Liverpool secured a last-gasp 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur thanks to an own goal by visiting defender Toby Alderweireld to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League.
Liverpool are on 79 points with Manchester City, who won at Fulham on Saturday, on 77 points but with a game in hand.
Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris parried out a back post header from Mohamed Salah but the ball struck the unfortunate Belgian central defender and rolled over the line in the 90th minute.
It was a stroke of luck for Liverpool and one which sent Anfield wild with relief as a draw would have handed the advantage in the title race straight to Pep Guardiola’s side.
Questions will be asked of Lloris’s failure to smother the ball or push it away from danger but it was a cruel end to a strong second half display from Tottenham who are now level on 61 points with fourth-placed Manchester United.
Roberto Firmino opened the scoring in the 16th minute getting between the Spurs central defenders to meet a perfectly shaped cross from left-back Andy Robertson with a firm header.
Jurgen Klopp’s side looked to quickly add a second but while they roared forward and had Tottenham’s defence shaking, their shots on goal were limited.
Tottenham recovered and were well on top after the break. It was no surprise when they drew level — Harry Kane swinging a wonderful cross-field pass to Kieran Trippier whose low ball was flicked on by Christian Eriksen and Lucas Moura drove home the loose ball.
Spurs could have made it even worse for Liverpool five minutes from the end but Moussa Sissoko, looking far from composed, blasted over at the end of a dangerous counter-attack.
Then came the late winner — a half-cleared corner was returned by Roberton deep to the far post and Salah’s header was pushed out by the French keeper against Alderweireld’s shins and into the net.
“It’s a massive result for us,” said Roberton
“The first half an hour we blew them away without getting a second goal. We got a wee bit sloppy and, to be fair, Spurs have beaten us comfortably in the second half.
“But we fought right to the end and it’s all about three points,” added the Scotsman.
Moura was dejected, noting Spurs had failed to take their opportunities to win the game.
“It is very hard to lose like this. We played very well. At this level of game we cannot make some mistakes and we had chances to win the game,” said the Brazilian.
Title race is a battle of wills says Liverpool’s Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said after their 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday that there are “500,000 different ways to win a football game” – and emerging victorious after a 90th minute winner, even an own goal, is a sweet way to do it.
The Anfield crowd went wild, the German coach was fist-pumping in front of the Kop, Liverpool players hugged each other in delight and beneath it all was a deep sense of relief as they claimed another three vital Premier League points.
Had the score remained 1-1 the impetus in the title race would have been handed to Manchester City but a bit of luck, as the ball rolled over the line off Toby Alderweireld’s shins, meant Liverpool ended the weekend on top and on a high.
For Klopp that kind of victory is psychologically even more of a boost then a comfortable win.
“One hundred per cent, of course. If you win today 5-0 – I didn’t see that as possible, but if – then it can lead you on the wrong path, that’s how it is. We are all human beings,” he said.
Liverpool have 79 points with Manchester City, who won at Fulham on Saturday, on 77 points but with a game in hand.
It was by no means a sparkling performance from Klopp’s team against Spurs and there were few moments of class or the kind of exhilaration they produced last season but, as the manager acknowledged, at this stage it is simply about the points.
“It feels like we always have to apologise a little bit that because of the football last season and stuff like that, because people always want the 100 percent package.
“We had to find a way to win football games much more often than in the past. So until now it kind of worked. It’s all good,” Klopp added.
“The boys work hard and if we would be first in the table after the last matchday it would be a championship of will, that’s how it is.”
While the stakes were high, there was no sign of the nerves becoming too much for Liverpool or their demanding supporters.
“We want it, of course, and it’s not only that. We get used to the situation, step-by-step,” said Klopp.
“In the stadium today when it was 1-1, in the three-and-a-half years that I am here that was the best performance of the Liverpool crowd after an equaliser.
“I am really, really happy that attitude again today, it’s brilliant,” added the German.
Spurs’ Pochettino proud of his ‘heroes’ despite Anfield loss
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was proud of what he called his team of heroes despite a 2-1 Premier League defeat by Liverpool on Sunday leaving them with one point from the last 15 in their bid for a top four finish.
However, the Argentine said Spurs’ recent slump in form has exposed the “reality” of where his team stand in English football’s pecking order.
Tottenham are now level with fourth-placed Manchester United — after being 13 points ahead of them in December – and in a real battle to secure a Champions League qualifying spot.
A 90th minute own goal from Toby Alderweireld robbed Spurs of a point on Sunday from a game the could have won against a Liverpool team who are two points clear of Manchester City at the top having played a game more.
“Overall I think we were better than Liverpool. I am very disappointed but in the same time, it is difficult to explain, I am proud of the performance,” said Pochettino, who contrasted it with his side’s recent defeats by lower ranked teams.
“I am proud of the recovery from the losses against Southampton and Burnley.
“We were talking a lot in the dressing room that we are in the top four, we are in the quarter-final of the Champions League, we have seven games (left) in the Premier League, we need to forget everything and focus ahead,” he said.
Spurs will open their new stadium against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday and host Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on April 9.
Pochettino said Tottenham’s performances this season had to be considered alongside the fact that their new stadium at Whote Hart Lane was delayed and they had to continue playing in their temporary home at Wembley Stadium.
“I think the players they deserve massive credit with all the circumstances again. Yes, disappointed of course. I was so disappointed and very critical after Southampton but today I can say nothing. We bounced back,” he said.
“The second half is the way you want to play and that feeling you need if you want to be a real contender.
“I am so happy with this side. On the other hand, I am disappointed because you want to win and not lose. We deserve a little bit more but playing that way you will be rewarded for the football,” he added.
“My players are heroes and deserve a lot of credit and whatever happens at the end of the season, I’m going to be happy my players are heroes.”
But while he sees Spurs are now in a ‘mini-league’ for two Champions League qualification spots behind title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City, Pochettino said Spurs’ position in the table also reflected a reality about the club.
“Liverpool and City fighting for the title. It is a shame we are not close. We were, but in the last few weeks, we find our reality, our place,” he said.
“I am disappointed but (being) realistic we must be happy. We have seven games, it’s in our hands to be in the top four and Champions League next season,” he said.