London (AFP) – Liverpool continued their relentless march towards a first Premier League title in 30 years as Roberto Firmino’s strike earned a 1-0 win at Tottenham to open up a 16-point lead at the top of the table.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have now made the best ever start to an English top flight campaign after 21 games with 61 points from a possible 63.
There is now a 31-point gap between the sides that contested last season’s Champions League final as Spurs remain in eighth, nine points adrift of even the top four.
However, Tottenham had their chances to take at least a point as Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso missed the target with the goal gaping in the final 15 minutes.
Lo Celso’s miss left Jose Mourinho on his knees in anguish and the honeymoon period for the Tottenham manager is already over after just two wins in their last eight games in all competitions.
Mourinho sprang a huge surprise with his team selection as Japhet Tanganga was handed his Premier League debut in defence.
The 20-year-old was forced into action straight away as he blocked Firmino’s goalbound effort before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck the post inside four minutes.
Spurs will be without Harry Kane for most of the remainder of the season after the England captain underwent surgery on a torn hamstring.
Mourinho responded to Kane’s absence by utilising Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in attack as he sat back and hoped to catch the European champions on the break.
Spurs did have openings which could have changed the course of the game early on as both Lucas and Son fired wide from the edge of the box.
However, it was largely one-way traffic before half-time as Liverpool controlled the game and waited patiently for Spurs’ fragile defence to break.
Tottenham have kept just one clean sheet in 13 games since Mourinho took charge and their luck ran out eight minutes before half-time as Tanganga’s inexperience showed as he tried to intercept Mohamed Salah’s pass into Firmino and the Brazilian fired across Paulo Gazzaniga into the far corner.
Salah could have put the game to bed before the break, but pulled his shot wide.
Mourinho’s men showed more ambition in the second period and should have reaped some reward.
Serge Aurier forced Alisson Becker into action before Son’s deflected shot trickled just wide.
At the other end, Gazzaniga kept the home side in the game with a brilliant save low to his left from Sadio Mane’s downward header.
The Argentine’s heroics nearly proved crucial as firstly Son had a huge chance to level when played in by Lucas, but the South Korean uncharacteristically blasted over the bar.
Liverpool were let off the hook again seven minutes from time when Lo Celso was perfectly picked out by Aurier’s cross and seemed to do everything right as he slid in to connect, only to see the ball fly wide and Mourinho fall to the floor in despair.
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