Harry Kane concerns grow as Tottenham slump to defeat against Liverpool
Tottenham's winning start and their 3-0 victory at Manchester United seem a long time ago now.
Since then, Spurs have lost both of their fixtures, first at Watford and now against Liverpool at Wembley.
The north Londoners conceded sloppily from a corner, Georginio Wijnaldum heading in. And after Lucas Moura had missed a big chance to level, Roberto Firmino made it 2-0. Spurs rallied at the death, with Erik Lamela halving the deficit and Son Heung-Min having a strong penalty shout turned down.
But Tottenham cannot have many complaints about the result and their latest loss will quiet the title talk around the club for the foreseeable future.
Harry Winks made his first start since February after recovering from a long-term ankle injury, and Spurs never abandoned hope. To their credit, they fought until the end and could have grabbed the unlikeliest of points.
Tottenham conceded twice from set pieces against Watford and committed the same sin here, gifting a title contender their crucial breakthrough by failing to defend a corner properly.
The injured Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli were missed and while there was only one goal between the teams on the scoreboard in the end, the gap looked much bigger on the pitch.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Mauricio Pochettino was right to pick Winks but deploying him on the left side of the midfield diamond seemed a waste of his talents. He was unable to get on the ball as much as he likes to. It is unclear how much to criticise the manager for positional mistakes but Kieran Trippier was often too far forward and was punished by Sadio Mane for the second goal. Pochettino's substitutes made an impact at least. Lamela scored and Son could have had a penalty.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Michel Vorm, 4 -- Made some good reaction saves but flapped at the corner when Liverpool got their all-important breakthrough, and the ball rolled through his arms to Firmino for the second goal.
DF Kieran Trippier, 4 -- Provided a dangerous early free kick and an excellent volleyed pass which freed Christian Eriksen inside the box. But he was suspect defensively and gave Mane far too much space to run into behind him when Liverpool made it 2-0.
DF Toby Alderweireld, 7 -- Defended well, tracking Firmino's runs time and again. He couldn't do much about the Brazilian's close-range goal and without him the scoreline would have been worse.
DF Jan Vertonghen, 6 -- Also cannot be blamed too much. The red shirts just kept coming at him, and he was unlucky when his stretching interception from Mane's cross hit the post and rebounded to Firmino. But he wasted a promising attacking opportunity when he tried a ridiculous shot from 45 yards.
DF Danny Rose, 4 -- Looked long too often in the first half and was quiet for most of the second period, although he forced the corner that led to Lamela's goal after having a shot blocked.
MF Mousa Dembele, 6 -- Did a better job than most at protecting the ball and passing it under pressure in the first half, while embarking on a couple of useful forward runs. But he too gave the ball away inside his own half soon after the break. He was substituted after 60 minutes.
MF Harry Winks, 5 -- Made a welcome return to the starting lineup but struggled to make an impact on the left side of a midfield diamond, apart from a brief period before Liverpool's opener when he was more involved. He is best used as the deepest-lying midfielder and was eventually given that role on the hour mark.
MF Eric Dier, 4 -- Sloppy in possession, particularly when his loose pass between his own centre-backs sent Mohamed Salah scampering into the box, and he looked slow and cumbersome against Liverpool's lively midfield.
MF Christian Eriksen, 4 -- Took too long to pull the ball back from the byline in the first half and was partly culpable for the opening goal, heading the ball back to Liverpool deep inside his own half to help the visitors win their corner.
FW Harry Kane, 4 -- Struggled to get into the game. Questions about his form and freshness will continue.
FW Lucas Moura, 6 -- Threatened more than anyone else and created a big chance for himself at 1-0 when he ran from the touchline into the middle of the box. But he then had to score.
MF Erik Lamela, 7 -- Troubled Liverpool late on, setting up a chance for Rose and then immediately scoring himself with a clinical volley from a narrow angle.
MF Son Heung-Min, N/R -- Could have been given an injury-time penalty when Mane clipped his standing leg as he was shooting.
MF Victor Wanyama, N/R -- Returned from injury with seven minutes of normal time left.