The Brazil international netted a late winner as the defending champions edged out Tottenham in a thrilling top-of-the-table clash at Anfield
There is something that the Kop wants you to know – Liverpool are top of the Premier League, and Roberto Firmino is the man who put them there.
The Brazil international’s last-minute header was the difference as Jurgen Klopp’s side edged past Tottenham, 2-1 after a wonderfully-contested top-of-the-table clash at Anfield.
There may have only been 2000 fans here to witness it, but what a noise they made. It may only be December, but this was a huge result.
The champions, back on their perch, are going nowhere.
Jose Mourinho was left, as they say round here, with a face like a robber’s dog. The Spurs boss and his assistants were not happy with the Liverpool bench, who celebrated wildly as Firmino took off. The Reds No.9 scored at the Anfield Road end, but he headed straight for the Kop. He’s missed supporters as much as anybody.
Premier League goals have not been easy to come by for the man with the bright-white smile. This was just his third of the season, but like so many of his strikes it could prove to be crucial. It was certainly memorable.
Klopp will feel it was just reward for an enterprising, committed performance from his team. They may be depleted, ravaged by injuries despite Mourinho’s suggestion to the contrary, but they do not do excuses.
Instead they battled, from minute one to minute 93. They threw everything they had at it, and they got the pot of honey at the end.
They needed a bit of good fortune, with a helpful deflection off Toby Alderweireld giving Mohamed Salah the opening goal, 26 minutes in. If Firmino is short of goals then Salah is not: that is 14 now in all competitions for the Egypt star.
Son Heung-min clinically wiped out Liverpool’s advantage before the break, racing clear to slam home with authority. Offside, Klopp felt. VAR disagreed. Spurs had barely mustered an attack in the opening 45 minutes but went in level.
Classic Mourinho, you could say, his team determined to stay compact and to shut off the home side’s rampaging full-backs, content to play on the break and take full advantage of mistakes. To Liverpool’s credit, there were not many, certainly not from Fabinho, nor from Rhys Williams, the 19-year-old playing alongside the Brazilian at centre-back.
“Oh my God,” said Klopp of Williams, who was immense on his Premier League debut, and he can be proud of another teenager, midfielder Curtis Jones, who took the fight to Spurs throughout. What a player the young Scouser is going to be. What a player he already is. He could be the league’s breakout star of the season.
Tottenham, perhaps surprisingly, were more open after the break, composed and robust but willing to commit to attack. Kane was more involved, Son bristled with intent, and Salah and Sadio Mane were handled well in the main.
And the visitors almost got their noses in front during a madcap minute midway through the half.
First Steven Bergwijn, who shot off target early in the half, squandered a gilt-edged chance, striking the foot of the post after being put clear by Son. Then, from the subsequent corner, Harry Kane failed to send a header on target from inside the six-yard box. Liverpool, on the pitch, in the dugout and in the stands, breathed a sigh of relief.
It felt like it could be costly for Spurs, and so it proved. Remember Moussa Sissoko and that two-on-one break in 2019? The Londoners had their chance and they missed it. Liverpool got theirs, in the 90th minute, and Firmino took it.
It was a fabulous header, bulleted past Hugo Lloris from Andy Robertson’s delicious corner from the left. A fitting end to a superb contest, you might say.
Mourinho did not like it, and why would he? “The best team lost,” he told Klopp at the final whistle. He was not amused with the German’s touchline behaviour, he said, but who was he kidding?
We know what really upset Mourinho: the scoreline. The scoreline and the league table. That feeling. Defeat. Nothing else matters to Mourinho. Nothing ever will.
And so, there is something that the Kop wants you to know: ‘Liverpool, Liverpool, top of the league’.
We’ve heard that before, haven’t we?