Liverpool extended their perfect start to the season as goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino ensured the Premier League leaders punished woeful Tottenham with a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side avenged last season’s 4-1 thrashing at Tottenham with a large helping hand from their error-prone hosts.
Wijnaldum opened the scoring late in the first half at Wembley after a mistake from Tottenham goalkeeper Michel Vorm. Firmino wrapped up Liverpool’s fifth successive win soon after the interval when the Brazil forward tapped in after more sloppy defending and another Vorm misjudgement.
Erik Lamela got one back for Tottenham in stoppage-time, but it was too late to rescue an undeserved draw.
This mature display was a real statement of intent by Liverpool, who have made their best start since 1990-’91 as they chase a first English title since 1989-’90.
Not for the first time this season, the Reds triumphed through hard work, a superbly drilled defence and opportunistic finishing rather than replicating the kind of swaggering play that took them to the Champions League final last season.
But Klopp, a winner at Wembley for the first time, won’t be complaining after securing a rare away victory at one of their top six rivals, proving they are likely to be the biggest threat to champions Manchester City.
For Tottenham, this was a dispiriting second successive defeat that served as a major blow to their own title ambitions.
Mauricio Pochettino had accused Tottenham of treating their 2-1 loss at Watford like a “testimonial”. Challenging his players to show a killer instinct, Pochettino was expecting a fired-up response.
But instead Tottenham almost fell behind after less than 60 seconds. When James Milner swung a cross into the Tottenham penalty area, Firmino and Sadio Mane were both allowed to make unchecked runs by Pochettino’s defence.
Firmino, in an onside position, cleverly flicked his shot across Vorm and towards the far corner, only for Mane to be ruled offside as he tried to get the last touch.
Tottenham’s lethargy wasn’t restricted to their defenders and England midfielder Eric Dier was fortunate to get away with a terrible backpass that gifted a chance to Mohamed Salah. Salah sprinted through on goal, but he delayed too long, allowing Jan Vertonghen to pressure him into a shot that was too close to Vorm.
It was the kind of gilt-edged opportunity Salah would have buried during his record-breaking 44-goal campaign last season.
But Tottenham were careless from start to finish and they paid the price in the 39th minute.
Christian Eriksen’s wayward header gave away a corner and from Milner’s set-piece, Vorm, deputising for the injured Hugo Lloris, made a hash of his attempt to punch clear.
Dier tried to avert the danger, but his weak header only went as far as Wijnaldum and the Dutch midfielder nodded back towards goal, where Vorm got his angles all wrong, allowing the ball to cross the line before he could palm it away.
Liverpool briefly switched off when Lucas Moura almost conjured an equaliser with a low shot that cannoned off a post.
But as well as admonishing his players for their Watford loss, Pochettino was forced to defend Harry Kane this week amid mounting concern about the England striker’s fatigued displays.
Once again, Kane was a peripheral figure and, with Dele Alli missing through injury, Tottenham were toothless.
Liverpool scented blood and doubled their lead in the 54th minute as Tottenham fell apart at the back. Mane made a good run that caught Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier out of position before sending over a low cross that Vertonghen diverted against his own post.
Vorm, wrong-footed by Vertonghen’s intervention, was prone on the turf as the ball rolled through his out-stretched arms to Firmino, who couldn’t miss from on the goal-line.
Lamela lashed home in the final moments, putting a flattering gloss on a scoreline that didn’t reflect Liverpool’s dominance.