Opinion: Why Spurs should not let their win be clouded by Liverpool VAR chaos

The PGMOL played in what was undoubtedly one of its busiest and most contentious games on Saturday.

Three times during Liverpool’s match versus Tottenham, VAR was requested to render a decision. On the first occurrence, midfielder Curtis Jones was sent off for a risky challenge on Bissouma.

To the chagrin of Liverpool supporters and commentators, VAR instructed referee Simon Hooper to review the challenge’s video replay. After doing so, the English official upgraded Jones’ punishment from a yellow to a red.

Eight minutes after Jones was lost, the visitors seized the lead when Diaz hit the bottom left corner of the net. When VAR was used to review the offside call once more, the goal was found to be unlawful, and Tottenham went on to win 1-0.

Although few stadium visitors were aware of the obvious mistake committed by VAR, the PGMOL (Sky News) afterwards issued an apology.This inevitably resulted in an increase in media criticism of the inconsistent officiating that has been a recurring topic at the beginning of this season.

Tottenham finally defeated one of their hardest opponents, The Reds, after only winning them once over the previous six years while the controversy seemed to garner most of the media attention.

What exactly was the quality of Tottenham’s victory in light of the ongoing controversy over the refereeing decisions?

Richarlison’s successful re-introduction?

Richarlison made a valiant appearance against Sheffield United two weeks ago, but Ange Postecoglou chose to start Brennan Johnson against their North London rivals Arsenal because of his speed. However, an injury to the Welsh winger opened the door for Richarlison’s return to the starting lineup against Liverpool.

Richarlison would start on the left, as Postecoglou told Sky Sports, dispelling any ideas that many Spurs supporters may have had prior to the game that Son would be moved back out to the left to allow Richarlison to play through the middle.

Richarlison provided Tottenham with a different kind of danger from the left side than they had up until this point in the season. Richarlison had five shots of his own, two of which were on target and may have been unlucky not to find the back of the net (FotMob), despite only creating two chances, one of which was a selfless cutback for Son’s opening goal.

Richarlison had the most xG of any player that Postecoglou had used on the left side of the field so far this season, followed by Solomon, Son, and momentarily Johnson. The only other performance that came close (FotMob) was Johnson’s 0.59xG last weekend. The Brazilian had 0.78 xG (FotMob), Tottenham’s highest xG from their left-sided attacker all season.

Richarlison’s quality of chances show that his runs and movement offer something Tottenham hasn’t seen all season. Richarlison’s inability to score himself can be disappointing, but given that he has now contributed to one goal and two assists in his last 111 minutes of play, he may be able to secure a spot in Postecoglou’s team.

Pedro Porro’s outstanding display

Fans had the misconception that Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie could not start the season together, but in typical Postecoglou fashion, Ange threw out the book. Since the Australian joined Tottenham, Porro has reached a new level, and his performance on Saturday was a culmination of his diligence, particularly with regard to his defensive game.

Porro’s Spurs career certainly got off to a rocky start when a former manager described him as “so bad it’s unbelievable” and said his “positioning was absolutely disgusting” (Sky Sports) as Tottenham lost 4-1 at Leicester. Porro didn’t make a single tackle in that game and was taken off after 75 minutes.

When Porro was questioned at the time about Sherwood’s remarks, he responded, “Let me loose in a prison and I’ll end up owning the place,” but his moment of brashness was countered by an awareness that he would need to adapt as he also said, “it’s hard: it was only a week, I’d never played a minute at City, never played in England in my life” (The Guardian). For the Spaniard, it’s starting to appear less difficult.

His performance against Liverpool was almost flawless; he frequently slowed down the Reds’ offense and exploited his speed to neutralize any counterattacking threats, particularly when the visitors frequently used it as their sole attacking route after going down to nine men.

The game’s most aggressive defender, Porro registered six tackles (SofaScore), and his crucial cross over the Liverpool penalty area led Matip to deflect it into his own goal, erupting in jubilation at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Tottenham won the match thanks to Porro’s performance, which was perhaps man-of-the-match worthy. Now that the Spanish international has improved his defensive prowess, it’s difficult to identify a serious weakness in the full-backs’ style of play.

The un-Spursy result

James Maddison said that “Neutrals talk about Tottenham, they often say; soft, weak, bottle it, Spursy, all that rubbish” when Tottenham recovered from two goals behind to draw with Arsenal last weekend at the Emirates.

I believe that recent events indicate that we may be moving in a somewhat different direction (Mirror), and Saturday’s outcome hints that possibly Tottenham’s fortunes are changing for the better.

With Liverpool down to nine players, a winning goal would have been expected in those final 20 minutes; nevertheless, at times, the Reds appeared to have all nine of those players in front of the ball.

Postecoglou’s club has now defeated two opponents back-to-back at home that end the game with an exceptionally low block in an effort to neutralize Spurs’ danger. Tottenham has historically struggled to complete the job off against sides with a low block, aside from the occasional outlier.

Spurs persevered with no sign of players losing patience, as evidenced by the fact that they only had eight shots after Jota was dismissed.

The fact that Spurs made 42 more passes in the final 20 minutes of the second half than they did in the first 25 minutes of the second half (Opta) demonstrates the patient passing around the Liverpool box.

The victory for Spurs was the most eloquent example of the confidence Postecoglou has instilled in the team and the absence of “bottling it,” as Maddison suggested.

There were audible moans all across the field when Kulusevski decided to throw the ball back to the wide-open Romero at the beginning of the move that resulted in the victory.

The Argentine holds the ball for six seconds, which may seem like an eternity when there is only one minute remaining in the match, but it was a much-needed delay that allowed Porro to drift out wide and eventually fire in his cross, ensuring Tottenham would earn their first victory over Liverpool since October 2017.

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