Klopp disappoints the Kop and the Hornets sting the Spurs

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After another excruciatingly long international break, Premier League soccer returned this weekend for the ninth match week of the season. 

I’m not sure if it was the airplane food or the hours spent on planes heading to other countries for international matches — 0r both — but some of the best clubs dropped points this weekend to mid-table and miserably bad teams.

Here are the two most surprising results of the weekend. 

 

Liverpool vs. Manchester United (1-1)

I doubt Jurgen Klopp looks in the mirror very often, but he just may have to after Liverpool’s shocking draw Sunday. 

High-flying Liverpool, a team sitting at first place with 25 points through nine games, dropped its first points of the season with a 1-1 tie versus Manchester United at Old Trafford. Riding a 17-game Premier League winning streak, the second-longest in Premier League history, the Reds had every reason to believe they could secure a decisive victory over the Red Devils —  especially after Manchester United’s loss to relegation candidate Newcastle United the game week before.

But while just 31 miles separate Liverpool and Manchester, nothing separated the two teams Sunday. Adam Lallana’s goal in the 85th minute saved Jurgen Klopp from a complete mental breakdown after two controversial VAR decisions in the first half.

In the 36th minute, Divock Origi was tapped in the shin by Man U center back Victor Lindelöf and immediately went to the ground in hopes of earning a foul. Veteran referee Martin Atkinson, standing about 10 yards away, did not call a foul. James McTominay picked up the loose ball and played a through ball to Daniel James on the right-hand side, catching Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson out of position. James’s cross to the back post found an open Marcus Rashford, who only had to tap the ball in from about six yards out.

Sadio Mane’s goal on the stroke of halftime was also disallowed for offsides, even though it could have also been called for a handball.

After the game, Jurgen Klopp had much to say about the supposed foul on Origi moments before Rashford’s goal, including that he was “100% sure” VAR would disallow the goal. He then went on to criticize Manchester United’s “defensive” tactical setup which, it should be said, held a Liverpool team averaging 2.5 goals per game before the match to just one.

Perhaps Klopp should be more concerned with his team’s inability to break down Man U’s backline in the absence of Mohamed Salah than he should be about the fair and successful tactics employed by Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v. Watford (1-1)

Tottenham’s poor display this Saturday earned the team a 1-1 tie with Watford.

The Hornets sit in last place and have yet to earn a win this season. On Sept. 21, they were dismantled by Manchester City, losing 8-0 — the largest margin of victory of any match this season.

Despite being in seventh place, Tottenham has not performed to its high standards in recent weeks. On September 21st, Tottenham lost 2-1 to Leicester City. And two weeks ago, the Spurs lost 3-0 to Brighton FC, an embarrassing result considering Tottenham hadn’t lost to Brighton since 1983.

In the sixth minute Saturday, Daryl Jaanmat’s low cross from the right side found Abdoulaye Doucoré, who tucked the ball into the bottom left corner after blowing past Tottenham center back Toby Alderweireld.

Tottenham managed to salvage a point from Saturday night’s fixture against the Hornets from a sloppy bit of defending. In the 86th minute, Alderweireld’s hopeful ball into the box found the head of Christian Kabasele — before bouncing awkwardly in the middle of the box. Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster came out to collect the ball, but instead knocked over defender Kiko Femenia. Dele Alli pounced on the opportunity with a half volley shot into the top right corner for his first goal of the season.

While Tottenham rarely loses by wide margins, its failure to earn clean sheets should be a subject of concern for Mauricio Pochettino. The Spurs have earned just one clean sheet out of its first nine games. Six of those games were against subpar teams, namely Aston Villa, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Brighton and Watford.

For comparison, by match week 10 last season, Hugo Lloris and the Spurs back line had earned 4 clean sheets, including a 3-0 win over Man U.

Liverpool and Tottenham play each other this Sunday at Anfield. Expect a close match between two teams both playing to recover from this week’s poor results.

William Cooke covers men’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].