lamela 90+3
MANAGER: Mauricio Pochettino 6
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 6.5; Alexander-Arnold 6 (Matip 90), Gomez 6 , Van Dijk 7 , Robertson 7; Wijnaldum 7, Milner 7, Keita 5 (Sturridge 83); Salah 6.5, Firmino 7 (Henderson 74, 6), Mane 8
SUBS NOT USED: Mignolet, Fabinho, Moreno, Shaqiri
GOALS: Wijnaldum 38, Firmino 53
MANAGER: Jurgen Klopp 8
REFEREE: Michael Oliver 7
MAN OF THE MATCH: