Former Argentina great Diego Maradona was a guest at Wembley on Sunday and even at the age of 56 would have fancied his chances of scoring against a Liverpool rearguard torn apart in a 4-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur.
Quite what the World Cup winner would have done to the visiting defence in his majestic pomp is a frightening thought.
Liverpool had more than enough trouble dealing with Spurs striker Harry Kane, who met the former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli magician before kickoff and would have impressed him greatly as he took his Premier League tally this season to eight with his side’s first and fourth goals.
All four home strikes came from awful Liverpool defending, however, leaving their manager Jurgen Klopp in the familiar position of trying to explain his side’s porous rearguard.
After nine games they are ninth, seven points behind Tottenham and 12 adrift of early pacesetters Manchester City.
“It was bad. Bad, bad, bad,” the German coach said in the aftermath of a loss which brought Liverpool crashing down to earth after a 7-0 Champions League romp at Maribor in midweek.
“The first goal we had to clear the ball, the second goal Dejan (Lovren) missed the ball…. the third goal, another present. Everything that happened today was so obvious. Their desire was bigger than ours. How we defended in these four situations (goals) is not good enough.”
Liverpool conceded twice in the first 12 minutes, one scored by Kane and one created by him for Son Heung-min, another in first-half stoppage time when Dele Alli punished a weak Joel Matip clearance and again early in the second half when Kane fired home after keeper Simon Mignolet flapped at a free kick.
For all their attacking verve, Liverpool have already let in 16 league goals, their worst record after nine games since 1964.
“That’s not a nice statistic,” Klopp, who reacted by substituting hapless central defender Lovren after 30 minutes at Wembley, told reporters, admitting that Lovren was not the only culprit in his side’s capitulation.
“In all the decisive moments we were not there,” Klopp said. “You can’t get results with a performance like today. Spurs were completely spot on and we weren’t. Now we have to realise we are responsible for this. Of course we can fix it, we have to fix it as well. The whole game the whole result was all our fault — Tottenham were good, they needed to be good, but we made it much too easy for them.”
Maradona would have enjoyed watching Tottenham’s display and his presence was a source of pride for his compatriot, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, who was briefly a team mate of the World Cup winner at Argentine club Newells Old Boys.
“I spoke to Diego before the game, it was very emotional because I’ve not spoken to him for 20 years,” Pochettino said.
“He brings very good energy. He is the best player ever in football history.”
Pochettino was delighted with his side’s display, coming so soon after the intensity of a superb 1-1 draw away to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“The mentality and the way that we play was amazing,” Pochettino, whose side are third, level on 20 points with next week’s opponents Manchester United, said.
“It was fantastic, a fantastic performance.”