Matip own goal gifts Spurs late victory over nine-man Liverpool
Nine-man Liverpool were denied a draw against Tottenham Hotspur, as Joel Matip fired Dejan Kulusevski’s cross into his own net to round off a 2-1 victory for the home side, in a game rife with controversy.
As both sides looked to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, Liverpool enjoyed a strong start to the game; their high press quickly became a problem for Ange Postecoglou’s men, who struggled to get out of their own half at times.
The first of many contentious decisions in the match was the dismissal of Liverpool’s Curtis Jones, whose challenge on Yves Bissouma was deemed as serious foul play. Initially showing a yellow card, referee Simon Hooper swiftly changed his decision to a red card following a VAR check.
It is also important to note that as Hooper approached the monitor at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, he was instantly subjected to the image of Jones’ studs making contact with Bissouma’s ankle. While the full challenge involves the Liverpool midfielder’s foot slipping over the top of the ball before eventually making the contact with Bissouma, the controversial decision would set the tone of refereeing for the rest of the game.
While Spurs dominated possession following Jones’ dismissal, they struggled to find a way through. But the threat of Son Heung-Min and midfield maestro James Maddison remained ever-present. However, the same could also be said for Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz, the latter of whom was played through by the former to fire into the bottom left corner from a tight angle, only for it to be ruled offside.
Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) later acknowledged “significant human error” after the final whistle, stating that the goal should have been awarded but “the VAR failed to intervene”.
Nonetheless, Spurs took advantage of having 11 men on the pitch with a delightful team move, as Maddison played in Richarlison over the top, who then squared the ball to Son to fire them ahead.
Jurgen Klopp’s men once again found themselves in familiar territory. However, on the stroke of half time, a cross from the in-form Dominik Szoboszlai found captain Virgil van Dijk who headed the ball to compatriot Cody Gakpo, and the Dutchman making no mistake in scoring past Guglielmo Vicario. Ten-man Liverpool were level going into the break.
Before the second half began, goal scorer Gakpo was forced off with an injury, with Diogo Jota coming on to replace him. Spurs were quick to apply the pressure in an attempt to get back in front, forcing a couple of saves from Alisson shortly after the restart.
Referee Simon Hooper found himself in the spotlight yet again; this time with Jota, with whom he handed out a yellow card for a supposed challenge on left back Destiny Udogie, who seemingly tripped over himself. Seconds later however, the Portuguese forward would find himself joining Curtis Jones in the dressing room, after a poorly timed slide tackle on Udogie warranted a second yellow card.
Klopp’s game plan was left in tatters, epitomised by a game-ready Darwin Nunez quickly consigned back to the bench. Wataru Endo, Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold were part of a triple change that saw Salah, Diaz and Joe Gomez depart the pitch.
Despite playing against only eight outfield players, Postecoglou’s men struggled to break down their compact visitors; failing to exploit the wide areas in favour of an unsuccessful central approach and in truth, Alisson was rarely tested. The faces of the Lilywhite faithful were beginning to turn red with frustration, as the travelling support cheered their side toward what was looking like a remarkable result, given the circumstances.
However, in the final minutes of stoppage time, Liverpool’s misery was compounded by one of their own in Joel Matip, whose unfortunate own goal unraveled their 25 minutes of hard work. The emotions of a distraught captain, Virgil van Dijk, starkly contrasted that of Son Heung-Min’s, who will hope that his delirious celebrations with Spurs fans will be the continue, wearing the armband.
Tottenham now remain one of only two unbeaten side in the Premier League, alongside bitter North London rivals Arsenal, with both sitting in joint-second. Liverpool trail behind by just a point, but their 19-game unbeaten run, stretching back to last season, is now over.
While Spurs can enjoy their first victory over Liverpool in nearly six years, PGMOL will no doubt steal the headlines yet again in a bout of controversy stretching beyond this game week.